Today's #TributeTuesday is from Kelly Wessel, Claire's friend and University of Louisville School of Dentistry classmate:
"To me, Claire was the modern-day, twenty-something Martha Stewart. She knew how to cook, bake, entertain, and throw the best parties where she considered every detail. I remember even asking her to make my wedding cake at one point, which she totally would have done. She also impressed me so much because she could dance like none other (she literally would kill us in Zumba and have the moves down in just one go around), she could sing, play guitar, and do the best (and funniest!) impressions and impersonations you have ever seen. On the flip side of that, there was another more intense side of Claire. A side that was so smart, well-educated, cultured, well-traveled, politically involved, an activist, and a volunteer. She cared so much for everyone around her. I can remember watching her cry after telling one of her first patients that her teeth couldn’t be saved and she would be committed to a denture because she truly cared about her patient. She never thought of this as her patients fault, but the fault of lack of education and circumstance. I also remember Claire in Honduras lighting up all the little girls by teaching them ballerina dance moves, and crying because she couldn’t help all of the needs of the people during the short time on our trip. To Claire, helping wasn’t really the answer, solving was. She wanted to not only “do her part,” but take away any need to do further service because she wanted to complete the job. She truly was the perfect package and such a gift to this world. I am thankful for the memories and for being able to know a person like Claire."
It’s been a tough day at school/work/practice, and you see them. Your favorite classmate/co-worker/teammate that brings you so much joy walks in the room, and you already feel more at peace. That’s who Claire was for me. A friend and classmate who brought so much joy and laughter even on a difficult day. She loved others deeply-- her family, friends, patients, classmates, strangers. I heard her stories of you all, and she had some pretty hilarious and wonderful people in her life. She was a listener. She would ask someone a question about themselves and take in their response with so much respect. She’d hear you make a comment that you love anchors because of a favorite verse of yours, and months later, she’d get you an anchor charm for Christmas. She was someone who celebrated others--with kind words, cards, congratulations, cupcakes, and showers. She was full of empathy. Even the most calloused person could leave Claire saying, “Maybe there’s something going on in his/her life that we do not know about.” She was a doer. Claire juggled dental school, being a Big Sister, volunteering, working at her church, and her time with family and friends as gracefully as her dance moves were. Looking back on the way she lived her life, I have learned that it’s important to not just speak kind words to people; we must do for others. Claire loved her community and took action as a response of her love. Thank you for believing in me, for your silly impressions, for making me laugh in the lab at midnight, for Just Dance parties with Jerry, for your baked goods, for your listening ear, for attempting to scare our classmates, for saving me my favorite Panera bagel when AAWD was selling them in the mornings, for dinners, for trips to the park, for picking me up when I was afraid to drive in the snow, and for showing all of us what it looks like to use our hands, feet, and hearts to give away kindness. I hope you know just how loved you were, Clairebear.
Claire and I used to joke about being twin sisters... it started when we watched the movie Sin City which we thought sucked. But the twin sister thing made us laugh a lot. And we realized we were very similar, we both had two older brothers, we both had loud and crazy families... we were interested in medicine, we both liked to dance and the best part was that we shared a great sense of humor (at least in my opinion) and a mixture of sarcasm with goofiness, which was awesome.
I admired so many things about her, most of all her determination and kindness. I loved it when we got the chance to catch up because the similarities regarding our careers continued. It was so easy to talk to her, it was like time hadn’t gone by between one conversation and another.
Claire was a blessing in my life, I’m sure she was a blessing in many lives and I am so happy that one day I just walked into her room at Culver to show her pictures of my family because that was my awkward way of asking her to be my friend (so smooth of me). I’m so happy I did that because she became one of my best friends for life.
I will always love her, remember her and I will always try to be more like her. 💗
~ Gigí Nieto
Today's #TributeTuesday comes from Caitlin Cottrell, one of Claire's dental school (University of Louisville School of Dentistry ) classmates and good friend. Thank you so much for your kind words.
"I can’t believe I’m even writing this. Claire VanLandingham made such an impact on not only the people she met, but the community as a whole. While most people would only do the required 16 hours of community service to graduate dental school, she did countless hours and truly enjoyed it. She was always an advocate for survivors of domestic violence, and it saddens me so much that that is what ultimately took her from us. She was such a kindhearted, fun and loving person who would go out of her way to help anyone. She could could brighten anyone’s day, especially when it came to bringing baked goods and writing a silly song to get our class through the next big exam or to graduation. I am a better person for having known Claire and along with so many others, we will miss her so much."