Ashley Walls, daughter of William "Dock" Walls, died in Brazil this week while on a graduate research trip. Her sorority sister remembers her as a "magical" person who lived life to the fullest. NBC 5's Emily Florez reports.
The youngest daughter of former gubernatorial candidate William "Dock" Walls died in Brazil this week.
"Ashley Walls expired on Monday," he wrote Thursday morning on his Facebook page. "I have made all arrangements here in Brazil and am returning to Chicago this evening. Memorial Service arrangements are pending. Please keep my family in your prayers."
He wrote that he flew to Brazil on Saturday and was in the country when his daughter passed.
University of Illinois spokeswoman Robin Kaler said the 29-year-old died Monday in Florianopolis in southeast Brazil. Kaler said privacy laws prevent her from identifying the illness but said Walls likely contracted the illness in Brazil while doing graduate research in education policy.
Family members said Walls, a doctoral student, contracted what is believed to have been bacterial meningitis.
A second student from the university is missing, school officials said.
The school said 20-year-old Richard Fu of Taiwan went missing after swimming in the Atlantic Ocean Saturday while participating in a study abroad program.
“We are all saddened by the news of what has happened to two of our students in the past few days," a statement from the university read. "Our focus right now is working with our partners and government contacts in Brazil to help their families navigate this difficult time. Both of these students were admired and respected by their peers and by the faculty and staff who knew them here at Illinois. Our collective thoughts are with their families and friends.”
Dock Walls is a community and political activist who made a run for the Chicago's mayor's office in 2007 and in 2011, for Rep. Bobby Rush's 1st District Congressional seat in 2008, and for the governor's office in 2009.
He was assistant to the late Mayor Harold Washington and was National Political Director to Rev. Jesse Jackson's Rainbow PUSH. Walls also served as the state’s primary surrogate for John Kerry in the democrat’s unsuccessful 2004 bid to become U.S. President.
Walls said his daughter was active with the Delta Sigma Theta sorority and was "an instrumental advocate working to improve conditions for all U of I students, faculty and staff."
Sorority sister and mentor Dr. Chandra Gill said "the biggest thing about Ashley is she was selfless."
"She did more in 29 years than people in 79 years dream of doing," Gill said. "As an alum of University of Illinois Champaign we are going to make sure that everything she started will finish, will move on in the spirit of servitude, scholarship, sisterhood and service."
Messages offering condolences began appearing Monday evening on Dock Walls' Facebook page.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.