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Those who knew Abigail “Abby” Anderson—or were at least familiar with her through her heartwarming relationship with her sister, the late professional runner Gabriele Grunewald—were shocked on Monday to learn that she had died over the weekend.
Kim Anderson, who is Anderson’s father, told the Star Tribune that she was walking to the Elizabeth Lyle Robbie soccer stadium in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, on Saturday night to watch her boyfriend coach a match. While she was walking, she was struck and killed by a woman driving a pickup truck. An investigation into the incident is ongoing.
When the news broke over Twitter, the running community and America’s top athletes began mourning the loss of the 29-year-old. “She finally looked to be in a joyful place in life,” wrote Billy Yang. Anderson publicly shared her grief for the past two years while coping with Grunewald’s death from cancer in 2019.
Justin Grunewald, who was married to Gabriele for five years, remembered his sister-in-law as Gabriele’s best friend who had been carrying out her legacy while carving out a magnificent life of her own. “A part of me is happy you are with Gabriele,” he wrote. “I was hoping maybe you’d give it another 50 years before going to visit her.” He remembers Anderson’s presence for some of his happiest moments. “It’s not a coincidence,” he wrote.
Alongside a picture of the word “Abby” spray-painted purple in the grass, Brittney ReAnn Erickson wrote a letter depicting who Anderson was: “…you were a light that no one could dim; a ball of energy burning brightly. Your laugh was contagious and smile infectious. Your love for everyone around you was palpable.”
“May choirs of angels meet you, Abby,” wrote Sarah Hopkins, cross country and track coach at the University of Minnesota where Anderson and Grunewald competed.
Grunewald’s former coach, Dennis Barker, remembered the impact Anderson made on her sister’s life. “Abby was a sweet [and] tender presence for Gabriele,” he wrote.
Abby was a sweet & tender presence for Gabriele https://t.co/uulkiveW09
— Dennis Barker (@dbinsaintpaul) August 16, 2021
Anderson worked as a pediatric nurse, but had a noticeable talent as an artist. She recently designed the shirts for the 2021 Brave Like Gabe 5K. “She was so supportive, and brought so much light into the world through her own art (her recent watercolors were some of my favorite), her deep care for other people, and the ways she made moments of meaningful joy even with the weight of grief,” wrote fellow artist and runner Jacqueline Alnes ,with a watercolor painting of Grunewald and Anderson running together.
Expressions of love and condolences to Anderson’s family and friends were shared widely. “All I can do is pray for the family,” wrote Hazel Clark, three-time Olympian.
“Sending so much love to the Grunewald family,” Kara Goucher wrote on Twitter. Goucher, whose father was killed by a drunk driver when she was a child, also expressed anger, saying it was “inexcusable.” The driver was tested for drugs and alcohol in her system, but those results have not been released.
I am heartbroken. Sending so much love to the Grunewald family. And from someone who lost her father to a drunk driver 39 years ago, I am filled with so much anger that this is still happening. Inexcusable. https://t.co/0NcYxrAOlc
— Kara Goucher (@karagoucher) August 16, 2021
Running was a big part of Anderson’s life. When Grunewald died, she ran to cope with grief, but also to honor her sister. Now dealing with compounding grief, those mourning this new loss are leaning on running, too. Sara Vaughn shared a picture on Instagram of herself on the track with a quote from Grunewald: “Whatever is heavy on your heart, peace is waiting for you on the run.”
The unexpected nature of the tragedy reminded many that time is precious and that we should savor the moments with the people we love. “Hold your loved ones close,” wrote Dana Giordano, runner and podcast host.
Stephanie Bruce, whose mother recently died of cancer, posted similarly, “Pray for the Anderson family. And call your family and friends. Tell them you love them. Life is messy.”
At the time of her death, Anderson was actively promoting the Brave Like Gabe 5K, which like the Brave Like Gabe Foundation, supports rare cancer research and seeks to empower cancer survivors through physical activity. It was a cause Anderson cared deeply about.
The race is scheduled for September 26 at Lake Phalen Regional Park in St. Paul, Minnesota, with an option to run virtually. For more information about signing up or donating to the organization, visit the website.
On Tuesday, the Brave Like Gabe Foundation posted a statement in honor of Anderson and offering their love and sympathies to Anderson’s family. “Words alone cannot capture Abby’s bright, joyful and generous spirit or the beautiful art she gave the world,” the Foundation wrote on Instagram.