The loss of sophomore Jeffny Pally, who was killed early Sunday morning by a UConn Fire Department SUV outside the South Eagleville station, has rocked UConn communities large and small.
Pally, 19, was from West Hartford, a well-represented hometown at UConn, and is remembered fondly by friends who knew her from her middle school days through college years.
Pally’s reach at the university extends far and wide.
She was a resident assistant in Northwest Residence Halls, a rising leader within UConn Community Outreach, well-known in the UConn Indian Students Association, a new member of Delta Gamma, an employee of Bookworms cafe and an allied health major. Students who knew her said Pally aspired to be a nurse.
Again and again, friends who spoke with The Daily Campus used the same words to describe Pally: heavily-involved, engaged, ambitious, excited.
Most of all, her friends said she strived to help others.
It’s clear her involvement reached many at UConn. At the time of publication, a Tuesday night candlelight vigil on Fairfield Way had been shared with over 1,200 people— close to 800 of which had responded “going.”
Elena Pevar, a third-semester nutritional sciences major, met Pally in 6th grade on a West Hartford girls basketball team. “I think we both played that one year and realized basketball was not our sport,” joked Pevar. Pevar saw Pally often at UConn. They would frequently catch up and ask each other how the day was going.
“She could make anyone laugh and talking to her always brightened my day,” Pevar said.
Pally’s position as an RA in Northwest, which she’d accepted in June of 2016, spoke to her character, Pevar said. “She was an RA and that position right there says a lot about her. She was so compassionate toward everyone.”
Robert Drago, a second-year residence hall director originally from Brooklyn, New York, supervised Pally. The entire group of Northwest RAs met as a team on a weekly basis and Drago would also talk to Pally on a regular basis about her goals at UConn, both personal and professional.
She was an RA with a purpose, he said. “Jeffny was fiercely dedicated to helping others and making the world around her a better place. She became an RA to do just that with her big heart and intelligence."
As long as Pally’s team of RAs are together in Northwest, Drago said, they will remember “her air of positivity, happiness and pure joy.”
“She is deeply missed, and the many cherished memories of Jeffny will bring us closer together,” Drago said.
Her involvement continued past the people she lived with to those across the state, as a leader in Community Outreach. Pally had a special passion for helping people with disabilities.
As a freshman, Pally was a committee member on an event that brought over 500 athletes from around Connecticut, both with and without disabilities, to play soccer in an invitational Special Olympics tournament called the Husky Classic.
Jessica Oknin, a May 2016 graduate, was Pally’s program director for the Husky Classic last year. She had high hopes for Pally and was proud of Pally’s newly-minted position— she had just been selected as program director for the R-Word campaign, a campaign to “Spread the Word to End the Word.”
“She had so many great ideas and was so passionate about the Special Olympics...Her energy was contagious and all the committee members and athletes could feel it,” Oknin said.
Her devotion to community service and the Special Olympics was only a fraction of how she positively impacted those around her, Oknin said.
Alex Loukellis, a seventh-semester finance major, met Pally during her first semester at UConn. They worked at Bookworms Cafe in Homer Babbidge Library.
Loukellis was the supervisor, but Pally had his back. Always on time, always smiling and always on the ball, Loukellis knew her as a heavily-involved student, a strong employee and a dependable person.
"She was super bubbly all the time, super funny, always extremely easy to talk to, easy to connect with and she really cared. When you talked to her you could tell that she was truly interested in what you had to say. She just loved to get to know everyone," Loukellis said.
Through Pally, Loukellis said, he met one of his best friends at UConn, Liam Evans.
Among the dozens of students posting on Facebook, recalling memories of Pally and mourning the loss of a friend, Loukellis wrote a brief message.
"Rest in peace Jeffny Pally. You will be truly missed. Thank you for making work at Bookworms bearable and for introducing me to one of my closest friends at UConn. You are loved," he said.
Far and wide, students extended condolences over social media. Rodney Purvis, senior guard and top scorer of the 2015-2016 season for the men's basketball team, tweeted that he didn't know Pally but wanted her family to know he was thinking of them.
“Every student is precious to us, and this is a heartbreaking and tragic loss,” UConn President Susan Herbst wrote in a public statement. “Our deepest sympathies go out to her family, friends, and all those whose lives she touched. We know that words cannot begin to express their grief.”
UConn spokesperson Stephanie Reitz said students are encouraged to make use of Counseling & Mental Health Services (CMHS) if they seek support. Students can make an appointment at 860-486-4705 from Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. CMHS is located on the fourth floor of Arjona.
A wake for Pally is set for Wednesday, Oct. 19 from 6-9 p.m. at St. Timothy's in West Hartford. The funeral will be at the same place on Thursday, Oct. 19, at 10 a.m. in West Hartford.