Southwest scholarship honors life of young mom

On the first anniversary of 32-year-old Molly Malone Chottepanda’s death, more than 200 people will walk around Lake Harriet, one of her favorite places. 

The walkers will gather to honor her memory and create a new scholarship at Southwest High School, where she attended. Her family and friends hoped to raise $5,000, and they’re currently standing at $25,000. 

“Initially this was a way to make Molly’s legacy live on, and a way for me to heal,” said Molly’s husband Kushal Chottepanda, an Armatage resident. 

Molly died May 29, 2014, just 12 days after giving birth to her firstborn daughter Mara. Doctors believe the likely cause of her death was an irregular heart rhythm disorder called Long QT Syndrome, which is a rare condition that is hard to detect.

In response to the tragedy, community members have filled Kushal’s freezer with food and have constantly rung the doorbell with baby toys and clothes.

“I’ll tell you this…It has not been easy,” he said in a Facebook post. “…We have to hold Molly’s compassion of people and gratitude of life in our hearts. Continue to keep Molly’s memory alive and tell Mara all about her amazing Mommy.”

Kushal said Mara is growing up to be far more talkative and extroverted than her parents, but she’s similar in other ways. Molly was tall, and Mara’s height is off the charts. And her lips and eyes are just like Molly’s.

“I could tell right away that she loves books, and she’s going to be a bookworm just like her mom,” he said.

Kushal called Molly an “all-American girl” with a great sense of humor and a brilliant mind.

Friend Nick Lambert called her an “anchor at first base” on their softball team.

“She had a lot of Irish in her for sure,” he said. “You wouldn’t want to really get in an argument with her, you’d end up losing.”

The Southwest High School scholarship is focused on young women planning to study science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM). 

“Molly herself was a PA and an advocate for women in science,” Kushal said.

She worked as a physician assistant at North Clinic in Robbinsdale. She was a third-generation Southwest High School graduate, and Kushal graduated from Southwest as well.

The May 29 walk around Lake Harriet runs from 7-10 p.m. at Beard’s Plaisance, 4525 Upton Ave., with registration available at 6 p.m. T-shirts by Derek Hood and Charley Holden will be available for purchase.

For more information, visit mollymalonechottepandafoundation.org.