Family, friends remember two "special friends" that die in a 'karmic twist'
Posted Apr 02 2009 12:53pm
When Nels Saugstad learned his friend Chris Weaver died, he e-mailed Andrea Gianopoulos, who once dated Weaver.
A couple of days later, he got a response, but it was from her mother. Gianopoulos had passed away, too.
The two writers, who met through the now-defunct Frederick writing/open mike group Expressions had died three days apart.
A Hood College graduate, Gianopoulos moved back home with her family in Lancaster because of the increasing debilitation of her longtime illness, reflex sympathetic dystrophy.
Complications from the disease (RSD) led to her death, her family said.
Last Friday, Saugstad, Pittell and several other friends and family gathered at Joanie's Carroll Street Cafe in Frederick to commemorate Weaver and Gianopoulos through music, poetry and sometimes raw, emotional speeches.
Saugstad's last contact with Weaver came via e-mail in December, when she invited Weaver to the new open mic group at Joanie's. A few weeks passed before Weaver replied, thanking Saugstad for thinking of him but declining, saying he was not in any shape -- physically or psychologically -- to be social.
"He fought depression a long, long time," said Weaver's sister, Bridget Weaver. "He was always fighting something ... and he fought hard all his life to stay in the mainstream and be an independent person and try to vanquish his demons."
In addition to battling depression, he had diabetes. Friends said he died in his sleep.
Gianopoulos had health issues, too. She was diagnosed with RSD when she was 13, an illness with no cure. It started in her foot, traveled up her leg, and eventually spread throughout her whole body, with symptoms worsening. "She was in constant pain," said her father, Gus Gianopoulos.
Still, she was politically active. "She started a Gay/Straight Allliance in high school. She wasn't gay -- she was just very socially minded."
She also started an organization, Fighting 4 Us ( www.fighting4us.com ) to raise awareness and build support for people with RSD, and she was able to graduate from college in 2005 with a B.S. degree.
She always liked writing, mostly poetry, and also played the saxophone, eventually having to drop out of the marching band in high school because of her limited mobility.
"They died too young," he said. Gianopoulos was 26; Weaver, 43. "In a karmic twist, they passed away three days from each other."