Ana Vega De La Fuente, a Loyola sophomore known by her family and friends as Sofia, died from injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident Aug. 29, just days after she was supposed to travel to Rome to spend a semester at Loyola’s John Felice Rome Campus.
The 20-year-old was riding a motorcycle with her father Aug. 23 in Clarkston, Michigan, when they were hit by a car. Her father, Luis Vega, survived the crash after being in the hospital for two days. He’s on disability leave from his job working for an automobile supplier in Detroit.
Sofia’s family and friends are in complete shock from the accident and continue to mourn the loss of their daughter, sister, aunt and friend.
“It feels like I’m living in a nightmare,” Vega said. “I sometimes just turn around and think what I’m seeing is not real. That’s something my brain is doing to block the pain.”
Sofia and her father were very close, even though her parents are separated. He said she shared a lot of his personality traits.
Sofia has two siblings, 24-year-old Andrea and 18-year-old Luis. Sofia’s sister Andrea has two children, whom Sofia adored, according to Graciela De La Fuente, Sofia’s mother.
“I’m very sad,” she said. “But I have to keep going for my other children.”
Sofia was a business administration student studying in the dual degree program — which gives students an opportunity to study in Italy for a semester and Spain for a year and provides them with both an American and a European degree — in the Quinlan School of Business. She had aspirations to work in international business, according to an email sent to the Loyola community from Campus Ministry Aug. 31.
“She always shared what her dreams were,” Vega said. “I always tried to support her.”
Joshua Washington, Sofia’s boyfriend of eight months, described Sofia as “incredibly smart,” and “a person for others.” He said she always had straight A’s and volunteered her time to serve others through Loyola4Chicago, a program in the Office of Community Service and Action where students provide community service including work with children, immigrants, persons with mental disabilities and persons experiencing homelessness, according to the Community Service and Action Website.
“She was a great girl,” Vega said. “I’m still trying to figure out why she’s not with us anymore. Such a good soul.”
Sofia loved to travel. She kept a travel journal, and wanted to write about her experience at the Rome Center, her mother said.
She grew up in El Paso, Texas, and lived there for 17 years before moving to Michigan to live with her father, Graciela said. She finished her senior year of high school and lived in Michigan for a year prior to attending Loyola, Vega said.
Vega remembers the trip they took to Chicago to tour Loyola.
“I can remember her face all lit up,” Vega said.
Graciela said her daughter was the happiest she had ever been in her time on campus.
“She fell in love with Loyola and didn’t want to visit other schools,” she said. “It was the best decision she had ever made.”
Vega said it was difficult to drop her off at the bus station or airport after breaks.
Graciela said she has never visited Loyola but wanted to visit her daughter. Now, she said Sofia’s friends have offered to show her Sofia’s favorite spots if she ever decides to visit the campus.
Sofia loved to drink black coffee and try new foods, but her favorite dish was her grandmother’s rice and lentils. Before asking anything else, Sofia would ask her grandmother to make her rice dish, Sofia’s mother said.
Washington, 19, said he and Sofia liked to go on dinner and lunch dates. He said she loved going to a seafood restaurant on Devon Avenue.
They spontaneously went to a Romeo Santos concert in February, according to Washington. He said he surprised her with concert tickets on Valentine’s Day.
He and Sofia also spent time at spots around campus together and he remembers the exact table and booth where they sat in De Nobili Dining Hall, as well as a table on the St. Ignatius Community Plaza, which is between the dorms they lived at last year — Sofia lived at De Nobili Hall and Washington at San Francisco Hall.
“I can’t be in the same places where I sat with her,” Washington said. “I used to sit in the second floor of the [Information Commons] with her, now I have to sit on the first.”
Washington said he can’t walk through the plaza without being reminded of her. He said he often looks at her old dorm room window in De Nobili Hall.
He said Sofia was a source of tranquility for many people.
“Just knowing her was enough,” Washington said. “Just interacting with her, you’d be filled with so much peace and not be stressed.”
Washington also remembered Sofia’s funny laugh.
“It was the type of laugh that would make you laugh — so contagious,” he said.
Washington said he has gone to the lake to cry several times. He said it reminds him of her and how peaceful she was, as well as one of the last days they spent together. He still keeps the polaroid he took of her that day in his wallet.
“She would want me to be strong,” Washington said. “She was so proactive and intelligent. No one could compare to how caring she was.”
Nayeli Cervantes, Sofia’s first-year roommate, said Sofia took care of her often.
“There was a day when I was sick and Sofia had a full day of classes, she went into the room to check on me during every break between her classes,” Cervantes, 19, said.
Cervantes, a sophomore studying social work, said she and Sofia were very close and liked to get milk tea at Kung Fu Tea and eat at different places along Devon Avenue.
Kevin Lee, a business professor at Loyola, said he taught Sofia for two semesters last year.
“She was a great kid,” Lee said. “She worked hard; [she was] quiet but confident, strong academically.”
Lee said after Sofia’s passing, he reread one of the papers she had submitted for his class last year, and was reminded of how passionate and hard working she was as a student.
“It’s just so well written, but more than that. The content. The thought she put into it,” Lee said. “Just to look at that kind of intelligence and that inquiring mind, that thirst for learning, not just from a textbook, but from those around her. I just feel like ‘boy, there was a wonderful person that was going to do wonderful things.’ It sure is a shame we lost her.”
Lee said Sofia’s desire to collaborate with others caused him to think about how students should treat each other.
“I think about the students I teach that need to be more compassionate with one another and more engaging with one another while we have the time and the opportunity,” Lee said.
Sofia’s passing has also changed the way people who knew her think about safety on the road.
Washington said it has reminded him to be cautious and more attentive while driving. Graciela said Sofia and her father took precautions while riding the motorcycle and she doesn’t think they committed an error.
Graciela said people need to be careful with their speed, avoid using phones and be careful of anything obstructing the driver’s view.
Washington said his sister picked him up from campus after she heard about the accident. She drove them both to Waukegan, Illinois, their hometown. During their drive, he said he paid extra attention to the road and made sure his sister drove carefully.
“Every time I see a motorcycle it reminds me of her, to not take life for granted,” he said.
Disclaimer: The interview with Graciela De La Fuente was conducted in Spanish and has been translated to English for this story.