Tori Andress acted as a connecting thread for many of the people she encountered. 

Her friends said it was easy for her to meet new people because of her outgoing, positive attitude. They also said she loved to bring together the people she knew. 

Even those she met through online chat rooms felt a connection to Andress, her father, Jonathan Andress, said.

Visitation for Tori Andress will be held from 3-8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 19, and from 9:30-10:30 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 20, at D.O. McComb & Sons Foster Park Funeral Home 6031 Fairfield Avenue, Fort Wayne, Indiana. The funeral will begin at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 20 at the funeral home. Memorial contributions can be made to Fort Wayne Autism Center. 

“It’s a big papa moment for me to know that she was able to — between school, work, family, band, all these things that she was doing ... she still had time for people,” Jonathan said. 

Tori Andress, a freshman speech pathology major, died in a car accident Dec. 13, 2018, in Huntington County, according to the Huntington County coroner. 

The night of the accident, many of Tori’s friends and family gathered together at her parent’s house to support one another and reflect on her life.

“Everyone being there together helped us get over our initial shock,” said Ethan Burress, one of Tori’s friends.

Tori was known by many as someone who was driven, smart, fearless and caring. She loved the Cubs, One Direction, Fazoli’s breadsticks, “Doctor Who,” “Star Wars” and playing the drums. 

“She was very human in it all,” said Jaden Ramirez, one of Tori’s friends. “She was good at everything, but she showed that she had difficulties, and it just made her someone you could love so easily.”

Since that first night, Jonathan said many people have stopped by their house. 

“We’ve sat and just kind of talked about the memories,” said Julia Andress, Tori’s cousin. “It was really nice to see all of the people she touched in life.”

Jonathan said a number of community members, places his daughter had worked — including Lowe’s, Target and Walgreens —  and individuals from the high school and middle school Tori attended have reached out to offer help and condolences. 

In honor of Tori’s tradition of wearing a bowtie to each band performance, Wayne High School will be holding “Bowtie Thursday,” and her family has decided to wear bowties at her funeral. 

“We are overwhelmed, but we are happy with that overwhelmed because the help and support that we are getting in many, many different ways is helping us get through this,” Jonathan said. 

Kay Bales, vice president for student affairs and enrollment services and dean of students, sent out a message Dec. 14, informing faculty and staff of Tori’s death and expressing the university’s sympathy.

“All of us are deeply saddened by Tori’s passing and offer our deepest condolences to her family and friends,” Bales said.

As those closest to Tori reflect on her life, they are reminded of her selflessness — often going out of her way to be there for others — her confidence and her love of life and others.

“There’s a lot of grief still, but it’s not like overwhelming, ‘We have to just sit and think about it,’” said Bailey Haney, Tori’s friend and future roommate at Ball State. “It’s, ‘Now she’s gone, but we still have all of these memories and all of these friendships that we made,’ that are toward just her existence bringing us together.”

And while Haney, a senior at Wayne High School, said she was looking forward to Tori helping her through her first year at Ball State, she and many others who knew Tori agreed that she would not want anyone to be sad.

“She would want us to be happy,” Burress said. “That’s what I think is keeping me going is just being happy and making sure that I stay positive for her, because I think that’s what she would want.”

Contact Brooke Kemp with comments at or on Twitter @brookemkemp.