The light in the world dimmed on Friday, November 17, 2023, when heaven gained a new angel upon the death of Liz Medley Gaston Palanisamy. Born in Atlanta, Georgia, Liz, and her family relocated to Asheville, North Carolina, in 1994 where Liz attended Asheville Public Schools. Liz grew up attending Central United Methodist Church in Asheville with her family. She was a graduate of Appalachian State University with a degree in cellular and molecular biology. Liz was married to Loke Palanisamy. They welcomed their son Arlo into their family this fall. The void she leaves in our hearts will never be filled. How blessed we are to have the time with her that we did.
After graduating from college, Liz volunteered with AmeriCorps 4-H Capital in Austin, Texas. As a self-motivated person, Liz decided to study computer programming on her own. With hard work and determination, she obtained the credentials she needed and landed her first tech job with OrthoBanc. During her professional career, she worked for several high-profile companies. She found her place in the corporate world working with OutSystems as a software architect. Liz wrote on Facebook this summer, “This was a big moment for me in my career. I have not done much public speaking, but I was asked to do a keynote demo of the OutSystems product at our annual event at #nextstep in Denver with our CTO.” Unsurprisingly, she nailed it!
Passionate is an apt description of Liz. Learning to snowboard at an early age, Liz was fearless and fast on the slopes. She was a member of the middle school snowboard team and the ASU club snowboard team. In middle school, the male snowboarders all checked the leader board to make sure “they beat that girl”. And they did NOT always meet their goal! She also challenged her brothers, especially Hank, to informal races down the slopes of Beech and Sugar Mountains! Family snowboarding trips, often with other families, were an integral part of her life. She prided herself in teaching Loke to enjoy snowboarding almost as much as she did. And then there was biking - road biking, mountain biking, electric bike riding. She loved it all! In her early 20s (and to her parents’ shock!) she biked the Blue Ridge Parkway from Asheville to Boone. She rode the Austin Formula1 racetrack numerous times on “bike days”. Two wheels and a route were the tickets to a satisfying day for Liz. If you accompanied her, an adventure was guaranteed. Liz enjoyed all types of outdoor activities. A natural athlete, she excelled as a soccer goalie in high school. She loved playing tennis with Loke and others. If you could serve while she taunted you, you are a solid tennis player. Her net antics challenged even seasoned players. She introduced Loke to kayaking at Lady Bird Lake with a capsizing mishap and somehow convinced him that kayaking could indeed be fun. She loved the beach and all its activities. To have shade, she devised a way to make her own Shibumi and named it Palinabumi. Passion, persistence, adventure, goofiness, and fun were trademarks of a day with Liz.
Liz was lucky in love, finding her soulmate in her beloved Loke. A true example of how two people unite to make each other better people, Liz and Loke were a fabulous married couple. Marrying during the start of the Covid lockdown, they found a judge who would perform a Zoom wedding and casually asked their family to join them on a Wednesday afternoon as they performed their nuptials. Always together, the two had recently relocated to Chapel Hill. There they purchased a home in a wooded neighborhood reminiscent of Asheville. The first addition to their family was their Goldendoodle Austin. The second addition was the most special. Baby Arlo was born this fall. Liz embraced motherhood as she did anything else with passion, determination, and dedication. The roles of wife and mother were her finest accomplishments.
Liz was a wonderful daughter-in-law. The first time Liz met Loke’s dad Palanisamy they were buying gold jewelry as is an Indian tradition. Loke had told Liz that she would not be able to meet his dad until the following day. As Liz and Loke were finishing up their gold purchases, Loke said, “Well I guess it’s time for you to meet my dad”. Liz looked at Loke in shock as he pointed to a man across the room and said that’s my dad. Liz threw the gold in the air in jubilee and rushed over to Palanisamy touching his feet to receive a proper Indian blessing and then gave him a big hug (not big in Indian culture!). Everyone in the gold shop was truly impressed at how easily and graciously Liz grasped traditional Indian customs.
Liz and Loke had their fifteen minutes of fame following their beautiful wedding in India. Liz embraced Indian culture with complete enthusiasm, and it obviously shined through. Videos of their wedding and the beautiful bride achieved over five million views on Instagram!
Per Loke, out of the 34 years of his life, the last four spent with Liz were the greatest. They started in a “modest” apartment and grew into a thriving couple. A true team effort, if one partner was struggling the other would step in and help. Life was never serious enough that Loke wasn’t susceptible to having his gym shorts pulled down and his bottom slapped while he casually filled his water bottle. They laughed for years at their early introduction at the workroom coffee machine where Loke showed Liz his competitive body building photos. Years later she accused him of un-pure intent by showing her these photos! She was a person who would scare the heck out of Loke in a kayak to the point where he had to wear three life jackets…. meanwhile she’s jumping off of a thirty-foot rope swing into a river one month after brain surgery! What a beautiful life they had together. Arranged marriages are common in India. Loke felt like Liz arranged the marriage for him. She would state “Buju (the Tamil word for ‘My Love’), you don’t know what you want, I know what you want!” She treated Loke like a King. Her ultimate dream was to live part time at the beach. She would surf all day and he would relax on the beach. She always blended her passions with the ultimate care of Loke.
Diagnosed with epilepsy at an early age, Liz did not let her diagnosis define her, but it did shape her into the wonderful human being that she was. Never was a person as kind and respectful to others and as inclusive as was Liz.
May your fond memories of Liz warm your heart with love. May her example encourage you to be a better person, even when things are not going your way. May you be extra nice, helpful, and nonjudgmental to people very different from you. May you love your family and friends with a fierce love. May you always follow your dreams, no matter how crazy they seem. May you always see life as an adventure to be explored to the fullest with a big smile on your face and great love in your heart.
Liz will forever live in the memory of her loved ones: husband, Loke and infant son, Arlo of Chapel Hill, North Carolina; parents Greg and Amy Gaston of Asheville, North Carolina; brother Hank, sister-in-law Michelle, and nephews Asher and Ryland of Pineville, North Carolina; parents-in-law Palanisamy and Rajeswari of Salem, Tamil Nadu, India; sisters-in-law and brothers-in-law Priya and Thiru, nieces Dhiya and Akshaya of Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India; Ishu and Aswin and niece Nyra of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; paternal grandmother Coralyn Gaston of Waycross, Georgia; maternal aunts and uncles: Larry and Nancy Jackson of Waynesboro, Georgia; Pamela Jackson of Fernandina Beach, Florida; Joanne Hoffman of Taylors, South Carolina; Kish and Al Stevens of Folkston, Georgia; Joseph and Maureen Jackson of Albany, Georgia; paternal aunts and uncles: Van Gaston of Jacksonville, Florida; Lyn and John Jacobs of Waycross, Georgia; cousins Stacey and Joe Jackson, Megan and Chris Jackson, Sheri and Stephen Jackson, Giles Jackson, Kenny and Allison Tucker, Morgan Stevens, Parker Gaston, Audrey, Emma, and Cory Jacobs. Liz was preceded in death by her brother, Scott McAfee Gaston; her maternal grandparents Anne and Joe Jackson; paternal grandfather Charles Gaston; uncles Steve Jackson, Lew Hoffman, and Britt Gaston; Cousin Chase Gaston. Service details will be shared as they become available.