To some, she was a mentor, to others a teammate. Some called her their “ghoulfriend,” others knew her as a co-worker, an employee, a daughter, a best friend, a sister.
But whether she was meeting friends for coffee or cycling by their side across the country, Abz Zeitler was an inspiration to everyone.
Over 100 people packed into the Livestrong Foundation Headquarters on Sunday for a memorial service for Zeitler, a public relations and advertising senior who passed away Nov. 10.
Zeitler was a widely loved peer advisor at the Study Abroad office, volunteer for multiple local nonprofits, former Camp Texas counselor, chief of Texas Spirits, Life&Arts reporter for The Daily Texan and Texas 4000 rider.
The same sentiment was echoed in each of the dozens of personal memories shared by friends and family: Zeitler pushed them to be the best version of themselves.
“She was very special to us and will always be,” said Zeitler’s mother, Margaret Eileen Griffith.
Marketing senior Nikita Ahuja, Zeitler’s “little sister” in Texas Spirits, said Zeitler’s ambition and passion were unmatched. Zeitler encouraged Ahuja to volunteer at Casa Marianella, where she taught refugees from around the world. Among many bucket lists Zeitler had, she created one with Ahuja that included a road trip with no end destination. The two checked it off their list while studying abroad in Europe.
“The ambition she had showed me there was so much beauty in this world that I’d never thought was possible,” Ahuja said. “She made my world and everyone’s world a more beautiful world.”
Radio-television-film senior Katie Russell met Zeitler at Camp Texas as a freshman. Soon, the pair started sharing meals at Jester and going to concerts and philanthropic events together. Russell said Zeitler encouraged her to apply for internships and a double major. Within the last couple of years, their relationship turned into a best friendship.
“She changed me and inspired me to be the best version of myself and I’m always going to be grateful,” Russell said. “I think I speak for everyone here when I say we’re all better people for knowing her.”
UT alumnus Alex Zwaan, who knew Zeitler from Texas 4000, said he once came home to two letters from Zeitler: one to be read at a time when he was sad, and the other when he was happy. On one, she quoted the Dalai Lama, inspiring him to live and enjoy life in the present. On the other, she told him to find the things in his day that make him smile.
“[She taught me] nothing that’s easy is worthwhile,” Zwaan said. “She worked her ass off every single day for everything she was passionate about.”
Zeitler’s friends created a GoFundMe campaign that lists the nonprofit organizations of which she was a part. Her family asks that any gifts made in her honor be sent to one of the listed nonprofits for which she worked, including Champions for Children International, Mkoba Boy’s Orphanage, LIVESTRONG, Casa Marianella, Makarios or Texas 4000.
She is survived by her mother Margaret Eileen Griffith, brother Nick Zeitler, sister Francesca Zeitler and father Michael R. Zeitler.