Photo by Brandon Macz: A marching band leads a procession from Century Ballroom to Espresso Vivace, and later to the Volunteer Park pond where Vanderbeck died on Monday, Jan. 9.
Photo by Brandon Macz: A marching band leads a procession from Century Ballroom to Espresso Vivace, and later to the Volunteer Park pond where Vanderbeck died on Monday, Jan. 9.
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Amy Vanderbeck was complicated, blunt, funny, compassionate, profane, troubled, smart and, as witnessed by those who could squeeze through the doors to the Century Ballroom on Friday, loved by many in the Capitol Hill community and beyond.

A Seattle Parks and Recreation employee found Vanderbeck’s body in a pond near the Black Hole Sun statue in Volunteer Park last Monday morning, Jan. 9. She was 49.

A celebration of Vanderbeck’s lasted four hours at the Century Ballroom on Jan. 13, followed by a marching band-led procession to the sidewalk bar and brick-and-mortar Espresso Vivace shops on Broadway — Vanderbeck had been one of the business’ first employees. She co-owned Watertown Coffee & Saloon on 12th Avenue in Capitol Hill for three years, the shop closing in 2010.

The group then marched to the Volunteer Park pond where Vanderbeck had died.

Daniella Vidal used to work with Vanderbeck “at one of her most-hated jobs” as a contractor for Microsoft, she said.

“She and I used to carpool together,” Vidal said. “She took me under her wing because we worked with a bunch of people who were probably 15 years younger than us.”

Vanderbeck didn’t shy away from asking people uncomfortable or personal questions.

“She spoke the truth,” Vidal said. “She was just somebody who had an infectious laugh, an amazingly sharp wit, and always kept you wanting more.”

Vanderbeck was Matt Armstrong’s manager at Microsoft for a time, he said, and then he ended up being her manager when they worked at DataSphere Technologies.

“Her nickname was ‘The Walking HR Violation,’” he said. “She was not afraid to talk about anything, but the kindness with which she approached it made it okay.”

At Vanderbeck’s encouraged, Armstrong said he tried out for the Seattle Men’s Chorus. She sent him a congratulatory text when it was over.

He remembers finding a voicemail message on his cellphone last Monday, from Vanderbeck’s oldest sister, Lisa Weir.

“I kind of knew what this was about,” he said. “We had been fearing, with all the struggles that Amy had had.”

Vanderbeck didn’t hide her depression — she broadcasted it to the world through her Struggle to Connect podcast.

The King County Medical Examiner’s Office is awaiting the results of a toxicology report to determine what caused Vanderbeck’s death. That could take another two months.

Weir said there have been a lot of assumptions that her sister’s death was a suicide.

“It was a horrible, ironic, tragic accident,” Weir said.

Vanderbeck hated dirt and the cold, Weir said, and wasn’t particularly fond of that pond.

“She was afraid of that pond,” Weir said. “She had saved a little boy from that pond.”

She said she’d spoken with Vanderbeck about that event three weeks ago, adding her sister was known to go to Volunteer Park and have a few beers. Weir said she believes her sister somehow fell into the water, was unable to get out, and drowned. Had Vanderbeck been intent on suicide, Weir said, she would have done it another way.

“She’s not one to drown herself,” she said.

Encouraged by her therapist to get out more, “Vanderbeck wanders around Seattle visiting her friends and sticking microphones in their faces,” reads the description for the Struggle to Connect podcast.

“She had people listening to it from all around the world,” Weir said, many dealing with their own struggles with depression. Weir said she doesn’t want her listeners to think she killed herself.

Vanderbeck’s family has already purchased all Struggle to Connect online domain names, Weir said. Her son want to put Vanderbeck’s art, cartoons and other work on apparel items and sell them, she said, the proceeds to go to a to-be-determined organization that helps people suffering from depression.

Friends and family trickled into Volunteer Park prior to the arrival of the procession that started at Century Ballroom.

Vanderbeck’s mother led the early arrivals in a quick “F&%$ leaf blowers” chant into the pond.

“She particularly hated leaf blower,” said Weir, when asked about anti-leaf blower stickers people were wearing. “She thought they were a noise tragedy.”

She added there had been discussion at one point about having a 21-leaf-blower salute in Vanderbeck’s honor.

Friday’s celebration of life was organized by Vanderbeck’s sisters (Weir, Jenny Vanderbeck Stone and Katy Vanderbeck) and Shannon Romano, Betsy Olsen, Elisa Farmer and Karen Armino.

A Friends of Amy Vanderbeck GoFundMe page has been started to cover funeral expenses. Sentiments can also be expressed on Vanderbeck's recently reactivated Facebook page.