Phi Mu’s ‘fearless’ fighter remembered at ‘Swifties’ night


Photo courtesy of Liz LeBeau

Ava Shaw, junior and a sister of the sorority Phi Mu, passed away in July due to a heart condition. The Taylor Swift night held at Joe’s Brewery on Wednesday was held in her honor

By Faith Allendorf and Kiran Bond

On Aug. 24, a line long enough to wrap around the block eagerly waited to enter Joe’s Brewery. The bass of the music was the only thing those far from the door could make out.

But those near the door could make out more of the music. A familiar female artist’s pop-country music brought excitement as the line recognized their favorite songs. It was another ‘Swifties’ night, where Joe’s only plays music by Taylor Swift.

But Wednesday’s Swifties night was different than last semester’s. This time, it was Just Taylor (Ava’s version.)

In early July, junior and Phi Mu sister Ava Shaw passed away after a battle with a heart condition. This month, her friends wanted to find a way to celebrate Shaw and decided this semester’s Swifties night would be dedicated to her.

Liz LeBeau, junior in LAS and Shaw’s best friend, was the main organizer of Just Taylor (Ava’s version). LeBeau said the idea was inspired by the success of the first Swifties night in March.

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“800 people showed up to last semester’s night … and we were thinking it would be dumb not to do it again because too many people loved it,” LeBeau said.

However, this semester’s event was not originally a dedication. Shaw, LeBeau and Jacob Krueger, junior in Media, were the main organizers behind the original Taylor Swift night, and they planned to host an identical event in the fall.

Unfortunately, Shaw would not get to see her and her friends’ creation for the second time.

LeBeau said that although Shaw wouldn’t get to be there, she wanted to find a way to make sure the memory of her friend was present.

“I messaged Joe’s saying ‘Hey, is there any way we could honor her at Swifties night?’ and they were like ‘Yes, of course,’” LeBeau said.

According to Shaw’s friends, Just Taylor (Ava’s version) was the perfect memorial because of Shaw’s love for the musician.

“There were two things I knew very quickly when I met her: one, she is a funny person, and two, she loves Taylor Swift,” Bella Bonifazi, junior in LAS, said.

LeBeau said one of the things she and Shaw bonded over was their love for Swift, so much so that they founded and ran the popular Instagram account “@uiucswifties” together.

Krueger and Shaw also shared an interest in Swift’s music, and Krueger said that once he found out Shaw co-ran the uiucswifties account, they instantly connected, and their friendship was life-changing.

“I felt like I could talk to her about anything, even though I knew her for a short period of time,” Krueger said. “She made me want to be a happier person, and she just added a certain light to the room that you didn’t know you needed until you met her.”

LeBeau said a portion of the ticket and T-shirt sales will go to a scholarship that Shaw’s parents set up for kids in Dixon, Ill., which is her hometown.

“This is what Ava would have wanted,” Bonifazi said. “She would have wanted other people to be given this happiness.”

“Happiness” was a common theme within the words Shaw’s friends used to describe her personality.

“She was hilarious, and she had the best sense of humor,” Sam Hunn, junior in Education and friend of Shaw, said. “She was always cracking jokes and making everybody smile.”

Bonifazi called Shaw a “shot of sunlight” in any room she walked into.

“She was just such a gravitating force because of her plain happiness,” Bonifazi said. “She would always look at the bright side and was always such a good-hearted person.”

Memories of Shaw filled Joe’s Wednesday night, leaving many who knew her teary-eyed. When the 10-minute version of “All Too Well” played, Shaw’s friends and fellow sorority sisters held hands and swayed to the music.

Krueger said he thought about how Shaw would react if she could see what LeBeau had put together. He said at first, he was wondering if it was rude to continue without her. But after deliberating, he realized that Shaw would not have wanted anyone to feel bad.

“I think she would say ‘I want everyone to remember me’ — that’s what Taylor’s music is about,” Krueger said. “It’s fearless … and I think she would want me to celebrate not only her, but the music herself because she loved music.”

Bonifazi said that if she could be there, Shaw would have loved that there was another Taylor Swift night, but that she would “hate” how it was in honor of her.

“She would be like, ‘No, we should just be celebrating Taylor Swift’ — she was just such a selfless person,” Bonifazi said. “She didn’t need the spotlight, and it wasn’t something she desired. She was herself, and that was all she needed.”

Hunn said Shaw would laugh and be happy to see her creations carry on. Besides Taylor Swift night becoming a semesterly event, Shaw’s friends continue to post on the uiucswifties Instagram account.

“Taylor Swift was one of the people she admired the most … Taylor creates a lot of love and a lot of community for people,” Hunn said. “She would probably like to see that we’re continuing on with the community that she started.”

Although emotions ran high Wednesday, they were no bother, becoming a part of the moments when Shaw’s friends were closer than ever to each other. Together, they lived in the memories they had of Shaw, capturing them and remembering the girl who was, and still is, fearless.

“We have a line in our (sorority) creed: ‘To keep forever sacred, the memory of those we have loved and lost’ — that’s become really real recently,” LeBeau said. “I’m really glad I’m in a sisterhood where we can sit and honor our lost loved ones together and support each other.”

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