Friends, family celebrate Jolie Dion-Gottfried’s life

A smiling Jolie Dion-Gottfried is pictured. Courtesy Walker Bristol

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Sam Dion-Gottfried is Jolie Dion-Gottfried’s younger brother. Sam is Jolie’s older brother. The article has been updated to reflect this change. The Daily deeply regrets this error.

After Jolie H. Dion-Gottfried’s unexpected death on Aug. 7 in her hometown of Portage, Wis., friends and family gathered at a celebration of her life on Sept. 29 at the Interfaith Center. The celebration commemorated Dion-Gottfried’s activism, passion for social justice and personality. Dion-Gottfried is survived by her mother, younger brother Sam, and many other members of the family.

Sam Dion-Gottfried, her brother, remembered when his sister arrived at Tufts.

“I just remember how much of a change in her life it was coming to Tufts and how amazing it was for her,” he said.

Dion-Gottfried was passionate about social justice and involved in various clubs and activities around campus. During her time on the Hill, Dion-Gottfried served as a tutor for Tufts Literacy Corps, a member of Tufts Freethought Society, and a leader for Conversation Action Faith and Education (CAFE), an interfaith, social justice pre-orientation program, according to the Portage Register and Humanist Chaplain Walker Bristol.

Junior Salomon Herrera-Montesdeoca, who worked with Dion-Gottfried as a CAFE leader, shared his experience of getting to know Dion-Gottfried.

“When we were both CAFE peer leaders, during our training, we had an activity where we all sat in a circle and questions were asked and we were asked to stand up if that question or scenario applied to us,” Herrera-Montesdeoca said. “Right after that, we were asked to pair up to discuss a couple things with each other and, as soon as whoever was leading the activity said that, Jo just stood up and ran over to me and said ‘Hey let’s talk.’”

At the event, many attendees brought objects, such as books, flowers, pictures and cards that reminded them of Dion-Gottfried.

Dion-Gottfried, according to her friends, was a nurturing and loving person.

“She was just so aggressively happy and enthusiastic when she was around people,” Herrera-Montesdeoca said. “Every time I would see her around we would just run at each other and hug one another.”

Maya Velasquez, who had Dion-Gottfried as her CAFE leader, also spoke to Dion-Gottfried’s character, citing the time Dion-Gottfried had brought Velasquez and her friends a box of food during the first week of school.

“She was a really, really special person,” Velasquez, a sophomore, said. “She had so much love to give everyone. The last time I talked to her she called me a ‘radiant galaxy.’”

Dion-Gottfried was also passionate about the Humanist community at Tufts, according to Bristol, who described how Dion-Gottfried would spend much of her time in the Interfaith Center, often just dropping by to talk, relax or do work.

“She gave so much energy, her and her peers who were the leaders in that group, trying to make it possible to capture the very complicated feelings that non-religious people might want out of a community,” Bristol said. “I was always very grateful for the energy she put into that.”

Bristol added that Dion-Gottfried was enthusiastic about exploring and understanding other faiths and religions, citing that at one point, Dion-Gottfried had a goal to visit a different religious community every week and to compile a calendar that listed all the religious holidays for the month.

“She cared a lot about the idea of going to new places and learning about communities different from her own,” Bristol said.

Dion-Gottfried also often looked outside of Tufts to the broader community, according to Bristol.

“She was a very giving person and someone who cared so much about justice and joining other people on whatever journeys they are going on,” they said. “She knew a lot of people and connected with a lot of people who weren’t necessarily part of the Tufts community.”