Bull Creek Foundation
Updated 29 August 2004

In Memory of Inga VanNynatten: 1970-2000

Dear Friends:

We have lost a true friend and tireless worker who has really made a difference here in Austin.

I met Inga VanNynatten when she was a graduate student at UT. Her class took on a project for our fledgling Bull Creek Foundation and produced a very professional report on the Bull Creek corridor west of Hwy 360. During this class project, we realized her zeal, dedication and persistence to accomplish above and beyond the ordinary. She produced the first ever color brochure on Bull Creek Watershed - The Galapagos of Texas, which has been very well read. And she worked tirelessly on many projects and forums and newsletters and trail projects with us during graduate school and then as a key member of the local National Park Service Rivers and Trails Assistance Program. She just finished a new brochure on the Old Spicewood Springs Corridor Preservation Plan.

We will miss Inga greatly, but her contributions will live on in perpetuity in our community.� Below is a copy of the remberance written by her family and read at her memorial services in Austin, TX and Boulder, CO.

Skip Cameron, President
Bull Creek Foundation


Inga VanNynatten was born in Brussles, Belgium on July 27, 1970. Her parents Fred and Carole were living abroad while Fred pursued his medical degree. When Inga was 11 days old she made her first of many transatlantic crossings to return to the USA for summer. Her sister Jill was born in 1973 in Brussels too, while Inga was attending pre-school. Then the family moved to Wilmington, North Carolina where Erika was born in 1974.

School was a breeze for Inga, she loved it and was active in everything. She played the violin, though her mother encouraged her to practice in the garage because she sounded so screechy. Tap, ballet, baton twirling, modeling, swimming, and science got somehow sandwiched in there. Inga ran the Rotary Run mile in 9:51 when she was 8 years old. She built a maze to test the abilities of Erika's pet mice, created magic shows, and did homeschooling so that her sisters would be ready for preschool. Then there were the barbies with designer clothes, and the custom built dollhouse from fabric and wallpaper samples. There was never a dull moment for Inga, she was always finding a new activity that she approached with passion and vigor.

In describing Inga, all her family said, "INDEPENDENT!" "STRONG-WILLED", "ASSERTIVE" &"FUN". "Trust me" were her favorite words. Where Inga was concerned, rules never applied. We are celebrating the life of a true free spirit.

Inga loved animals of all kinds. Dogs, cats, rabbits, amphibians, snakes, especially boa constictors. Once she and her friend took one to her dad's medical office to get an x-ray as a pregnancy test for the snake!

At 15 years old, Inga decided that she needed to start working and earn "real" money. Her idea was to sell clothes, in a men's clothing store, because who could do it better! She managed to talk her way into the job (a year earlier than the legal minimum age) and made enough money to buy herself a whole new wardrobe. As an added bonus, she had enough dates to wear all her new clothes. Not that Inga ever lacked in the boyfriend arena!!!!

When she graduated high school, she convinced her father to buy her a car. Not just any car, but a 1965 Mustang convertible that needed a lot of work. Two months, two junk cars, and lots of repair bills later, she had the car of her dreams. Only to find that it wasn't really reliable transportation to and from college, and she sold it for a sturdy Volkswagon.

Her undergraduate years were spent at North carolina State University, where she majored in zoology with the intention of becoming a vetinarian. While she was finishing her degree, she changed her interests to include landscape architecture, urban planning, and greenway development. Living in Boulder for several months solidified her feeling that every city should have a trail like this wonderful Boulder Creek Path. Even while finishing her zoology degree, she began working for Greenways Incorporated, in Raleigh, NC, developing community parks & trails. After graduating she continued to work there until she moved back to Wilimington. There she had a barefoot wedding on the beach in 1995. Before her wedding, she also got her first baby, a beautiful dalmation puppy that she named Samantha (who you see here with us today).

Texas was her next destination, where she moved to go to graduate school with her husband, Allen. She worked on a master's degree in Urban Planning at the University of Texas at Austin, and began her career at the National Park Service, Rivers & Trails Program.

Her marriage ended in 1997, but she had already become a true Texan. Many excellent steak dinners had already eroded Inga's vegetarian beliefs, and both she and Samantha loved the desert heat. (It was a record breaking 112 degrees the day of the memorial service in Austin on Sept. 5) Inga stayed in Austin, working at the National Park Service and pursuing her interest in photography, salsa dancing, running, and swimming. In January 1998 she made a presentation at the 1st International Trails and Greenways Conference. It was entitiled "Closing the Trail Loop: Building trails with Recycled Products"

In March 1998, her sister Jill gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, Kayla Rose. Two weeks later, Inga was diagnosed with breast cancer. She and her family suffered through eight months of chemotherapy, radiation, and finally sugery in December 1998. Her style was to not tell people that she was dealing with cancer. She says, "I want people to know me as me, not a cancer patient. " During the early months of 1999, she thought she was cured, and advertised this by completing the Danskin triathalon twice in the summer of 1999. In October and November, she and Erika went to Mexico and Guatemala to travel, a plan they had been working on since her diagnosis. But after returning from her trip, doctors found a spread of the cancer, to her chest and bones. She had more radiation, more chemo, and refused to believe the numbers. "There are 1 percent of these cases that have a complete remission. I will be one of those," she said.

In April and May this year, with a new head of hair and a reduction in the size of her tumors, she was again unfailingly positive. The reaction that she had to a new chemotherapy was very good, and she interpreted this as a remission. She told everyone that she was done with cancer, and she started making plans to buy a house. "I need something to look forward to," she told her astonished family. She bought her first home on July 1st.

For her 30th birthday (the end of July), she went with her sisters and mother to Isla Mujeres, Mexico and had a great time. She had given herself a break from all the drugs, and she was feeling good. She ate fish tacos, floated in the 80 degree water topless, ate guacamole on the beach, snorkeled, danced 'til 3am, shopped, swam with dolphins, and had a henna tattoo of a lizard wrapped around her belly button. But when she got home, the pain in her back increased. Soon the diagnosis was made: the disease had not been beaten, a new tumor on her spine was pressing on her sciatic nerve. To keep her spirits up, she bought a new car, and decorated her new house. Despite agressive treatment, throughout August, her health declined rapidly. The cancer kept spreading, until it had scattered throughout her entire brain. Finally, there was no treatment available.

On August 29th, three days before she died, she had a surprisingly lucid period of hours. Her family and best friend were in her hospital room, and she ate two Hagggan Dazs bars. They laughed and told stories until 2 AM. At 3:30 am, she had a massive seizure, which set off a period of agitation and struggling. After four hours, she went into a semi-comotose state and was transfered to Hospice care. At the hospice house, she slipped into a coma. The next day, the doctors were sure her death was imminent. She lived another 20 hours to prove them wrong. Inga died on September 2nd at 3:30AM with her mother, Carole, and her sister, Erika by her side.

Inga was always a fighter, and never wanted to be known as "the cancer patient." Many of her colleages and most of her acquantances never even knew she was sick, and she wanted to keep it that way. When she had reconstructive surgery, the scars were planned to fit underneath her bikini bathing suit. Doctor's appointments were necessary and took a lot of Inga's time and energy, but if she could rearrange them around her salsa lessons or work commitments she would.

She always lived life to the fullest, enjoying every moment. Some of her favorite memories that she wrote in her journal include : "Seeing my first moose along the Snake River," "Crying on my best friend's shoulder and then going out dancing," "eating sun-warmed rasberries in the fields of Montana," "Walking in a fresh snowfall at dawn in perfect silence." Inga crammed alot of living into 30 years. She will be greatly missed by the many whose hearts & minds she touched.

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