Lisa Ly's passion for dancing started when she was 5.
She and her sister Anna Ly, 23, learned tap dancing and then ballet.
Anna said her sister was a unique and graceful dancer who invited the audience with her when she performed.
“We always nicknamed her ‘dancing for the king’ because her chin was always up,” Anna said. “She just always had this brightness and immediate presence on stage that was very inviting.”
The 21-year-old UF applied physiology and kinesiology senior died in Gainesville, Georgia, on Dec. 16 from a pulmonary embolism a semester before she would graduate, said her godmother Karla Wilson, who Lisa grew up with. Lisa’s friends and family gathered for her visitation Dec. 22 at the Hiers-Baxley Funeral Services in Ocala and her funeral services Dec. 23 at Grace Episcopal Church, Anna said.
UF Dean of Students Heather White is in touch with Lisa’s family about arranging a memorial service on campus, UF spokesperson Margot Winick said. She said details should be finalized soon.
After a neck injury at 16, Lisa dreamed of working in sports medicine to help dancers and athletes, Wilson said. Lisa was supposed to graduate in May with her bachelor's degree. The 21-year-old was waiting on acceptance letters from graduate schools, where she planned to pursue a doctorate in physical therapy.
“That made her very conscious of the body and motion, and so when she realized that she was probably not going to be able to push through a professional career of dance, she realized what she really loved was understanding and connecting with the human body,” the 50-year-old said.
Wilson said Lisa was one of the most driven people she’d ever met and always maintained a positive attitude toward everything.
“Whatever she put her mind to, she worked hard at it, but she worked at it with an enthusiasm that was contagious,” Wilson said. “If something was difficult, that was an opportunity. She never wanted to settle for less than 120 percent.”
She was known as “Sweet Lisa.” She was a thoughtful, caring and positive person who found joy in everything she did, Wilson said.
“She just found joy in the everyday things we did together; she just appreciated them all,” Wilson said.
In Lisa’s sophomore year at UF, she became a sister in Alpha Delta Pi, after her godsister encouraged her.
Sorority sister Janae Moodie said she wouldn’t forget a sisterhood retreat in Fall 2015, the day she became friends with Lisa. At the campground, Lisa stood up and talked about her “golden heart,” a place Lisa said was for people who were very impactful or influential in her life.
“She had said that AC15 (Fall 2015 pledge class) was going to be in her golden heart,” Moodie said. “I remember her saying that because it was such a unique way to describe loving someone and loving people.”
Moodie, a UF psychology senior, said Lisa served as an example for her chapter and for students on campus.
“She made everything into a positive,” Moodie said. “She always lived in the mindset that she was so blessed and that she had a responsibility to be kind and loving to others because of it.”
Lisa had a passion for Christianity, her boyfriend Preston Stephens said. She depended on the power of God to lead and change their life, and their relationship revolved around their faith, he said.
“I feel like I admired her faith more than she admired mine just because she was so steadfast to it, whereas sometimes I would waver a little bit,” the 21-year-old University of Central Florida business management senior said.
The two had dated for six years, and Stephens planned to propose in March. He said he loved her for how much she cared for him, his family and his friends.
“One thing that our pastor said that she taught all of us is to love recklessly,” Stephens said. “I think the main message she got out of it was to love selflessly because she was one of the most selfless people you’d ever meet; she never set enough time for herself.”
Lisa taught Stephens to change his attitude toward people, he said.
“She was just a genuinely nice person; no one didn’t like her,” he said. “I think one thing she taught me that I can apply to my everyday life now is to think of others before I think of myself and to really think before I say and think before I do.”
Stephens said Lisa left an impact on everyone she met.
“Lisa’s legacy is having a relentless power of positivity and hope,” he said. “She just had a way to cheer you up just with her smile; she had such a way, such a power of her personality to make you happy.”