As a little girl, Abby Dougherty ran around in UF T-shirts and a Tim Tebow jumper.
Though Abby was from a family of Florida State Seminoles, her father, Pat Dougherty, knew she’d wind up in Gainesville before she did. Abby had always been close with her aunt, a UF alumna, who bought Abby her UF outfits.
In the summer of 2014, while watching staffers guide new students through campus at Preview, Abby wanted to help others as they did.
She turned to her father and said, “Dad, I’m going to be that next year. I’m going to leave my mark on this university.”
During her three years at UF, the applied physiology and kinesiology senior influenced hundreds of lives as a member of Campus Diplomats, an employee of the Field and Fork Food Pantry and a yoga instructor at UF RecSports.
Abby was six days shy of her 21st birthday when she was killed Friday by a garbage truck while riding her bike north of campus. Gainesville Police is currently conducting a traffic-homicide investigation.
UF will hold a memorial service the week of Nov. 7. Her family’s service will be on her birthday, Thursday, Pat Dougherty said, at 3 p.m. at Kays-Ponger and Uselton Funeral Home, located at 635 E. Marion Ave. in Punta Gorda, Florida.
Abby would want her family to celebrate her birthday, not mourn her death, her father said.
“I think that’s the way she would have wanted it,” he said.
When Brittany O’Bryon-DeWerth, 20, first met Abby in February, Abby wore a tiger-themed onesie and a smile.
After seeing her outfit at the Campus Diplomats’ new-member meeting, O’Bryon-DeWerth knew they would be close. They had similar bubbly and outgoing personalities, but Abby reminded her to take time for herself, the UF health education and behavior junior said.
Two months later, Abby and Jake Kilgore, a 20-year-old UF business administration junior, became O’Bryon-DeWerth’s mentees. They were “twins,” with O’Bryon-DeWerth acting as their “mom.”
Despite Abby’s hectic schedule balancing school, work and clubs, she always remembered others, Kilgore wrote in an email. During Campus Diplomats’ mentor-appreciation week last week, she still found time to order O’Bryon-DeWerth a gift.
The mug, which said something along the lines of, “I always knew I was the favorite child,” referenced a running joke between Abby and Kilgore. The gift hadn’t arrived as of Friday, but Kilgore said O’Bryon-DeWerth would have loved it.
“During an incredibly stressful week for her, she was still able to be selfless enough to show thanks to someone who means a lot to her, and I believe that is the most important thing about her,” Kilgore said.
Above all else, Abby wanted others to smile, laugh and surround themselves with love.
Her father could see her going into medicine. O’Bryon-DeWerth could see her starting a nonprofit. Kilgore could see her achieving whatever she set out to do.
After graduation, she planned to volunteer this summer. In the past, she had lent her time to children in Rwanda and Uganda.
On Abby’s birthday, O’Bryon-DeWerth plans to release balloons at sunrise at Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park, one of Abby’s favorite places.
O’Bryon-DeWerth still hears Abby’s infectious laugh when she thinks of her. In her father’s mind, he sees a movie of her life on repeat.
“She’s still here with all of us,” O’Bryon-DeWerth said. “She’s probably more present now than ever. She always wanted to be everywhere at once, and now she is.”