Lisle art student killed in hit-and-run by driver who is said to have been out on bail over DUI
Kaylee Gansberg loved art and she thought, until recently, that she might make a living as a graphic artist.
But while studying fine arts -- particularly photography -- at Western Michigan University, the Lisle woman decided otherwise.
"I realized I am a tangible artist and can't sit behind a computer making art," she told her mother, Michelle.
She was working on a painting Friday night that will be her last.
Gansberg was hit by a car around 2:30 a.m. Saturday in Kalamazoo, Michigan, near the university. The driver of that car was out on bail for a DUI the week before, a prosecutor told her parents.
Kaylee, 21, died Sunday morning. She was due to begin her senior year Wednesday.
"She was so excited to see what this year was going to hold for her," Michelle Gansberg said.
Kaylee was crossing a four-lane road when she was hit. The driver left the scene, according to Kalamazoo police, but was arrested shortly after. Police say he is 22. He is in custody but has not been charged or identified yet, as the Kalamazoo County prosecuting attorney is waiting for the results of blood-alcohol level tests.
"Our daughter was just in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong person," said Gansberg's father, Keith.
Her parents said a prosecutor told them the man was out on bail on a DUI charge from the week before, and for another crime in the past month. Her family wants to know how he was able to be out driving.
"What has happened has taken our incredibly beautiful daughter and left hardship in its wake," Keith Gansberg said. "How could the legal system think it was OK to let him out without ensuring he did not get behind the wheel?"
While they are awaiting answers, the Gansbergs are remembering those traits that made their daughter special.
"We were very blessed," Michelle said. She recalled that even as a kindergartner, Kaylee had artistic flair. She arranged a variety of colored hair clips to resemble a crown for the first day of class, her mother said.
She enjoyed art so much that in first and second grades, she studied over the summers with her school's art teacher.
At Lisle High School, from which she graduated in 2019, she sampled activities, including track and cheerleading, and she was a member of the National Honor Society. She was in an honors program at WMU and belonged to the Chi Omega sorority.
And Kaylee loved the university so much that she was willing to put up with its winters -- colder than the ones she hated back in Illinois.
"There was no way she was going to stay in the Midwest," Michelle Gansberg said, laughing.
Over the summer, Kaylee had an internship with an advertising photographer, while also working at a Kalamazoo golf club.
Two of her cousins, Anielle and Aria DeBenny, started a GoFundMe.com account, with donations going to her family to help pay her college tuition, hospital bills and other expenses. People in Lisle are wrapping white ribbons around trees. A candlelight vigil will be held at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Lisle Community Park.
Besides her parents, Gansberg is survived by her brother, Alex; two grandmothers; an aunt; and several cousins.
A wake will be held from 3 to 8 p.m. Sunday, with a memorial service at 6 p.m. at Adams-Winterfield and Sullivan Funeral Home in Downers Grove.