Friends, family remember EMU student Julia Niswender in candlelight vigil
There were both tears and laughter Friday night during a student-organized candlelight vigil to remember the life of Eastern Michigan University student Julia Niswender, who was found dead in her apartment building Tuesday night.
About 200 people gathered outside Big Bob’s Lakehouse on Eastern’s campus to mourn the loss and share memories of the 23-year-old, whose untimely death still is under investigation.
“Tonight we come together as family and friends and a community as a whole to remember a girl whose smile could light up a room and whose laugh could turn your whole day around,” EMU student Rachel Weyhing said.
Weyhing organized the vigil with fellow student Philip Christopher. The two were close friends with Julia and her twin sister Jennifer Niswender and wanted to mourn the loss as a campus community and show support for the family.
Coming from a second vigil in their hometown of Monroe, Julia’s family said they were overwhelmed and thankful for the support.
“I’m glad that Jennifer and Julia had the opportunity experience what I’m seeing right now, and with that I couldn’t ask for anything more,” Julia’s father James Turnquist said. “Thank you, thank you for being her friend, thank you for being her support, thanks for putting up with her.”
Friends, co-workers, university officials and complete strangers shared their memories and condolences.
“She was a great person, she didn’t deserve it,” said EMU student and close friend Gregory Gossard. “It’s a tragedy that she’s gone, because she touched a lot of people and she made a lot of people smile.”
EMU President Susan Martin said the vigil was the Eastern family reaching out to Julia’s family.
“I think it’s a case of wanting to come together and show how much we care about Julia and her sister Jennifer and the family at this time, and to share our sympathy, our condolences our concern and love,” she said.
Kentucky resident Seth Isaacs had never known Julia or her family but drove six hours to offer his support. He said he lost his sister Rachel in a similar incident three years ago when she was found dead in her apartment off campus.
“When I read about this online I knew that I had to come up and offer my condolences personally,” he said. “It just hit home, really bad.”
Jennifer said she was amazed by the support she has received from all over the country and all over the world, in places as far off as England and Japan. She said she is dedicating the rest of her life to her twin.
“She’s going to live through me,” she said. “I promise her that I will live my life to the fullest potential for her.”
In addition to her father and her sister Jennifer, Julia also is survived by her mother Kimberly Turnquist and her younger sister Madison Turnquist. A viewing will take place from 2 to 8 p.m. Saturday and from noon to 8 p.m. Sunday at Rupp Funeral Home, located at 2345 S. Custer Road in Monroe. A funeral service will take place at 11 a.m. Monday at Redeemer Fellowship Church at 5305 Evergreen Dr. in Monroe. Burial will follow at Erie Union Cemetery.