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."
Today's Tribute comes from Selene Carter, who was one of Claire's professors at Indiana University. Below is the official recommendation letter she wrote as part of Claire's application to dental school.
Claire VanLandingham was my student this spring in the course HPER D231: Introduction to Dance Studies. This course is unique in that it involves actual dance practices as well as the cultural and scholarly study of dance in the context of society.
Claire came into the course with a solid understanding of the classical and performing arts. What she accomplished over the weeks we worked together was that she distinguished herself as both a critical thinker and creative artist. Her participation in group studies and class discussions was outstanding; always contributing insightful comments and peer support in learning situations. No longer just a classical form of entertainment for Claire; dance became a vital conduit to understanding life in our current world.
I heartily recommend Claire for graduate studies in Dentistry. In Dental School I believe she would bring the same sophisticated focus and growth in understanding her studies that she did to dance. Claire is conscientious and through that I am aware she has donated several hours of her undergraduate career volunteer work such as the Girl Scouts as a Troop Leader. Her commitment to whole person wellness is evident in her extra-curricular work, and in her avid pursuit of the arts and culture. As a dentist she will embrace the patient in the the context of their own life, not just as an open mouth that needs repair.
For the final project in our course students formed small groups and designed an educational curriculum to present in a local elementary school for students age kindergarten through sixth grade. Claire was at first skeptical that this could be accomplished. Yet during the process she became one of the most committed and passionate teachers. She was so excited by the children’s depth of discovery! What this tells me about Claire is that she is a planner and a researcher. She is always well prepared and deliberate, and ready for any outcome. Then, when the actual interaction takes place she is able to truly be in the experience with her students, peers, patients and discover the unique gift that arises when ‘dance’ actually takes place.
I encourage her candidacy for a pivotal role in the dental health profession! Please contact me with further questions.
Lecturer in Kinesiology
Today's #TributeTuesday comes from Claire's oldest brother, Ben.
This is what he said at her Celebration of Life on January 10, 2018:
"Claire packed so much into her 27 years with us. She was a daughter,
a granddaughter, a sister, a cousin and an aunt. She was a student, a volunteer,
a musician, a dancer, a dentist, and a Naval Lieutenant. She was these things
and so much more. Somehow, though she had many trades, she mastered them all.
I could not have been more proud to call her my little sister.
It always amazed me that she could excel academically while managing to fit so much community service into her spare time. Through her talent, hard work and good choices, she was able to graduate from both undergrad and dental school without paying a dime of tuition. From a remarkably early age, she involved herself in community service projects both big and small, from baking cookies for her neighbors to raising money for South African orphans. Somehow she found the free time to do all of these things. As a relative said the other day, I'd have had free time in college too if I hadn't been drinking beer and playing pool. Claire had better things to do.
I often told her how impressed and proud I was of her achievements and good choices. In fact, I told her that so often that I think it really started to embarrass her. But her achievements are only part of her story. And I wish I had thought to tell her then what I am about to tell you now: Claire was one of the most fun people in the world you could hang out with. I don't think I ever told her that, but it's undoubtedly true. There was nobody better to be goofy with. Whenever the family was together we would tease each other with silly inside jokes, dance around ridiculously, and sing like cheesy lounge singers. I'm sure every one of her friends in this room has similar memories with her. I'd love to hear every one of them later on at the reception.
Taylor and I would do anything we could to make Claire laugh, even if we knew we would likely face what we called "the wrath" as a result of our jokes. In fact, one of the most famous quotes in our family, "sit up, scoot up, and shut up" was the result of some particularly zealous attempts by Taylor to make Claire laugh at a family dinner in the Terre Haute Olive Garden. Any trouble we found ourselves in was nothing compared to lighting up the face that always lit up our lives.
She was the shining light of our family, and that would have been true had she never achieved anything of note. She brought so much joy to every single member of our family; I think it's safe to say that she was everyone's favorite. She was the best of us. Though we will remember her achievements always, we will miss Claire, our sweet, silly shining light."
Today's #TributeTuesday is a sweet remembrance from Ben Wedeking. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and memories of Claire.
"I was disappointed to break a dish of my late grandmother’s last Thursday night while I was cooking. It was a small bowl, off-white, with sides that flared out instead of rising straight up, and it was painted with a leafed oak branch. The issue was I had a teapot and a soup pot on the stove while I was cooking, even though they weren’t needed. The action was happening in the skillet and saucepan, and my foolish plan to perch the skillet’s lid on the soup pot resulted in a big mess when the lid fell, knocking my grandmother’s bowl from the stove to the floor.
I collected the broken pieces and left them on a plate on my kitchen table, still dirty with food and grime from my floor. Though I have another identical bowl, the thought occurred to me that I could try to find an artist who does Kintsugi, the recently-internet-popular Japanese art of repairing broken bowls with metal-mixed lacquer. My mother arrived on Saturday and when I told her of the bowl, she encouraged me not to worry, my life would be so different from my grandmother’s. I’ll probably get rid of the shards.
On February 18th a year ago, I made cinnamon rolls for the first time, trying to be affirmative about being more like Claire; cinnamon rolls were a specialty of hers. My father was visiting, and he was sitting at the kitchen table while I rolled out the dough on the table’s other end. Not noticing how close his water glass was to the table edge, I threw the rolling pin to the dough time after time until the glass fell to the floor and shattered. I grabbed some tools and got on my knees to start sweeping up the pieces. That glass, simple but cheerfully adorned with lemons, was one I kept from the time I lived with Claire. I cried, and Dad didn’t need to tell me my life would be so different from Claire’s.
Sometime in 2013, I was helping Claire cater a reception for a student recital at Indiana University in Bloomington. I would occasionally offer an extra arm to stir, but mostly I was entertaining myself in the living room while the alchemy happened in the kitchen. When all was prepped, I helped her load up the car and we drove off, a bit late. When we parked across the street from the venue, Claire loaded up her arms with so much that I warned her. She almost made it, but the sausage phyllo rolls fell and the dark blue serving bowl broke into pieces. I told her she tries to do too much, and it wasn’t until she apologized to the recitalist’s mother that she started to cry. I never apologized to Claire for scolding her, but I’m so glad she never stopped reaching.
My grandmother lived to be 95. She had six grandchildren and some of the next generation too. Sometimes I’m upset that Claire missed the opportunity to build a tree. I wonder about the dishes she would’ve passed down to her grandson. Other times I’m upset with myself, remembering easily that I scolded her, or that I broke up with her, leaving her to wander into a violent world. The pure loss settles in too, when I realize I lost my friend, someone who knew me fully, a great dancer, an imaginative mind, a musician, a dentist and all the other things she was.
Though I remember how heartbreaking it was to lose that lemon glass that fell to the floor a year ago, I’ve recently chosen to part with another gift from Claire, a heavy 12-inch skillet. The non-stick coating is long past the point that justifies continued use, and Claire herself would certainly disapprove of using the pan at this point, savvy as she was about public health concerns. So I went out and bought a new skillet, a brand new Calphalon one with a lid. Maybe it’s some solace that the skillet that replaced Claire’s was the one that broke my grandmother’s bowl and brought to mind all these memories. Even more so since I was using the new skillet to make a sauce from roux, a skill Claire taught me. She shaped my life by her gifts, her teaching, her words, and her love. As best I can, I’ll let her lessons and her life ripple through mine. For the few things I still have that were hers, I’ll treasure them while they last."