Friends remember Maruta Gardener of Mission Beach

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SAN DIEGO - Three days after the Mission Beach community learned of the tragic death of 68-year-old Maruta Gardener, a long time community activist and so much more, a memorial at the jetty in South Mission Beach where a suspected drunk driver hit her continues to grow.

“Once she touched you she would convince you, you, could do anything,” said her long time friend Nancie Geller.

Maruta died just a few days shy of her 69th birthday. She was painting over graffiti Friday night, a passion of hers, when according to witnesses a white mustang driven by a woman was reared ended by a 23-year old man driving a black Toyota Camry.   The black car took off and the white car chased it with deadly consequences.

A woman who lives across the street witnessed the accident.  She said Maruta stepped into the street to take a picture of the graffiti and when they came back he hit her.

���We are feeling such a loss and heart break,” said Geller.

Geller is the president of the Mission Beach Women’s Club, a title Maruta had held too, as well as principal of Mission Beach High School. She has since retired but continued to work tirelessly giving back to the community – her latest passion the Bonita Park renovation project called ‘Play By The Bay.’

“She brought out the best in everybody that she worked with," said Phylicia Sicalo-Aiken, who was working side by side with Maruta to raise the million dollars needed to pay for a new playground after razor blades were found hidden in the grass.

“This is what she wanted more than anything.” Said Geller, “to have a play ground where families could go down with their children and play and have nothing to fear.”

Her husband of 50 years, William Gardener, is asking instead of flowers donate at

“We’re going to do it! I promise on her death we are going to make it happen.”

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