SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) --- It's been nearly a year since the shocking death of a professional dancer.
Raffaella Stroik, a South Bend native, was found dead on Nov. 14, 2018, in a lake about 140 miles northwest of St. Louis, where she was a member of the St. Louis Ballet.
"We want to believe she's somewhere else, she's dancing in St. Louis. It can't be true," explained Duncan Stroik, her father.
The loss equally pangs his wife, Ruth.
"When you open your eyes in the morning, you hope that it's not true," Ruth said.
In February, the Monroe County, Missouri, coroner ruled Stroik's death an accident, concluding she died from asphyxiation while drowning.
"There's no evidence that she would have hurt herself or hurt herself, so the only thing that seems to have happened, could have happened, is some kind of an accident," Duncan said. "We don't know what could have happened."
On Nov. 12, 2018, her parents say Raffaella embarked on a private retreat at Mark Twain State Park to gain clarity about her future. Their daughter had written to her ballet company, explaining she wanted to take the week off.
A devout Catholic, Stroik had just discussed with her spiritual director, a priest, that she was contemplating becoming a nun.
"She really wanted to give her life for others and for God," Duncan commented.
After the retreat, the dancer planned to go to California to visit family and friends.
"You shouldn't lose a child," Duncan said. "They're supposed to bury us. I had so much hope for my daughter. I wanted to pay for her wedding. I wanted to see my grandchildren, but I guess God had other plans."
To honor their daughter, Duncan and Ruth have written a story based on their daughter's life called "A Ballet for Raffaella."
"As we talked to others, the best thing would be to continue her legacy by creating a new ballet. This is not often done. We would want it to be in a manner that Raffaella would approve of," Duncan explained.
A connoisseur of classical ballet, Raffaella appreciated the works of acclaimed Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.
The Stroiks say the two-act, 10-scene "A Ballet for Raffaella" takes place in an earlier time in Italy and will feature traditional costumes and backdrops.
The family has set up a GoFundMe page to raise money to commission a professional choreographer and composer, the latter of whom they would like to write numbers in the style of Tchaikovsky.
The ballet will debut at Indiana University-Bloomington, Raffaella Stroik's alma mater, some time within the next two years.