Raffaella Maria Stroik, 23, of St. Louis, MO (formerly of South Bend, IN) died by accident on November 14, 2018 as she was walking along the lake at Mark Twain State Park near Florida, MO where she went on a private retreat. It was a park that she had visited a number of years ago.
Raffaella was born on December 16, 1994 to Duncan and Ruth (Engelhardt) Stroik in South Bend, IN, and has lived in St. Louis since 2017.
From the beginning Raffaella Maria Stroik loved people and pirouettes. Her passion for Swan Lake and The Nutcracker inspired her family, while her devotion to technical excellence educated her friends. While she was studying at St. Matthew, Trinity and St. Joseph High School in South Bend, where she loved the humanities, she also began to play the violin. Inspired by her older sister Gabrielle she fell in love with ballet. At Southold Dance Theater she had wonderful friends and teachers who goaded her on, including Erica Fischbach, and she filled her summers with ballet intensives across the U.S. But this was only half of the story: she once told her mother that all she wanted to do in life was to dance and go to Mass, and that is how she tried to live.
At Indiana University she was able to pursue a bachelors in Ballet performance under the direction of Michael Vernon, Christian Claesens, Sasha James, Shawn Stevens, and Jacque Cesbron. During her time at IU, Raffaella, thanks to her ambition and drive to push herself physically and artistically, had the chance to perform leading roles in Giselle, Swan lake, Serenade, Dark Elegies, the Nutcracker, Concerto Barocco, and Emeralds, just to name a few. She also had the privilege of being coached by noted teachers and choreographers including Darla Hoover, Daniel Duell, Paul Boos, Maria Calegari, Donald Mahler, Nilas Martins, Michelle Gifford, Kyra Nicholes, and, most importantly, the late Violette Verdy, who was Raffaella's biggest font of inspiration. Also during her time at IU, she minored in Italian and was a voracious reader of the Divina Commedia as well as books on theology. After graduation, Raffaella was invited to the St. Louis Ballet by Gen Horiuchi, artistic director, and moved to the Rome of the West. There she enjoyed dancing in Cinderella, Faure Fantasy, Romeo and Juliet, Giselle, the Nutcracker, and La Vie. She challenged herself to excel in ballet and share the love and joy of God with others.
Raffaella was a faithful Catholic, daily communicant and enjoyed attending the March for Life. She loved her friends at Anima Christi, the Young Adults Group at the St. Louis Cathedral, and spent hours praying to Christ present in the Blessed Sacrament. She claimed this gave her the strength to love and serve those she met.
Raffaella was fearless and adventurous. She liked to swim in the ocean, surf, and hike the lakes at Notre Dame. She took pleasure in travelling to New York and Rome and other great cities where she could experience great art and interact with people. Raffaella also loved to go into nature to hike and to pray and to make spiritual retreats.
Her desire was to make the world a more beautiful place by caring for people and speaking the language of ballet. She sought to redeem the culture through excellence in dance, drama and classical music. She tried to learn from exemplars in ballet and in art, such as her namesake, so that she could develop as an artist. She told people numerous times that “when I dance, I seek to share the joy of Creation. I feel close to God and try to share Him with the audience.” Like her heroes, Raffaella sought to express timeless values. This is because she believed that “beauty will save the world.”
Raffaella is survived by her parents, Duncan and Ruth Stroik; three sisters, Gabrielle (Thomas) Johnson of Chicago, IL, Maria Maddalena Stroik, and Maria Grazia Stroik all of South Bend, IN; two brothers, Giovanni Battista Stroik and Pietro Francesco Stroik, both of South Bend, IN; paternal grandparents, John and Bebee Stroik of Reston, VA; a niece, Beatrice Johnson, and a nephew, Richard Johnson both of Chicago, IL; and many beloved aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends.
She was preceded in death by her maternal grandparents, Charles and Grace Engelhardt.
Visitation will be from 2-8 p.m. Tuesday, November 20, 2018 at Kaniewski Funeral Home, 3545 N. Bendix Drive, South Bend, IN, where a rosary will be prayed at 6:00 p.m.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, November 21, 2018 at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, on the University of Notre Dame Campus, with Most Rev. Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades officiating. Burial will follow in Cedar Grove Cemetery, Notre Dame, IN.
Memorial contributions may be made to: Southold Dance Theatre, 914 Lincoln Way West, South Bend, IN 46616 or the Women’s Care Center, 360 N. Notre Dame Ave., South Bend, IN 46617.
To send online condolences, please visit www.kaniewski.com.