Sienna Rettig lived her life with the mindset of a shark. Always moving forward and never dwelling on the past.
Described by her friends as their angel, Sienna was the light in a lot of peoples’ lives.
“We all know people at Gonzaga who bring us that kind of joy and laughter, and that was just who she was as a person, all the time,” said Josh Bulawa, one of Sienna’s friends and a GU graduate. “She was there with me and all her other friends through every peak and valley we went through these last four years, and she knew what it meant to show love and compassion regardless of a situation.”
On April 29 she died at the age of 22, a few weeks before she was set to graduate from GU with a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and a minor in business marketing.
She is survived by her parents, John and Diane Rettig; her sister, Mateya Rettig; and her brothers, Dom and Max Rettig.
“She really looked out for so many people,” said Tom Frigon, Sienna’s boyfriend and a GU graduate. “She was someone a ton of people would go to talk to. I had that same experience with her. I felt like I could talk to her about anything. I know I only knew her for about seven months, but it really felt like I knew her for years.”
This sentiment was true for just about everyone Sienna came in contact with.
“She was such a big part of peoples’ lives even if she had just met them two days ago or had known them for years,” Frigon said. “It’s crazy how small of a time it takes for her to leave an impact on people.”
More than anything Sienna loved her family and friends. She spent her life prioritizing them and making sure she spent quality time with every one of them.
“She was my best friend,” her sister Mateya said. “She always gave really good advice and was kind of that guiding person for me. She never made me feel like the little sister. We were just friends and that was my favorite part of our relationship. We were sisters and we had that bond, but it felt like even if we weren’t sisters, we would still be best friends.”
Sienna made sure everyone in her life felt welcome and comfortable. Mateya recalled a story about Sienna becoming friends with a student a year younger than her and her friend group.
“When we were up in Spokane a few weeks ago someone was talking to me about Sienna and Karlie [Murphy] and how when Sienna met Karlie she immediately took her in and was like: ‘You’re with me now. I’m your friend. Don’t worry, I got you’,” Mateya said. “That was her. No matter who it was Sienna was always that person for everyone.”
She wanted to make sure everyone was OK and was always trying to find ways to help out her friends and family in any way she could.
“I think that we were spending so much time together and we got so close that it got to the point where Sienna would be the person I would go to or call,” said Erin Beall, Sienna’s friend and a GU graduate. “She was the person I could tell anything to, and I trusted her with anything.”
Her love for life and the people around her was infectious.
“She was caring, loving and very kindhearted,” Frigon said. “She meant so much to so many people. It’s not necessarily something where you’d look at her and automatically assume that she is someone who would be very caring, she’s very quiet and shy, but if you get her going she is one of the most fun people to be around and just had this energy to her.”
Sienna was the friend who organized the Tent City group for basketball games, got a group together to go on a coffee run to Dutch Bros and was always down to for anything spontaneous — like getting $13 tattoos on Friday the 13th with Bulawa.
Lake Tahoe and her home state of California were also near and dear to Sienna’s heart. She had a tattoo of Lake Tahoe on her wrist and a California necklace that never left her neck.
“That was her special place,” Frigon said. “You could try to say the skiing was better somewhere else and she would say ‘No. You’re wrong.’ It was her special place growing up and she loved it with all her heart.”
The Rettig family had a house in Lake Tahoe and every year when Sienna and her siblings were children, they would go up every weekend. It’s why the Rettig siblings are so close, Mateya said.
“I think I can speak for my brothers and say that they feel the same way,” she said. “I think that’s why we feel that connection to Tahoe, Sienna included, because that’s our home and that’s where we have so many childhood and family memories.”
When Sienna left California to attend GU she found community in her friends and her faith. She was very involved in the Search Retreat and went to student Mass and Thirst Worship with her friends.
Sienna had a tattoo of Luke 1:37 from the Bible which says, “For with God nothing is impossible.”
Though she didn’t know exactly what she wanted to do after college she still had big goals that she was ready to work for.
“She loved her major and she always said that she wanted to find a way to incorporate psychology into determining marketing strategies in fashion design,” Bulawa said. “That was something that she didn’t know if she could do in her future but that was always her dream.”
What mattered most to Sienna was the present moment and being with the people she loved. The love Sienna had for everyone in her life was reflected right back on her from her family, friends and all those who interacted with her throughout her life.
“I think that obviously, now that she’s gone, these are the things, we say but honestly she was our angel even before this happened,” Beall said. “There aren’t enough words to give justice to the way she really used these last four years to touch so many people. She’s very special.”
Editor's Note: Josh Bulawa was a graphic designer for Gonzaga Student Media and Karlie Murphy is currently a staff writer and copy editor for The Gonzaga Bulletin.