Former Miss USA Contestant Samantha Edwards, Found Dead at 37, Remembered by Her Friends

"Samantha Edwards could walk into a room, and she just lights up the room," Jennifer Williams told PEOPLE

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Former Miss North Dakota USA Samantha Edwards was found dead Tuesday morning at the age of 37, leaving her friends in mourning of a woman they describe as “larger than life.”

“Everybody knew Sami or knew of Sami,” her friend of 10 years, Jay Ettinger, 47, tells PEOPLE. “Hundreds of people would consider her a best friend. She made you feel that way.”

“I would describe her as incredibly energetic, with a ridiculously big heart,” he continues. “Whenever she asked for something, it wasn’t for herself, it was for someone else.”

Her friend of eight years, Jennifer Williams, described her the same way.

“She could walk into a room, and she just lights up the room,” Williams, 34, tells PEOPLE. “She just had this outgoing personality. Even if she didn’t know you, she’d walk up as if she knew you. She was warm and welcoming to everybody she came into contact with.”

Jessica Dereschuk, a friend of Edwards’ for 10 years, also remembers her fondly.

“She was a former Miss Dakota USA and I was a Miss Minnesota USA, so there kind of was an instant bond,” Dereschuk, 33, tells PEOPLE. “She was the most, loyal, compassionate ball of energy you could ever come across. Her magic was connecting people. She was the type of person who could sit down on an airplane and by the time it landed, she created another friend.”

Dereschuk – who last spoke with Edwards last week – says she is still trying to wrap her head around her passing.

“She was healthy, she was happy,” she says. “There’s no way to really understand this.”

Minneapolis Police and the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s office are currently investigating the cause and manner of Edwards’ death. Friends of Edwards have been told she died of “natural causes,” but no official cause of death has been released.

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