Kassandra Brianne Lee, a recent Fresno State MCJ graduate, died of a pulmonary embolism on May 31, 2010, just a week after graduation.
Her mother, Cathy Lee, was the last person to speak with her daughter the night before her death. Lee said that she never complained about any symptoms or problems to her on the phone that night. Kassie was found in the home that she had recently bought for herself.
“When we found her, she was very peaceful in her bed,” said Lee.
Her mother recalls her daughter’s plans for her new home that were never realized.
“She was waiting to put blinds up. She had paper in the windows.”
A memorial service was held at Hope Lutheran Church on Sunday, June 6. Among those who spoke was Dr. Roberta Asahina, who had Kassie in several MCJ courses.
“She didn’t even see her college diploma. We don’t even have it yet,” said Lee.
A pulmonary embolism is usually caused by blood clots in the legs that travel up the body and block arteries in the lungs.
Kassie leaves behind a loving, supportive family; father Bryan, mother Cathy, sister Kaitlyn Lee-Philips, and brother Carson.
In junior high school, Kassie joined a non-profit service organization, The International Order of the Rainbow for Girls (IORG) that encourages young girls to serve their communities and gain self confidence and leadership skills.
“I was in that when I was young,” said Lee. “It gave her really good public speaking. It’s sort of like a sorority in a way, but it’s all service based.”
In one of her articles for IORG, Kassie told of her difficulties in junior high school and being teased by her classmates.
“I devoted myself to studying,” wrote Kassie Lee, “never made an effort to have any sort of social life and finished 8th grade with few fond memories. Then, I was given a fresh start.”
During her time at Buchanan High School, Kassie involved herself in many things. She served as the editor of the yearbook, as president of her schools’ National Honor Society and as a member in a leadership program. She also spoke at her graduation. “She was really too busy but she’d never admit that,” said Lee.
In 2006, during her senior year, Kassie received the title of Grand Worthy Adviser for the California IORG, the highest position in the state organization. Instead of heading directly to college after graduating, she committed to a year of traveling, attending conventions and events as a public speaker to support the organization.
“I think it made her appreciate Fresno and what she had at home,” said Lee.
“I served as a grand officer with her,” said friend, Nicole Keadle. “She chose the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation as our state-wide service project.”
Within a year, the group raised over $85,000 for the foundation, benefiting the families of children who had cancer. In addition, Kassie took on another project, advocating the importance of donating blood. In the end, 859 pints of blood were collected.
“I can say that I am, without a doubt, a better person just for having known Kassie’s generosity and charismatic nature,” said Keadle. “She will be truly missed.”
Along with her studies at Fresno State, Kassie served as a host of a weekly radio show on KYNO called “Home Matters”, a program dedicated to maintaining a home. She co-hosted it with her father, Bryan.
“They did it together,” said Lee. “My husband stopped doing it after Kassie died. He couldn’t do it by himself and he couldn’t even think about doing it without her.”
Mrs. Lee explained her daughter’s unmistakable enjoyment and natural ability as a radio personality.
“She liked it. I think she probably would have at some point dabbled in that.”
At Fresno State, she pursued an English major and aspired to be an activities director until she settled on Mass Communication and Journalism. She graduated with a BA in advertising in May 2010, receiving honors and awards.
“As I sit on one end of my couch with my best friend at the other…I can’t help but wonder how much longer I’ll be able to do this,” writes Kassie in a 2007 IORG article. “I don’t know what the future holds for the girl at the end of the couch and me, but I do know that I’ll enjoy every moment of the gift of life I’ve been given.”