Her smile, infectious laugh, and goofy personality are traits by which many on campus best remember Grace Goblirsch. As an aspiring Health Fitness major, Grace excelled both in the pool, as a member of the Gustavus Swim and Dive team and in the classroom. After being diagnosed with leukemia last December in the middle of her sophomore year, there was no question as to whether there was anyone more deserving of the outpouring of love and support she received from friends and teammates on campus.
“Grace had a presence about her, and it will never be forgotten. She was a genuinely happy person, and she radiated that happiness to the people around her. If you were having a bad day or just needed someone to lean on, Grace was there for you. I hope that the Gustavus community can honor her memory by radiating that same kind of happiness to someone each and every day,” teammate and friend Alissa Tinklenberg said.
Inspired by Grace’s resilience and bravery, the Gustavus Swim and Dive team banded together making “Race for Grace” their motto for the year. As word of her diagnosis spread, teams and individuals from across the conference also reached out in support for her and her family.
“I think Grace really appreciated the support from the whole team. Our family watched conference via live streaming and got to see that the team wore their ‘R4G’ caps, and had Grace tattoos, which made her feel like she was still part of the team. She was also moved by the amount of guys on the team that shaved their heads for her when she lost her beautiful curls to chemo. Throughout the battle, she felt very loved by her swim family,” First-Year and sister Claire Goblirsch said.
Grace’s zest for life flooded over into everything she was involved in, from group projects for class to watching Grey’s Anatomy with friends, to bringing her best effort to every swim practice.
“I will never forget the passion to improve that Grace showed every practice and every race. Grace really did swim to inspire. She had such a drive to continue to improve. Swimming wasn’t just her workout of choice, she wanted to go fast! Grace wanted to contribute to the team as a teammate and a competitor. While her passing is still fresh and absolutely heartbreaking, I refuse to let the end define my thoughts about Grace,” Head Gustavus Swim Coach Jon Carlson said.
In reflecting on Grace’s presence during her time at Gustavus, her friends remember her most for her sense of humor and ability to get along with everyone.
“I was immediately drawn to her because she was just crazy and bubbly and so lively,” Tiana Cervantes said.
“One of Grace’s trademark reactions was to say ‘duh’ in a silly voice and dramatically roll her eyes at you,” McKenna Jones said.
Even while in the hospital, Grace maintained her usual optimistic attitude and vibrant personality.
“While I had never seen [Grace] anything but happy, I was still amazed that despite being dealt this kind of hand, she didn’t ever let it get her down,” Cervantes said.
“She never failed to smile. Even if she didn’t have that great of a race or that great of a grade on a paper, she always found something to smile about,” Jones said.
Support from campus was visible in every hospital room she stayed in, where she proudly displayed the numerous stuffed animals, coloring books, movies, and the cards that she was showered with. Additionally, the impact she had on campus was evident in the sheer number of “Race for Grace” t-shirts and bracelets that were sold to support her family and cancer foundations. While her physical presence on campus was short, her spirit lingers on with those whose lives she made a little brighter.
“When everybody found out about her leukemia via Twitter and Facebook, she was flooded with support. She had many of her Gustie friends visit her at the hospital, including her swim coach, Jon. I think seeing these people lifted her spirits and gave her hope. Grace truly loved Gustavus, and really blossomed here. She met awesome people and gained many amazing friends. She will be forever remembered on this campus by everyone that met her,” Claire Goblirsch said.