Hundreds come out to remember Lillian Pagenstecher, a caring, vigorous 21-year-old killed by meningitis–The University of Oregon student who died Friday of bacterial meningitis survived a bout with the same disease here during her freshman year — and then both of her younger twin brothers came down with it four months later, their father said Sunday.Both the brothers survived that infection but remain at risk for contracting the disease again because of a genetic protein deficiency, said Gerhard Pagenstecher. “It’s frightening,” he said. In an interview prior to the vigil Sunday afternoon, Gerhard Pagenstecher said his daughter, a psychology major with an interest in nursing, was athletic and outgoing, a lover of sports from club soccer to pole vaulting. He and his wife, Toni, were at their 21-year-old daughter Lillian Pagenstecher’s bedside when she died Friday afternoon at Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend in Springfield.They returned to Eugene on Sunday for a candlelight vigil organized at the UO by the Chi Omega sorority, where Lillian Pagenstecher was a member.In a 9 p.m. ceremony outside the Erb Memorial Union attended by more than 1,000 people, Lillian was described as warm, energetic, caring and fun. Scores of young women in Chi Omega sweatshirts sobbed and laughed as they shared recollections.
Interim UO president Robert Berdahl called the large crowd “a remarkable tribute to the way she lived her life.”
The mostly student crowd fell silent when an unsteady Toni Pagenstecher took the microphone. She spoke of the joy of running the Eugene Half-Marathon with Lillian just last month.
“I am just grateful to my daughter, Lillian, for including me in her activities here,” said Toni Pagenstecher on Mother’s Day. “I enjoyed that moment I spent here at the University of Oregon with my child — who I really wanted to come home. I love you, Lillian.”
She would have graduated next year in the spring and would likely have spent some time traveling after graduation, her father said.
“She was a very social girl,” he said, “She had a lot of friends. She loved camping. Dancing. Music.”
She was responsible for the family getting a golden retriever, Deed, now 10 years old, who her father said was in some ways the heart of the family.
“And she loved food! She thought about food a lot. She contemplated opening a restaurant with her brothers.”
At the start of her freshman year in fall 2009, she came down with meningococcal infection, putting her in the hospital for four days. Her brothers, living at home then in Portland, came down with the same disease four months later.
Lillian and her brothers, Bredt and Hewitt, had all been vaccinated against meningitis before the illness struck them, but the relatively new vaccine does not protect against the strain of the disease that they developed at that time, their father said.
Lane County public health officer Pat Leudtke confirmed Sunday that the disease that killed Lillian Pagenstecher had been identified as bacterial meningitis, also known as meningococcal infection, based on clinical evidence. “The only way we know definitely is through an autopsy,” he said.
The exact strain of the bacteria that infected Lillian Pagenstecher this time has not yet been identified, Leudtke said. more