A canvas of “Oh, The Places You’ll Go” hung on the wall in Cidney Thomas’ room and as her favorite book, was a blueprint for how she lived her life.
Thomas love of travel was just one of the many memories her family and friends shared after she died in a car crash in her hometown on Aug. 4.
Thomas and several friends were involved in a head-on car crash on Aug. 4 when a 54-year-old man drove his Honda Civic the wrong way onto the highway and collided with their Toyota, according to Sergeant Jennifer Ciaccia of the Cleveland Division of Police.
Thomas, 20, the 19-year-old driver of the Toyota and the driver of the Honda died as a result of the crash. The other passengers in the Toyota, two 19-year-old women, suffered critical injuries, Ciaccia said.
Thomas was majoring in biology and spent last semester studying abroad at the John Felice Rome Center, according to an email sent to the Loyola community from Campus Ministry.
Kelley Ferguson, Thomas’ mother, said Thomas’ positivity defined her.
“She [had] a gorgeous smile and that was a signature for her,” Ferguson said.
Makayla Ostapa, a junior who studied abroad in Rome with Thomas, remembers her as a joyous and carefree person.
“She was someone who laughed at herself in the greatest ways,” Ostapa said. “She was able to have her own fun and enjoy her own presence.”
Ostapa remembered an evening in Rome when she and Thomas had been hiking and Thomas asked Ostapa to take a picture of her. Ostapa said Thomas was having fun posing, laughed the whole time and kept asking for more pictures because the lighting was just right.
Ostapa said Thomas enjoyed traveling and chose destinations based on her favorite songs. She even took a special trip to Spain because of Ed Sheeran’s song “Barcelona.”
Ferguson said she and Thomas shared a love of travel and often went on trips together. She still wears the bracelet Thomas bought her on a cruise they took together to the Florida Keys and Cozumel.
“She definitely got that travel bug from not only me, but also her paternal side,” Ferguson said.
Ferguson recounted the night of a fancy dinner on their cruise when Thomas had asked Ferguson to do her makeup. This was not usually the case but she had seen Ferguson’s glittery eyeliner and wanted to have the same look, she said.
Ferguson described Thomas as hardworking, even as a young child.
“If there was something she had an idea about or wanted to do or accomplish, she made it happen,” Ferguson said.
She played flute from grade school through high school graduation, Ferguson said. She sometimes sat first or second chair, which are the leaders of the section, and was proud of her accomplishments, according to Ferguson.
Ferguson said Thomas had been passionate about forensics and Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM), since she was a child.
Emily-Paige Taylor, a current PhD student and Thomas’ discussion leader in a history class last fall, said Thomas was a “leading voice” in class.
“She was confident when speaking in class and had firm opinions, yet welcomed debates,” Taylor said in the email from Campus Ministry.
Ostapa also described Thomas’ abundant self-love and confidence.
“A lot of people doubted her [but] she didn’t care — she had dreams and ambitions and could really care less about what people had to say,” Ostapa said.
Ferguson said Thomas has inspired others to follow in her footsteps.
“After everything, a lot of people have spoken with me saying, ‘Now I’m inspired to travel, now I’m inspired to finish school,’” Ferguson said. “Now I’m inspired to do a lot of this that Cidney did at 20 that some people twice her age haven’t.”
Thomas visited Iceland during spring break 2019 and Ostapa said she wanted to take part in a tradition called Stone Cairns, where travelers stack piles of rocks to mark the path for following visitors.
Ostapa said Thomas was “obsessed” with Iceland, and Ferguson remembers Thomas sending her pictures of the Northern Lights because it was on Ferguson’s bucket list.
Ferguson said Thomas and her cousin Darien were as close as siblings. She said her cousin referred to Thomas as his “sister” at his graduation party. Thomas called her niece and nephews “Cidney Jr.” and “Cidney Jr. Jr.” and was close with them, too, Ferguson said.
Ferguson said Thomas stood out in a crowd because of her authenticity.
“She wore mis-matched socks with sandals and wouldn’t listen to what anybody had to say about it,” Ferguson said.
Ferguson said before Thomas left for her first year of college she had “strongly encouraged” her to get a dog because she would need a companion. Ferguson even remembers getting pictures of puppies from Thomas to try to persuade her. Since her passing, Ferguson said she has decided to adopt a dog.
Thomas was honored at a wake and funeral service Aug. 14 at Fellowship Church of God in Bedford, Ohio.
The email from Campus Ministry notifying the community of Thomas’s death offered resources for Loyola community members. On Loyola’s Lake Shore Campus, Wellness Center (773-508-2530) and Campus Ministry (773-508-2200) staff are available to assist students individually.
On the Health Sciences Campus, University Ministry (708-216-3245) and Student Affairs (708-216-3220) employees are available for those seeking resources or counseling, the email stated. Perspectives is available at any time by calling 800-456-6327. For online resources, students can go to SAPlogin.perspectivesltd.com and enter username: LUC500 and password: perspectives.