In a statement released days after the death of U.S. Rep. Sean Casten’s 17-year-old daughter, Gwen, her family said the teenager was happy, healthy and passionate about music and activism.
The statement, signed by Sean Casten, his wife, Kara, and their daughter Audrey, said the only thing the family knows about her death is that it was “peaceful.”
“She had the good fortune to have a community of good friends, teachers and family and the good wisdom to know how much she owed them,” the statement said. “If her light seemed a bit brighter than most it was because she was so generous in reflecting back the light and love that so many gave to her.”
Gwen Casten died earlier this week at the family’s Downers Grove home, authorities said. Downers Grove police were called to the home just before 7 a.m. Monday and determined the teenager was deceased.
On Sunday night, the statement said, Gwen Casten had dinner with her family and then went out with some friends. When she got home, she said good night to her parents, then texted a friend to make sure she got home safely. Gwen did not wake up the next morning, according to the statement.
The DuPage County coroner’s office has not released a cause or manner of death and said a determination could take a month or more.
The family said the only lesson they can take is to “savor the moments you have with your loved ones.”
Gwen Casten had planned to study environmental science at the University of Vermont, her family said in the statement. She played trumpet for school musical groups and created an environmental club at Downers Grove North that focused on protecting the environment, preventing gun violence and LGBTQ allyship among other efforts.
In lieu of flowers, her family asked people to consider donating to the Downers Grove North High School Friends of Fine Arts or the March For Our Lives.
Sean Casten is locked in a primary fight that is being watched closely both locally and nationally as he runs against fellow incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Marie Newman in the newly redrawn 6th Congressional District that spans from the Southwest Side of Chicago through the south and west suburbs.
Casten first won his congressional seat in 2018, when he beat six-term Republican U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam for a seat that had been in GOP hands for decades.
Tribune reporter John Keilman contributed.