ARGYLE -- Krista Depew could fit in walking the halls of her Ivy League school or showing her family’s cows at the Washington County Fair.
A longtime family friend, Carol McNeil, described the 19-year-old as “versatile.”
“She could do anything,” she said. “She could ride a tractor. She could mow hay. She loved cows. And yet, the next minute she’d go from being a tomboy on the farm to being this girly-girl that looked like a model. She was gorgeous.”
Depew, Argyle Central School’s 2011 valedictorian, was rushed to Glens Falls Hospital on Friday night, just days after she returned home from her first year at Cornell University. She had meningitis, a rare disease that has caused scares on college campuses. By Saturday morning, she was dead.
“It’s been just a tragedy,” said her mother, Marsha Depew. “You just can’t believe this is happening. It’s been a nightmare.”
Depew, who pitched for Argyle’s high school softball team, was attending Cornell’s Dyson Business School, which had been her first choice. Her mother said she was still unsure what she wanted to do after college, but she hoped to coach girls’ softball locally. She had already been helping the Argyle Youth Commission.
“When most kids get home from their first year of college, they want to do their own thing,” said Laurie McWhorter, who coached Depew for five years. “The first thing she wanted to do was be on the field playing with the kids.”
Marsha Depew said her daughter had complained of not feeling well before returning home from Cornell, but she said the disease escalated quickly in the girl’s final days.
On Thursday night, Krista Depew played ball with her nieces for five hours, her mother said, and said afterward she wasn’t feeling well. Her doctor told her the following day she probably had the flu. By Friday night, she was so ill she was rushed to the hospital.
“There was just nothing they could do,” her mother said.
There are about 3,000 cases of meningitis in the U.S. annually, and 10 percent to 15 percent of them are fatal, according to Gannett Health Services, Cornell’s student health center. Between 100 and 125 of those cases occur on college campuses, where officials worry about easy transmission of the contagious disease in dormitories.
Depew had been vaccinated against meningitis, her mother said. According to the health center, the meningitis vaccine is effective against four of five subtypes of meningitis, or between 70 percent and 80 percent of all cases.
The school issued a statement Saturday from President David Skorton informing students of Depew’s death. The statement does not mention meningitis.
Claudia Wheatley, a college spokeswoman, said Cornell had nothing to add to the statement and would inform students if there were concerns about the disease.
Marsha Depew said her family has had to take medication to protect against meningitis. She said the state Department of Health has been notified.
She said there has been an outpouring of support from the community, from softball players to fellow farmers who have visited the Depew’s dairy farm to offer condolences. Seeing the rugged farmers in tears, she said, is “too much.”
“How do you put this beautiful girl in the ground? It’s just the worst thing,” she said, crying. “You would just have had to know her. She had so much spirit to give the world.”