While Megan Boken’s loved ones look ahead to her , they are also looking back fondly on their memories of her—the contagious laugh, the smile, the positive attitude and the strength.
Boken, 23, was the in St. Louis. The Wheaton native and St. Francis High School alum had returned to St. Louis University to visit friends and play in an alumni game Saturday afternoon.
Bridget Fonke, a SLU alum and Boken's former teammate and roommate, said her best friend was a “beautiful person.”
"Deep, soulful laugh"
“The first thing I think about is just her laugh," Fonke said. "She had this deep, soulful laugh … and (she) made everyone smile. She liked to have fun. … She worked hard and was really competitive, but she liked it when everyone around her was having fun.”
Alyssa Rio, a friend of Boken’s from her St. Francis and club volleyball days, said there are few people she always wanted to see when she returned home from college or work.
“Boken was always one of them,” she said. “Whenever I was with her, we were constantly laughing. She was so funny, and so fun to be around. … (She) had this awesome personality and just put you in a good mood no matter what.”
Rio also said the first thing that comes to mind when she thinks of Boken is her laugh.
"That's just probably the characteristic about her anyone would say," she said.
As Boken's friends have banded together to remember her in the days since her death, Rio said “there have been so many things that make us say ‘that’s so Boken,’ or, ‘that sounds like Boken.’
“It’s the way she did things and said things—and told stories, that just made her so special, and just so funny.”
St. Francis High School volleyball coach Peg Kopec told ABC 7 News Monday that Boken, a player who led St. Francis to two state titles, had an "unbelievable laugh that would make everyone else laugh, and a great sense of humor, sparkling eyes—with a little mischief in there."
In a YouTube video made for Boken on her senior day last year, St. Louis University coach Anne Kordes said two words that describe Boken are "hardworking and hilarious."
Kordes told ABC 7 News it's "sickening" to think she'll never hear the laugh again.
Megan Murison, a friend and teammate of Boken’s since middle school, said when she was with Boken, “we were always laughing—we always had a story to tell.
“She always had this laugh that was contagious—whenever you were around her when she was laughing, you couldn’t help but laugh as well,” Murison said.
Boken was a four-year starter at SLU, and before that, led the St. Francis High School team to two state titles.
"She was a big part of the SLU program going from being 129th to 21st in the country," Fonke said. "I think she was just a really strong competitor and the glue that held the team together."
Murison said as a teammate, "(Boken was) someone who stepped on the court and had all the fire and energy in the world. She wanted to win, and had a passion and drive for volleyball (that) explained more (of) what she was like as a person.
“She was so much fun to play with, because she cared so much about being on the team,” Murison said.
Boken's father, Paul Boken, told ABC 7 News on Monday that his daughter was "all about volleyball." Her teammates were "very special" to her, he said.
In her video for Boken, Kordes said she couldn't remember the four-year starter ever missing a practice or a match.
"To say Megan has had an impact on this program is an understatement, and I couldn't be more thankful that she decided to come to St. Louis," she said.
Remembering a Best Friend
Fonke, who now plays volleyball in Romania, said she found out about Boken’s death on Facebook.
“I was shocked," she said. "No one is supposed to read that news about their friends.”
Since last weekend, Fonke said the close-knit St. Louis team has come together—on Facebook and Skype—to share stories about Boken and mourn together.
Rio said she is still in shock after Boken’s death.
“I still have to pinch myself. It doesn’t seem real,” she said. “It doesn’t seem like it should happen to one of my best friends, especially someone like Boken.
"The next few days are going to be extremely difficult," Rio said. "Now, it’s just about keeping the Bokens in your prayers.”
Boken is survived by her father, Paul; her mother, Lisa; two sisters, Annie Palazzolo and Mary Boken; and a brother, Joe.
Instead of focusing on Boken's tragic death, Fonke said she hopes people can focus on the impact she had on so many lives. "She was a beautiful person," she said. "I want (the) emphasis to be on what a great person she was, and (the) examples she set."
Murison said Boken taught her to remain positive. “She always saw the best in things that were going on. I think that’s something not everyone is able to do. I know everyone who met her knew she was a very positive person, and always tried to find the good in things.
“Her personality was such a strong personality, something everyone wanted to be around... I think she’s a big person everyone’s really going to miss."
A visitation service for Boken will be held from 3 to 9 p.m. Wednesday at . A funeral Mass will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday at in Wheaton.