By the time she died at 26, Stirling Winder had snowboarded in Vermont and sailed in the Caribbean. She had gone kite boarding and sky diving. She was a registered nurse and was studying to be a nurse practitioner. She had been a Division I athlete and raised more than $40,000 while riding three times in the Pan-Mass Challenge. And she had traveled to France, England, Costa Rica, and the Galapagos Islands.
She also had cancer, but those who met her often never knew.
In an interview last year with the Gloucester Daily Times, while recuperating from treatment for a recurrence, Ms. Winder said that “going forward I’m just going to deal with things as they come, that’s the only way you can do it.
“I had the surgeries and I knew there was the potential for more. The news was a bummer seven years ago. It was a whirlwind back then and I really don’t remember some of the stuff that happened. But now it’s just, you have to be upbeat. The only way to get through it is to have a positive attitude.”
Ms. Winder, a nurse at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center who had played field hockey for the University of Vermont, died of metastatic osteosarcoma July 28 in her Manchester-by-the-Sea home.
“We got more of her in 26 years than more people do in 90 years,” said her mother, Betsy (Whitman) of Manchester-by-the-Sea. “She was just so genuine and appreciative. I don’t know why she was taken so young, [but] what we got was so amazing and wonderful.”
A close friend, Torie Allen of South Boston, said Ms. Winder reveled in life’s quiet moments, such as gazing at the Boston skyline from Castle Island or bundling in thick layers to frolic in the first snowfall of the year.
“She would always take that extra step to stop and feel.”
Ms. Winder, Allen said, would “enjoy the life around her rather than just rush through it.”
She described Ms. Winder as bubbly and selfless, someone who always put others first.
“She was just so full of life and so full of energy,” Allen said. “And she wasn’t going to sit around thinking about things she couldn’t control.”
Born in Boston, Stirling Auchincloss Winder graduated from the former Governor Dummer Academy, now The Governor’s Academy in Byfield, and went to the University of Vermont in Burlington, from which she graduated in 2008 with a degree in psychology.
She played field hockey and was diagnosed with cancer after her freshman season.
Although unable to compete the rest of her college career, she remained on the team, attending practices and games.
Osteosarcoma is bone cancer that usually occurs in late adolescence. After her 2004 diagnosis, treatment included a knee replacement, nine rounds of chemotherapy, four lung resections, and kidney surgery.
Despite hospitalizations and frequent trips to Boston for medical care, Ms. Winder completed college in four years.
At the University of Vermont, Ms. Winder also served as a student trustee and was awarded the Russell O. Sunderland Memorial Trophy in 2008, given annually to a male and a female student-athlete who demonstrate “a high level of athletic achievement and exemplified the qualities of character, leadership, and persistence in overcoming obstacles,” according to the school’s website.
“As a student, a varsity athlete, a trustee, a volunteer, and a friend and colleague she approached life with a strong sense of optimism and positive energy that lifted the spirits of everyone around her,” Robert F. Cioffi, chairman of UVM’s Board of Trustees, said on the university’s website.
“The courage and strength she showed all of us in facing so many serious health challenges were truly inspirational,” Cioffi said. “We will always remember her sense of humor, her concern for others, and her beautiful smile.”
Ms. Winder completed the direct entry nursing program at Northeastern University. When she died, she had been working toward a nurse practitioner degree from Northeastern.
At Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Ms. Winder worked as a nurse in the neo- natal intensive care unit.
Allen said Ms. Winder was “a perfect fit” for the health care field because she cared deeply for others.
“She was definitely a huge inspiration in my life, to keep going with what I’m doing and to stay positive,” said her brother, Alden of Manchester-by-the-Sea. “And it’s hard to be negative when there is someone like that around. She was just so forward-thinking and not going to give up on anything.”
A service has been held for Ms. Winder, who, in addition to her mother and brother, leaves her father, John of Annisquam; her mother’s partner, Jeff Hotchkiss of Manchester-by-the-Sea and his daughters, Courtney Hotchkiss of Annapolis, Md., and Kinsey Hotchkiss of Weston; her maternal grandmother, Frances Thorington of Easton, Md.; and her paternal grandmother, Mary Winder of New Haven.
“A mother-daughter relationship is an incredible relationship, and we’ve always been close, from day one,” Ms. Winder’s mother said.
She described her daughter as her best friend and a loving person who “just lived life.”
“She never gave up,” Ms. Winder’s mother said. “To the very end she just never quit.”