Laurel Fan died in a climbing accident last month in British Columbia. She was 34.
Well-known Seattle-area climber Laurel Fan died in a climbing accident last month in British Columbia. She was 34.
Ms. Fan was climbing in the Waddington Mountain Range in southwestern British Columbia on July 24 with two other people when she fell.
At her memorial service Sunday, some of the 200 in attendance knew her for her skill in the local climbing community. Ms. Fan was a member of several climbing organizations in the area and attended almost every event scheduled at the Washington Alpine Club.
But thanks to her younger sister, Jennifer Fan, and her family members, those admirers left with a broader understanding of her legacy — one that includes a master’s degree before her 20th birthday.
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“She was probably one of the smartest people that I ever met,” said Jennifer Fan. “They [some attendees] were surprised, because she doesn’t trumpet off her intelligence, she doesn’t talk down to people, she’s very cool about all of it.”
Ms. Fan grew up in Murrysville, Pa., and started college when she was 13 years old at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.
During her time in school, she was diagnosed with bone cancer. By the time she turned 19, she had recovered and was leaving school with a master’s and undergraduate degree in computer and electrical engineering.
She moved to Seattle in 2001 and made stops at several technology companies, including one at Code.org, a nonprofit organization that connects young women and minority students to the computer-science field.
“She could have done a lot of things that were a lot more lucrative than that for sure,” Jennifer Fan said. “She really liked to teach and give back to the community.”
Several co-workers at Code.org admired her intelligence, as well as her attitude.
“She was extremely humble and never overstated, but absolutely brilliant in both work and life,” said Bowney Jones, who worked with Laurel at Code.org. “Everyone had only so much admiration for who she was and, again, she was just so humble.”
Ms. Fan introduced many people to the sport after taking her first formal climbing class at WAP in 2007. She was skilled at alpine, rock and ice climbing.
Jones said she had once climbed with her and John Plotz, a fellow climber from Wenatchee, and said he’d seen her instructing novice climbers several times a year for more than a half-decade.
“She was always very calm, always happy, she kind of radiated confidence,” said Plotz. “She always seemed patient. From what I know, she was very giving to those learning to climb, really took the time to mentor other climbers, which meant a lot of times she was on climbs well below her ability, but she didn’t care because she was that type of person.”
Plotz said that among climbers, she was easily spotted, thanks to a green helmet she often wore.
But for Jennifer Fan, there was much more to her sister than the popularity she acquired. She was an accomplished chess player, nationally ranked as a child. She had an affinity for dogs. She shared a love for cooking with Jennifer and she accomplished many more things in her life.
Because of this, Jennifer said it’s important that her sister is remembered for more than her climbing.
“Obviously she was really well-known in the climbing community, but she was much more than that,” she said. “She had a lot going for her.”
Besides Jennifer, of New York City, she is survived by her brother, Raymond Fan of Buffalo, N.Y., as well as her parents, Yung Fan and I-sing Fan, of Murrysville, Pa.