Kerry Ann Stoutenburgh, Brooklyn College student, avid film lover, history buff and beloved friend, died Wednesday, Aug. 31 at HealthAlliance Hospital in Kingston. She was 19.
The cause was Naegleria fowleri, a “brain-eating” amoeba found in warm, fresh water that she is said to have contracted while swimming on a family vacation in Maryland, her sister confirmed. She is believed to be the first person in New York and Maryland to have died from infection by the extremely rare parasite.
Kerry is survived by her mother, Wendy Stoutenburgh; her father, Donn Stoutenburgh; her sister, Katie Stoutenburgh; her boyfriend, Luke Carquillat and his family; her dog, Otto; her cat, Smokey; and dozens of other friends and family members, according to a GoFundMe page that was started to assist the family.
Stoutenburgh was born on Oct. 25, 1996, and grew up on Wall Street in Kingston, New York. Katie graduated from Kingston High School in 2014 as a member of the National Honor Society and the French Honor Society. She was a varsity swimmer on the Rosendale Rapids swim team at Kingston High School, a Girl Scout, and a member of the school band, where she played the bass clarinet and the mellophone.
“My sister was a very determined person who never took ‘no’ for an answer when it came to achieving her goals. Kerry was always energetic, adventurous and brave,” said Stoutenburgh’s older sister, Katie. “Very few things ever scared her. She never strayed away from a challenge.”
According to her sister, this was true from a young age. Reflecting on a few memories, Katie said, “Kerry used to run to school every day and even when she fell down and skinned her knees, she still didn’t want to go home, she just continued to school.”
Stoutenburgh and her sister remained close throughout their high school years. Katie remembers more intimate moments with her sister. “She used to beg me as a teenager to straighten her long red hair and it would take hours. I was always reluctant, but it made her day every time I did it, and we’d talk the whole time about school, movies, clothes, history. She loved it and I loved doing it for her.” Even into college, the two talked daily.
She enrolled in Brooklyn College in 2014, where she majored in film with a minor in history. She was starting her junior year at the time of her death.
Aside from her love for film, Stoutenburgh also loved history. According to her sister, she would always research something she didn’t know.
“She loved pickles and candy,” said Katie. “She watched Casey Neistat vlogs every morning and made salad with dinner every night.”
According to her sister, Stoutenburgh’s love for movies began in childhood. “We’d always go with my dad from like the age of two on; So, it has been something as a family we’ve bonded over, but she was a very creative person, especially when it came to writing, ever since a young age.”
Her favorite directors were Quentin Tarantino and David Fincher, but she gathered a lot of her inspiration from her boyfriend, according to her fellow Brooklyn College student and best friend, Cassie Mehl.
Luke Carquillat and Kelly Ann Stoutenburgh met in high school at a local Battle of the Bands where Mehl was performing. “From there it was love,” said Mehl. The two attended Brooklyn College together, lived in an apartment in Brighton Beach and featured each other in most of their work from photos to short clips.
“They were crazy about each other. Everything moved so fast, but they didn’t think twice; they just knew what they were doing. Moved into an apartment so soon, but we always joked they’d marry for sure,” said Mehl. “[They were] just insane about each other. Never left each other’s side. Trusted each other with their lives and future. Never seen anything like it. They were each other’s muse, they lived and breathed for each other.”
Despite her work and interests, what most people remember about Stoutenburgh is her charisma and charm.
“She was funny as hell. And always there for her friends. Never mad, never angry,” said Mehl. “She was just always there and for anything you ever needed…she was fun, sensitive, loyal, sweet, saucy, sassy, etc. One of a kind. Unique in every way.”
Mehl reflected on the times they “stole” her mom’s car to drink strawberry lemonades at Wendy’s and drive to the beach parking lot to talk.
Stoutenburgh was a year older than Mehl and graduated a year earlier than her. They ended up at Brooklyn College together, where they grew even closer.
“The city can be a lonely place, and it was so comforting to know we were so close to each other and could be with each other whenever we wanted. I always said she was like a soulmate of mine. We loved the same books and authors, indie films and blockbuster hits; we had an identical taste in music and art,” said Mehl.
Mehl reflects on some of her last moments with Stoutenburgh as some of her fondest, embodying who Kerry was before her death. She explains slipping away from a recent housewarming party with Stoutenburgh and her boyfriend to watch the fireworks at Coney Island.
“It was the last time I saw her as herself before everything happened, carefree and happy. That night was a gift. Every moment spent with her was a gift,” said Mehl. “She was just the most loving, loyal, honest, free, and most beautiful person anyone ever met. Everyone fell in love with her the moment they met her. She had no idea of the power she had over people.”
“I’ve never heard a maliced word against her,” Stoutenburgh’s father told The Daily Freeman. He said after someone meets her one time, “they’re in love with her.”
This legacy of kindness and charisma is the legacy her sister wants people to remember. “I don’t want her to be remembered as someone who just died of an amoeba,” said Katie Stoutenburgh. “She was more than that…She lived each day to the fullest, and had an extremely bright future ahead of her.”