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'A ray of sunshine': UNC student Madison DeVries passes away at 20

Madison DeVries
Madison DeVries, age 20, was a junior at UNC. Photo courtesy of John DeVries.

Madison DeVries, a UNC junior whose many passions included being on the jump rope team, playing lacrosse and being an admissions ambassador, passed away on Friday, April 10 at age 20. 

Madison, originally from Baltimore, Maryland, attended Topsail High School in Hampstead, North Carolina. She is survived by her father, John DeVries, her mother, Georgiana DeVries, and her sister, Sophie DeVries, a first-year student at Topsail High School. 

Madison was her high school’s valedictorian and prom queen, and a Covenant Scholar at UNC. She studied at the University’s Gillings School of Global Public Health, where she was an undergraduate research assistant in the Department of Epidemiology. She also interned at Eisenhower Medical Center in California and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Georgia. 

Madison co-founded the “Jump Ahead” program, where she and other public health students on her jump rope team taught children about jump rope and health education. 

But her father said she never wore her many accomplishments on her sleeve. 

“She was the most humble young lady you’d ever meet and actually was someone who just never took them at face value and never bought into it,” he said. “She never identified that that was who she was.” 

Madison’s boyfriend, Isaac Rosso Klakovich, is a UNC junior. He said Madison never took herself too seriously and had a good understanding of what mattered in life. 

“At the end of the day, she always knew that people were the most important,” Isaac said. “She made time for people, and she just had her priorities right in a way that I have so much respect for.” 

He said some of his best memories with Madison are getting wings, visiting her in Atlanta during her internship and going to the beach — but that being with her even made a trip to the grocery store as fun as anything else. 

“It's so hard to put into words the effect someone has on you when it was really nothing but just pure happiness,” he said. “She showed me happiness that was just carefree and alive.” 

Photo courtesy of Isaac Rosso Klakovich.

Madison’s friend Ana Gabriela Dimate said having fun and enjoying life were always Madison’s priorities, and that there was nothing she put her mind to that she couldn’t do. 

“She was just a ray of sunshine and nobody could stop or rain on her parade,” she said. 

She said some of her best memories with Madison included listening to music and dancing. They were going to live with each other next year, she said, and Madison wanted to get Dance Dance Revolution for their place. 

“I think she was the perfect embodiment of not taking life seriously and just having fun,” she said. 

Photo courtesy of Ana Gabriela Dimate.

Isaac said Madison’s favorite holiday was Halloween because she was such a creative person — a talented writer and artist — and liked how she could let her creativity flow. He said she always came up with ridiculous costumes, this year dressing up as a space cowboy. 

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“It was so emblematic of who she was, because she was just a free spirit,” he said. “And something about a space cowboy. I think it just says it all — someone who’s not going to be tamed, not going to let the world get them down, is just going to live really on their terms. And that’s what she did.” 

Madison’s friends and parents said she genuinely cared about the people around her and always wanted to hear what they had to say. 

Madison’s parents brought up a story from when she was in first grade, when they got a call from the principal that she was sitting alone at the lunch table. When the principal asked why she was sitting alone, she said she had two sets of friends who she loved and didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. 

“And the principal said that was the most amazing thing she’d ever seen, and that it was the most adult thing,” her dad said. “...we remember that and it was just — wow, that was Maddie. And that was just so, so amazing.” 

Her dad said she was the first person to reach out to a friend who needed help, just like if someone fell down on the lacrosse field, she was the first person to offer them a hand. She was a natural leader who built people up and motivated them, he said, and an incredible big sister. Madison’s friends said she was always raving about her little sister.   

“I have and always will continue to look up to Maddie,” her sister said in a message. “She always knew how to make me happy. One of Maddie’s favorite quotes was, ‘The light in me honors the light in you.’ Maddie will continue to inspire me, and many others. Her spirit will always live on. Maddie was the best big sister a girl could ever ask for."

Isaac said Madison had a kindness about her where she truly accepted people for who they were. 

“You could tell she really loved you for who you were and I really don't think there's any better gift that she could have given me than loving me for who I was and allowing me to be who I was,” he said. 

Madison was passionate about so many things, Isaac said. She loved surfing, scuba diving, running, hiking, jump roping, biking, the ocean, painting, travel, dancing, Kanye West, photography and much more. 

“Maddie was the kindest, most gentle, warm-hearted daughter a mom could ever ask for,” her mother said in a message. “Her sister, Sophie, has those same qualities. God blessed me with both of them.” 

Her mother said she named Madison after the mermaid in the movie, “Splash.” Madison grew up to love spending time in the ocean, she said, and enjoyed surfing with her friends. 

Photo courtesy of Isaac Rosso Klakovich.

“I miss her tremendously, but I know that her spirit will live on in all of her loved ones, and all of the many lives she touched,” she said. 

In high school, Madison was the co-captain of her lacrosse team. Her dad said by her junior year, she was so renowned on the coastal lacrosse scene that other coaches frequently put two defenders on her. She continued playing recreationally in college and loved the sport, but her studies always came first. 

Madison's aunt, Libby Snider, said she had incredible discipline and determination as a scholar and athlete. 

"But, it was her loving, gentle spirit, selfless kind heart and humble nature that I loved the most about Maddie," she said in a message. "She was a genuine good soul." 

Madison's cousin, Katherine Snider, said she and Madison were each other's cheerleaders, despite going to different schools. She said Madison encouraged her to embrace and enjoy life as it comes.    

"The energy and warmth that she exuded, especially when dawning her Carolina blue, was palpable," Katherine said in a message. "... Maddie’s spunky style and boisterous laugh always managed to make me smile. While she loved to have fun, I was also in constant admiration of her work ethic."

Photo courtesy of Isaac Rosso Klakovich.

Madison loved going to UNC, which her father called her dream school. He said as an admissions ambassador, the new applicants could tell how passionate she was about the school, just like everyone could always tell how passionate she was about life. 

“There were so many things about her that people connected to,” he said. “She was just that person.” 

To donate to Madison's memorial fund, visit here

If you have a story or memory about Madison you would like to share, please email

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