Sarah Elizabeth Hancock, an effervescent and outgoing college junior whose lifelong ambition was to become a social worker so she could help others, was remembered Thursday by family and friends as a thoughtful and caring individual.
"Sarah always put other people's problems in front of hers," said Steve J. Kotowski, 20, who is a materials engineering student at the University of Maryland, College Park. "She was the kind of person that if you had a problem, you could call at midnight and she'd talk to you as long as it took."
"She was always thinking about what she could do to help people," said Jeanne B. Novotny, an aunt who lives in Gloucester, Va. "She never wanted anyone to feel bad, and she paid attention to what they were feeling."
Ms. Hancock, a junior sociology major at the University of Maryland, College Park, was found dead Monday in her dormitory room. She was 20.
Autopsy results as to the exact cause of death are pending, family members said. Police have said her death was the result of an accident.
"When I heard the news, I thought it was a really bad dream. I was in shock," said Mr. Kotowski, who had known Ms. Hancock since they were middle school students at South Hampton Middle School in Harford County. "She was so sweet. I couldn't help it. I broke down and cried."
Ms. Hancock, the daughter of a carpenter and a medical technician, was born in Baltimore and raised in Bel Air. She graduated in 2010 from C. Milton Wright High School, where she was a cheerleader and played Powder Puff football.
After graduating in 2012 from Harford Community College, she entered the University of Maryland.
Ms. Hancock worked on weekends during her high school years and during college at the ShopRite Market in Bel Air.
"She knew that it was expensive for her parents to send her to College Park, but she worked hard to make her dream happen and get what she wanted," said her aunt, who described her niece as "well rounded."
"She was my absolute best friend," said Lisa M. Smith, 21, who became friends with Ms. Hancock in high school. "Any time I was upset, she'd come to my house with chocolate and cookie dough. I went through a couple of years of depression, and Sarah was right by my side."
She added: "Sarah absolutely loved College Park. She wanted to go there to experience new things and meet new people."
Ms. Hancock was a member of Epsilon Mu Chapter of Alpha Phi Omega, a service fraternity, and had completed 25 hours of campus and community service as part of her pledge program, said an email from Alex Krefetz, chapter president.
"Our fraternity's cardinal principals focus on leadership, friendship and service," wrote Mr. Krefetz. "Sarah embodied all three."
Jessica Hancock, 26, a sister, is a physical education teacher in Howard County public schools.
"She was the most carefree and fun-loving person I've ever met. She was always looking for something fun to do," said Ms. Hancock, who also lives in Bel Air.
"We both were very much into music, and we both loved country and looked forward to attending the Sunday in the Country concert held each year in Howard County."
Ms. Hancock said her sister had a "great capacity for friendship and had so many friends."
Her aunt said that her niece had a marvelous sense of humor and a sense of the ridiculous.
"She never wore the same two pair of socks," said Ms. Novotny. "She had thousands of socks and would pull out two and put them on. For her, life was too much fun."
In addition to music and sports, Ms. Hancock enjoyed doing arts and crafts and needlepoint.
Ms. Hancock was a communicant of St. Mary Magdalen Roman Catholic Church, 1716 Churchville Road, Bel Air, where a Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. Friday.
In addition to her sister and aunt, Ms. Hancock is survived by her parents, Rick and Barbara Hancock of Bel Air; another sister, Christina Hancock of Bel Air; paternal grandparents Richard and Betty Hancock of Bel Air; maternal grandmother Mary Barclay of Newport News, Va.; and many other aunts, uncles and cousins.