Beacon Falls woman had a passion for art
WATERBURY — Casey Giannone was brilliantly creative, with a social conscience that decried injustice and a passion for art that fueled a desire to work as a Disney animator, her friends and teachers said Friday.
Giannone, of Beacon Falls, died Jan. 6 in a five-car collision on Interstate 84 in Waterbury that also seriously injured her friend, 18-year-old Alex Milosevic of Bristol.
“It was actually one of my first classes, a computer class we both took, I walked in and I saw her and I just said, ‘This girl is going to be my friend,’” said Bayleigh Gilson, who studied with Giannone at Naugatuck Valley Community College. “She was one of those people who could walk into a room and completely light it up in a few seconds.”
Giannone began studying animation at NVCC shortly after graduating from Woodland Regional High School in 2014.
“One of her most beautiful qualities was her incredible capacity for compassion, which certainly should be modeled by everyone in the world,” said Meghan Hatch-Geary, her former high school English teacher and club adviser. “She stood up for people who didn’t necessarily have a voice and couldn’t speak up for themselves.”
While at Woodland, Hatch-Geary said, Giannone was a member of clubs such as the Gay/Straight Alliance, Woodland Worldwide (a human rights and feminine empowerment organization) and Preserving Our Histories, which works with Connecticut veterans to preserve their stories in five-minute film documentaries entered into the Connecticut Student Film Festival.
“Casey was always smiling, she was always happy, even though she didn’t always have the easiest time of things,” Hatch-Geary said. “The only time I saw her get angry was if she was confronted with any injustice close to her or in the world.”
Jess Block, her English teacher in her sophomore year and adviser to the Gay/Straight Alliance, said Giannone’s cheerfulness and sense of social responsibility drew her close to a group of like-minded friends.
“When you look at the things she chose to spend her time doing, she was really, truly a model for kids of her generation,” Block said, adding she connected with Giannone over a mutual appreciation for Japanese anime cartoon shows.
“It was like we were buddies for life from that one conversation on,” Block said. “Her network of friends were really close, fun-loving, kind kids. They all stayed connected since graduation. We’re all on Facebook liking each other’s statuses.”
Some of those friends posted bittersweet statuses after Giannone’s death.
One shared a collection of Giannone’s drawings as a collage of humorous facial expressions. Another called her “my beautiful friend,” and shared a humorous story of getting into trouble together for talking too much.
“It’s not fair that you were taken away when we all know how much you had to offer in the world,” another wrote.
Giannone, who would have celebrated her 20th birthday at the end of the month, had been accepted into the Disney College Program, a paid internship program for college students, where she hoped to hone her animation skills at Walt Disney World in Florida. She planned to travel there in a few weeks, friends said.
“She was so artistic,” Block said. “She brought that into everything — her class activities, her style.”
Both Woodland Regional High School and NVCC expressed sadness at Giannone’s death. A spokesman for the high school said it planned to convene a crisis team when the school reopened Monday after being closed a couple of days because of an equipment failure.
In an email titled, “We mourn today,” NVCC President Daisy Cocco De Filippis told faculty and staff that counseling would be made available and a memorial service would be planned for the beginning of the spring semester.
“We extend our heartfelt sympathy to Casey’s family and friends,” she wrote.
“It’s a terrible loss,” Hatch-Geary said, fighting back tears. “She was really, truly one of the good ones.”
A memorial fund established in her name has already raised more than $10,000. To donate, visit www.youcaring.com/casey-giannone-499013.