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Smiles, laughter and Jelly Bellies

USF’s Kappa Delta sorority sisters gathered Monday evening to honor Kimberly Anne Gargano, who they said will always be remembered for her smile and friendship.

Gargano, 21, was expected to graduate USF in May with honors but died on March 27 at her home in St. Petersburg.

USF graduate Maria Estrada, a former member of Kappa Delta, said her death was a result of a suicide that was unexpected because of her joyful personality.

“She always made me laugh. She was so funny and her laugh was so loud,” Estrada said. “She has always made me feel so good about myself.”

Estrada said they were friends since their freshman year at USF and that Gargano never showed any signs that she may have been suicidal.

Gargano’s sorority sisters and friends met at Crescent Hill where they formed a circle to light candles in remembrance of her life.

Shannon McKinney, her best friend of eight years, said she will miss the memories she shared with Gargano.

“She’d come over, and we’d eat Jelly Bellies, and I’d find them later under my couch,” McKinney said. “She always made me laugh and brighten my day. Now she’s an angel and our guiding light.”

McKinney said most of all, she will miss her smile because it was one of a kind.

“She kind of cocked her head to the side, and it stuck with you,” McKinney said.

Veronica Ludwig, Gargano’s high-school friend, spoke about the gift of friendship she received from knowing Gargano.

“I thank her for her smile, her hugs and coming into my life,” Ludwig said. “She showed people what it is like to love and be loved. She was just one of the most truest people I have ever known, and I am very blessed to have known her.”

USF graduate Tara Klimek was Gargano’s big sister in the Kappa Delta sorority and said she used to call Gargano “Punky Brewster,” although it made her mad sometimes. Gargano knew how to lift people’s spirits, Klimek said.

“She was just absolutely beautiful both inside and out. She always lit up the room,” Klimek said. “I feel better, and I feel glad that I have known her for the time I did.”

Klimek said it was Gargano’s personality that would inspire others to be positive.

“She made you keep going and keep trying,” she said.

Contact Grace Agostinat