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Obituary: Deniz Kocaoglu remembered as fearless, genuine

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By Rachel Morford, news staff

Deniz Kocaoglu — known best for her charisma, sincerity, humor and talent — died Oct. 6 after suffering complications related to acute myeloid leukemia. She was 21 years old.

Originally set to graduate in 2020 with a major in economics and a minor in communication studies, Kocaoglu went on medical leave after receiving her diagnosis last spring. At the time of her death, Kocaoglu was in a hospital in Istanbul surrounded by her family.

“She was one of the most pleasant people you could ever meet. She was super stylish and funny — greeting everyone with the brightest smile,” said Paola Agramonte, a third-year music industry major and one of Kocaoglu’s friends. “Whichever path she chose to follow in life, she was going to make it her own and fun.”

Kocaoglu was born Aug. 17, 1996, in Istanbul, Turkey. She received her secondary education at Istanbul’s prestigious Saint Benoit High School. By the time she graduated in 2015, Kocaoglu could speak Spanish, French, English and Turkish, said the Dean of the College of Social Sciences and Humanities Uta Poiger in an email to Northeastern’s undergraduate student body. Kocaoglu was a high-achieving student and made the Dean’s List in the past, Poiger said.

In a series of death announcements published on the websites Vefatlar and Hurriyet, Kocaoglu’s family in Turkey thanked their family for sharing their pain and her doctors for their optimism and dedication. According to the announcements, Kocaoglu’s funeral was held on Oct. 7 following afternoon prayers at Levent Mosque.

Kocaoglu’s first semester of college was spent in London through the NUin program. She met many friends there, including Saunaz Moradi, a third-year finance major minoring in Middle Eastern studies. Moradi and Kocaoglu grew closer after moving to campus to the point where Moradi felt comfortable inviting Kocaoglu on a family skiing vacation.

“Deniz became the sixth member of my family, just as I am the fifth member of hers,” Moradi said. “I’m always hesitant of bringing friends on my family trips, but I didn’t think twice about bringing Deniz.”

While skiing, Moradi said Kocaoglu suffered a bad fall — bruising her face. Despite this, Kocaoglu was untroubled.

“I’ve said this numerous times but she’s truly the most fearless person I know,” Moradi said. “[She] easily adapts to new surroundings. She never got fazed and was so calm about everything.”

Ipek Kirali befriended Kocaoglu in spring 2016 after Kocaoglu moved to Northeastern’s Boston campus. Kirali — now a third-year psychology major at Georgetown University — similarly identified Kocaoglu as someone who was adaptable and relaxed. When Kirali’s car broke down last winter, Kocaoglu stayed by her side.

“We had to stop and wait for the service. I felt so bad that she had to wait with me, [but] she did not complain about the situation at all. In fact, she supported and calmed me down when I was really anxious,” Kirali said. “At that point, I realized what a great friend I’d made.”

This laid-back nature drew others to Kocaoglu, Kirali said. It also made Kocaoglu an excellent travel companion when on vacation with Kirali.

“To be honest, she was my favorite person in the group because she was able to fully enjoy the moment without complaining,” Kirali said.

Agramonte, who also met Kocaoglu through NUin London, said she connected most with Kocaoglu through their shared sense of humor. Kocaoglu and Agramonte would often hide each other’s phones and could always make each other laugh.

“She and I both loved somewhat roasting people, especially our friends,” Agramonte said. “So in our friend group, whenever Deniz and I made harsh — yet funny — comments, we were called ‘savage.’ And it was kind of an ongoing gag with both of us.”

Agramonte and Moradi both said Kocaoglu had a passion for music and a talent for singing.

“Deniz used to say that if she could drop everything and know she’d be [financially] secure, she would be a singer,” Moradi said. “And she definitely could, she had the voice for it.”

Once during a karaoke night, Kocaoglu shocked the crowd with her rendition of Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On,” Agramonte said. Because Kocaoglu usually preferred opera and Turkish music, Agramonte said she didn’t expect to find Kocaoglu dancing to the funk song “Brick House” by the Commodores. Agramonte said she asked Kocaoglu if she really did like the song.

“[Deniz] very seriously looks at me and says ‘This is my favorite song ever.’ I lost it, I couldn’t stop laughing,” Agramonte said. “And she was dancing to it so mechanically, that it was just so pure Deniz. Like right when you thought you knew her, she surprised you with something like this.”

In addition to her talent and sense of humor, Kocaoglu was known by friends for her individuality and integrity. Moradi said it was Kocaoglu’s independence and fearlessness which made her such a unique person.

“She was so real. She didn’t care what kind of clothing you wore or who you hung out with – she would just see you,” Moradi said.

Kocaoglu is survived by her mother and father, Gülgün and Mehmet Kocaoglu, and younger sister, Yasemin Kocaoglu. In lieu of flowers, Kocaoglu’s family requested donations be made to LÖSEV — a Turkey-based foundation for children with leukemia. Grief counseling is available for Northeastern students through WeCare and University of Health and Counseling Services.

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Obituary: Deniz Kocaoglu remembered as fearless, genuine