Gina Soutendijk ’15, described by her friends and close faculty members as compassionate, caring, and wise beyond her years, passed away peacefully of a heart attack in her sleep on January 5, according to her father, Greg Soutendijk. Soutendijk, a sophomore at McGill University, came to Andover as a new Lower. She was 20 years old.
“Gina was loved and valued immensely by the Andover community. She was an impeccable writer, a good friend, and a beautiful person inside and out. She was one of those people that everyone knew of and respected, even if it was just for her smirk,” said Charlotte Berry ’15, Soutendijk’s close friend and roommate for two years.
Another characteristic that made Soutendijk special was how she brought a spark of fun to every situation, making each moment special, says her close friend Kaylee Llewellyn ’15.
“Gina had an incredible ability to make even the most mundane moments memorable and extraordinary. Looking back on the time that we spent together at Andover I am filled with numerous memories of us dancing and belting out Taylor Swift as we walked towards our caramel macchiatos downtown, watching crappy horror movies, and sitting in Paul Revere talking about any and everything,” said Llewellyn.
Morgan Rooney ’17 remembers Soutendijk as an upperclassman mentor and was thrilled when their friendship began to blossom.
“Gina meant a lot to me. As an upperclassman, I looked up to her, so when she and I began casually chatting over Facebook and Twitter, I was so happy,” said Rooney. “Gina radiated so much love and humor and I’ll always cherish the kind words she has written to me over the years. I’ll miss playing Club Penguin with her in Silent Study, and I’ll miss her irreplaceable spirit.”
Soutendijk was a constant presence in Paul Revere Hall, where she lived her Upper and Senior years. She often babysat for her primary house counselor in the dorm, Andrea Orben. Orben recalls Soutendijk’s kindness toward Orben’s daughter, Helene. Orben says that Soutendijk often welcomed Helene to her dorm room.
“Gina was close with my family and was a favorite babysitter for our three young children. My eldest, Helene, loved to wander upstairs in the dorm to Gina and Charlotte’s room to read gossip magazines and to have her nails painted using their extensive polish collection,” said Orben.
Soutendijk was always open and willing to have deep conversations, even with the younger girls in her hall, according to Emma Staffaroni, Instructor in English and one of Soutendijk’s house counselors in Paul Revere Hall.
“When I talked to girls who are now Seniors, who knew her when they were Lowers, they all say that she was always kind and inclusive towards them,” said Staffaroni. “I have the sense from a couple of girls I’ve talked to that Gina was always willing to chat about something that happened and have a one-on-one, heart-to-heart with them.”
During Soutendijk’s Upper year, Berry borrowed a hedgehog from a friend for a long weekend, smuggling the pet into their dorm room. After being caught, Staffaroni and Soutendijk bonded over the incident.
“I’ll just never forget Gina’s faux-shame about it. She clearly just thought it was hilarious, like she had no shame whatsoever about the fact that this had happened, but we were like, ‘You cannot have a hedgehog in the dorm.’ And she just thought it was hilarious,” said Staffaroni. “It became a really funny inside joke with them, particularly with Gina, for the rest of her time in the dorm.”
Friends cite Soutendijk’s sense of humor, knowing smile, and knack for planning ridiculous jokes as some of her defining characteristics.
“I guess my warmest memories of her are just of laughing with her. She was a really darkly funny person… She just had this really funny, sarcastic way about her. She could do these one-liners that were just really funny…she always had the ability to look at you and smirk knowingly, like with a sense of wisdom above the world,” said Staffaroni.
Samir Safwan ’16 said, “A funny memory we have is that halfway through our music class during Extended Period Week, we went to the bathroom and switched clothes. Still not sure if the teacher ever noticed. She was an amazing friend and I’m so happy I had the chance of spending so much time with her at Andover.”
“She also was extremely compassionate as a friend to her peers… She had relationships while I was her house counselor, and she seemed to be really good at loving people. That’s what I remember and hold dear, the laughter and the big heart,” said Staffaroni.
Llewellyn describes Soutendijk’s impact on her life and says she will always love her friend dearly.
“I will never forget that she always wore her socks inside out because she hated the way the seam felt on her toes. I will never forget her smile, her laugh, and the way she passionately lived her life to the fullest no matter what obstacles got in her way. Gina was the first person to show me what loyalty, love, and compassion looked like in a best friend. I will forever remember her as my best friend, and love her as my sister,” said Llewellyn.
As her roommate for two years, Berry hopes Soutendijk’s memory will encourage students to be kind and sensitive to everyone.
“I hope Gina’s legacy will remind those at Andover that even if those around them appear to have it all — beauty, popularity, intelligence — it does not mean they are not in need of support and care. You never know what your peers are going through, so be kind, be kind, be kind,” said Berry.
According to an email Jennifer Elliott ’94, Dean of Students and Residential Life, wrote to the student body, a service was held in Soutendijk’s memory at McGill University on Thursday, January 12, and another service was planned to be held in Singapore this week. A moment of silence was observed at All School Meeting this Monday in honor of Soutendijk.