Catherine E. Poindexter, an adventuresome outdoorswoman who enjoyed animals and working with them, died at Johns Hopkins Hospital Sept. 21 from hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis, or HLH, a rare immunodeficiency.
The former Severna Park resident, who most recently resided in Chevy Chase, was 24.
Catherine Ellen Poindexter was the daughter of Scott Poindexter, a career Marine Corps officer, and Mary Claire McKenna. She was born in Jacksonville, N.C., and because of her father's career, she enjoyed many family moves, which sparked a lifelong interest in traveling and adventures, her mother said.
The family's moves brought them to Anne Arundel County, where her parents still reside. During her years as a student at Severna Park High School, Ms. Poindexter swam with the SPY Swim Team and completed internships at the National Aquarium in Baltimore and Severna Park Veterinary Hospital.
"Catherine was an amazing girl. Whether it was cleaning cages, walking dogs or watching surgery, she did it all with a smile on her face and great enthusiasm," said Dr. Jessica M. Heard, owner of the Severna Park Veterinary Hospital since 2004. "Catherine did several internships and she wanted to embrace life and see and do lots of different things. She wanted to experience as much as she could. She was so refreshing."
"She was just a wonderful girl who always had a smile on her face and could light up a room," said Ashley V. Wise, customer service manager for the veterinary hospital.
"She would do any task that you asked her to do, and was just a fun kid who wanted to do something with animals," Ms. Wise said. "While she was working here, she convinced her family to get a mini-poodle they named Izzy."
After graduating in 2011 from Severna Park High School, Ms. Poindexter began her college studies at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University -- also known as Virginia Tech -- where she was a member of Sigma Alpha Sorority.
During her college days, she studied abroad in South Africa, worked in a research laboratory, completed an internship at Disney University, became a certified scuba diver and was a member of the Scuba Club — she organized spring break dive trips to the Bahamas.
Her Capstone Project at Virginia Tech involved three months of research and working with rescue turtles in Costa Rica.
"During her college years, she kept a hedgehog named Quinton and a snake named Alan that was always getting out and her roommates would have to look for," her mother said.
From 2009 until 2015, Ms.Poindexter worked in the aquatics program at Broad Creek Memorial Scout Reservation on the Susquehanna River in Harford County.
"Catherine was just phenomenal. She started out quiet and the years went by became extremely outgoing. She really grew into her role," said Ed Martin, former camp director.
"Working conditions at a Boy Scout camp can be difficult and I was surprised after the first year that she came back," he said. "It's tough being the only female in a Boy Scout camp, but she commanded respect from the staff and kids. She was just awesome, never got rattled by it and always did the right thing."
Ms. Poindexter, a skilled boat handler, came up with an idea for overnight kayak camping trips.
"She came to me and I said do the paperwork and we'll talk about it. This was her brainchild," Mr. Martin recalled. "She planned the overnight trips and was in charge of first-aid and making food. Everyone was safe when Catherine was running the show."
Ms. Poindexter, an avid hiker, had hiked portions of the Appalachian Trail in New Hampshire's White Mountains.
After her graduation in 2016 from Virginia Tech with a bachelor's degree in animal science, she embarked on a weeklong trek with her father along the Appalachian Trail in Virginia's Shenandoah National Forest.
She began her career in 2016 as an animal care and use coordinator at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda.
Juanita A. Cooper, an NIH inventory specialist, was a close friend.
The Morning Sun Newsletter
Get your morning news in your e-mail inbox. Get all the top news and sports from the baltimoresun.com.
"Catherine sat next to me and she always was able to put a smile on your face no matter what kind of day you were having," Ms. Cooper said. "She was a joy to work with.
"We had a ball and while it appeared that we were not working, we were," she said. "I was quite shocked by her passing."
"She was always planning her next adventure. She loved to travel," her mother said, adding that her daughter even took part in skydiving on one occasion.
Ms. Poindexter was a communicant of Our Lady of the Fields Roman Catholic Church, 1070 Cecil Ave. South, Millersville, where a Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 11 a.m. Saturday.
In addition to her parents, she is survived by two brothers, Christian Poindexter, a junior at the University of Delaware, and Matthew Poindexter, a freshman at Boston College; paternal grandparents, Christian and Marilyn Poindexter of Arnold and Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.; maternal grandmother, Claire McKenna of Severna Park; and many aunts, uncles and cousins.