A solemn atmosphere lingered on Foothill’s campus as students and staff learned of the death of 20-year-old Foothill alumna Baylee Gatlin.
Gatlin attended The Lightning in a Bottle festival this past weekend, but had to leave after suffering a medical emergency. She passed away on Sunday morning.
Her death evoked many sorrowful responses from her friends and acquaintances, as well as Foothill staff.
Principal Joe Bova said that Gatlin “was definitely a supportive person, and encouraging.”
“[Baylee] was a ray of sunshine. […] She was always in a good mood and positive, with a big smile,” Bova said. “[She was] a positive and uplifting presence on campus.”
“It’s going to be a loss for everyone that knew her, and for the future,” counselor Debbie Freeman said. “She had such a big presence and it’s so sad that her light went out.”
During the week, many of Gatlin’s high school peers and close friends posted commemorative remarks on Facebook.
Morgan Castro, who graduated along with Gatlin in 2015, gave her condolences for Gatlin’s passing.
“Baylee was honest and polite, whether it was for the sake of herself or others. She would stand up for someone who wouldn’t do it for themselves,” Castro said.
In a personal recollection of her high school years, Castro noted that “[Baylee] was opinionated […] in a very level headed, fair way.”
“I admired her for that. I always got riled up during Econ/Gov debates, but Baylee would calmly state her opinion, and uphold it with eloquence,” Castro said.
Others that knew Gatlin mourned the loss of their friend.
“She was always incredibly nice to me, […] and I could tell she made a conscious effort to make everyone around her feel welcome and loved,” Gatlin’s friend Izzie Clark said.
Klio Irby graduated from Foothill in 2016 and also knew Gatlin.
“I loved her smile, it was always so genuine,” Irby said. “I’m very attracted to people like that, so we always talked whenever we ran into each other. She was someone I could talk to about things that many others don’t care about.”
“She had a huge impact on everyone in my class’ life. She was the one person that I never heard speak ill of anyone. She always had a smile for me when I saw her in the class or the hallway,” said Foothill alumnus Ethan Tan, an acquaintance of Gatlin. “I hope that [this] sheds light on how amazing and supportive she was to everyone at FTHS.”
“She was easy to love,” Gatlin’s friend Ayla McNeill said. “She will continue to live on in the hearts of everyone she loves and who loved her.”
Gatlin’s former teachers were also grieving the passing of their former student.
“She had a big smile, which you could probably run your house’s electricity off of,” English teacher Richard Geib said. “She was very ebullient.”
“She was a very charismatic [person] with a bubbly personality. […] She was a person with strong people skills who people remembered,” Geib commented.
Geib also admired Gatlin’s perseverance in standing up for what she believed in.
He said, “she has four moms, so from her earliest days in class, she said ‘I have four moms, and that’s perfectly okay!’”
History teacher Dan Fitz-Patrick said that the most memorable thing about Gatlin was that “she was always happy and smiling, and always willing to do anything it took to get the job done.”
“There was something very warm and comforting about [her],” Fitz-Patrick said. “It’s a shame. It’s way too soon.”
Fitz-Patrick knew that everyone on campus was grieving, and that she will be missed.
“If I had to write an America where I want to grow old in, it would be where my students get to live long, fulfilling lives. I think she had a tremendous amount of talent and ability to make this world happier and better,” he said.
Adriana Doyle was Gatlin’s best friend and they attended the festival together.
“Baylee was probably one of the most selfless people I knew,” Doyle said. “She was always full of light and positivity, and she always had a smile on her face.[…] She always had some amazing advice to give me, and one of my last memories with her was watching the sunset […] and we sat and just talked about how precious life is for hours.”
“She loved her family and her friends,” her mother Carla Gatlin said. “She just had a lot of people that loved her very, very much, and she loved them back.”
Overall, Baylee impacted many lives, and all of the people that knew and loved her feel that her positive presence will still remain in their hearts.
“The memory of her will shine just as bright as her smile did when she was alive,” Castro said. “We will all remember Baylee.”
Note: A “Memorial of Love” is being held for Gatlin on Sunday, June 11, 2017 at the Ventura Promenade. Instead of flowers, her parents ask that you donate time to causes that Gatlin championed like animal rescue and human rights.