CARLSBAD — Headstrong, loyal and a fierce competitor were just some of the dozens of sentiments friends, family and athletes expressed for a beloved gymnastics coach.
Lydia Jo Budny, 34, of Oceanside unexpectedly died on Feb. 9 after a seizure stemming from complications from epilepsy, said parent Michelle Lawson, who organized the memorial. Budny was eight months shy of her 35th birthday.
Budny made her mark as a gymnastics coach at the Magdalena Ecke Family YMCA in Carlsbad, and more than 120 gymnasts and others gathered Feb. 15 at North Coast Calvary Church to celebrate the life and mourn the loss of a loved one.
Her family also held a memorial on Feb. 16 at Eternal Hills Mortuary in Oceanside.
“Lydia had a passion for gymnastics and was at her best when coaching her team,” her father, Dan, posted to Facebook. “She loved spending time with her family, especially her two nieces. Lydia’s personality was larger than life. Her smile, strength, and laugh will forever be missed.”
Budny was born in Lansing, Michigan, and raised in Lafayette, Indiana, where she graduated from Lafayette Central Catholic High School in 2004 and Purdue University in 2008. During her childhood, she was an athlete competing in baseball, softball, volleyball, diving and gymnastics.
Shortly after graduating from Purdue, Budny ventured west and landed in Oceanside and then a job as a gymnastics coach at the YMCA.
Her passion and drive in gymnastics is what made her stand out, but those characteristics were developed at an early age, Dan Budny said.
He recalled when Lydia Budny was 12 and wanted to play baseball instead of softball. However, there were no girls in her little league and she and her family faced plenty of blowback after she signed up.
But Dan Budny knew his daughter had the talent and the mental strength to break new ground in a state where few, if any, girls had played little league baseball. Lydia Budny, though, had a secret, she possessed a rocket for an arm, so her father had her pitch.
The other players and parents were heckling and taunting Lydia Budny from the start. But soon, she’d shut them up.
The first inning began with her striking out all three hitters. The second inning was the same and the rest of the game followed suit as Lydia Budny recorded all 18 outs by strikeout.
“She said she’d never accept failure,” Dan Budny said. “The only failure is the failure to try.”
One of Lydia Budny’s closest friends and fellow coach, Wendy Given, said her friend had a gregarious personality and voice to command any room. Given leveraged those traits to quiet their athletes so they could get back to coaching, she said laughing through tears.
Together, Given said, they pushed their athletes but connected with them to draw out their best. Gymnastics was part of Lydia Budny’s DNA, so coaching was a natural fit, Given said.
“Each of us has our own story of how Lydia put a smile on our face,” she said. “Optimism was one of her greatest strengths.”
Another coach, Quinn Shannon, kept his remembrance simple, noting how his friend loved the phrase, “I’m not going to lie.”
“I’m not going to lie, it’s really sad to see you gone,” he said, fighting through tears. “I’m not going to lie; I don’t know how we’re going to go on without you here.”