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Father of Oswego East teen who died asks, ‘What really did happen?’

Stephanie Kufer, 16, died unexpectedly at her home in Aurora May 12. (Kufer family)

John Kufer is not entirely sure how his 16-year-old daughter died.

Stephanie Kufer was pronounced dead shortly after 8 a.m. May 12 at her home on Lahinch Drive in Aurora, Will County Chief Deputy Coroner Kevin Stevenson said. The coroner’s office has not determined a cause of death, and officials have not ruled out any possibilities while waiting for test results to come back, he said Tuesday.

"We certainly don’t know, and there’s that question: What really did happen?" he said.

Stephanie, a student at Oswego East High School, had many interests and loved to travel with her family, her father said. She loved to read and to investigate further what her teachers said in school. She challenged what some people thought about certain issues, he said.

Stephanie sometimes expressed herself by changing the color of her hair, Kufer said. She was interested in comic books, particularly the female characters such as Wonder Woman.

He called her "a little activist," he said. In addition to women’s rights and equality, she was passionate about mental health, advocating help for and encouraging others, Kufer said.

"She always felt like she needed to stand up for people who needed to be spoken about," he said.

She talked about wanting to work in mental health or following what Kufer termed the family tradition of becoming a nurse. He and his wife are nurses, as well as Stephanie’s grandmother, he said.

She was an advocate for her younger brother, who Kufer said is on the autism spectrum, and had a gift for helping him understand what he was trying to learn in school. Though they sometimes fought as siblings do, they generally got along well, he said.

"There’s that loss," Kufer said about his daughter. "Some of it is that big shock that you have. She was doing well yesterday, or doing well when we went to bed. And, you know, wake up and find that this event happened."

Kufer said he has been floored by the support from the school and community, and is appreciative.

"How do we move forward with our lives now that Stephanie is gone?" he said. "It definitely has changed some ideas and thoughts that we’ve had about the future."