By Rikki King and Alejandro Dominguez Herald Writer
MONROE — Debbrah Pesce was proud and independent.
She grew up in Edmonds and had two grown children. She was known for helping others, even when she faced her own hard times. Despite having no fixed address, she became a dedicated volunteer at a community center in Monroe, tutoring children.
Pesce, 53, was struck and killed by a pickup while riding a bicycle across U.S. 2 in Monroe last week. The driver fled. Many details of the crash remain under investigation. Police are asking for help finding the driver and the truck.
A public memorial ceremony for Pesce is planned in Monroe next week.
In addition, her family plans a private ceremony this weekend, said her cousin, Kathryne Paz, who owns Galaxy Chocolates in Sultan.
She described Pesce as “an all-around awesome woman.”
“She would do whatever she could to raise your spirits even if she was in pain herself,” Paz said. “She was not a selfish person.”
Pesce came from a large family. Many of her relatives live in Edmonds and some in the Skykomish Valley.
She’d also lived in Eastern Washington, including Wenatchee.
When Pesce was alive, she was “just a very proud woman,” Paz said.
Pesce was struck about 7:30 p.m. Dec. 26 at the intersection of U.S. 2 and Old Owen Road.
View Fatal hit-and-run, 12/26/2012 in a larger map
Investigators believe Pesce was riding a bicycle southbound across the highway from a local shopping center, Monroe police spokeswoman Debbie Willis said Thursday.
Pesce had been staying at the nearby Brookside Motel.
Witnesses told police that a pickup had been stopped behind another vehicle along U.S. 2. It’s still not clear whether the light had changed, Willis said.
Witnesses said the truck apparently went around the stopped vehicle and hit Pesce before fleeing east toward Sultan.
That night, Monroe police called in collision specialists with the Washington State Patrol to assist with the case, she said.
Investigators believe two other drivers also struck Pesce as they headed through the intersection. Those drivers stopped and stayed at the scene.
Pesce’s family knows one of those drivers. She was devastated by what happened, Paz said. They are grieving together.
After the crash, Monroe detectives went through the neighborhood looking for any surveillance video that may have recorded what happened, Willis said. They found only one clip, from a camera outside Grocery Outlet on U.S. 2 and Main Street.
The dark, grainy video shows the hit-and-run truck for about a half-second as it approaches the intersection.
Police believe it is a large, white Ford F-series pickup from the late 1980s or early 1990s. It may have a horizontal dark blue or green stripe. Police also have shared pictures of a similar vehicle in hopes of generating tips.
Calls have been coming in, Willis said. Detectives also talked to witnesses who were driving, walking and working in the area at the time.
“We have checked out a few vehicles, but so far we do not believe that we have found the vehicle,” she said Thursday.
For the past few months, Pesce also had volunteered at the Take The Next Step community resource center in Monroe, said Raylin Lucey, coordinator of the “Kidz Club” there.
Pesce was kind and loving to the children, and generous of heart, Lucey said.
“She was so willing to give of her time and her energy to these kids even though she herself did not have a home of her own,” Lucey said. “I will always remember Debbrah, and I pray that I will meet more kind people like her.”
Pesce first became involved with the organization attending community dinners and taking life-skills classes, board president Donna Olson said.
Her volunteer work gave Pesce a sense of purpose, Olson said. It showed her how much she could accomplish.
“The little girls (in Kidz Club) cared about her, too,” Olson said. “Debbrah was an inspiration to us. Her life held so many difficult challenges, and yet she was eager to give to others.”
Brookside Motel manager Christopher Johnson met Pesce when she started renting a room at the motel, he said Thursday. She stayed there the final two weeks of her life.
She was trying to get back on her feet, he said. She was helpful and charitable.
“She was always giving,” he said.
Pesce had been posting fliers looking for a job as a house cleaner, Johnson said. She also helped him out by cleaning and painting at the motel.
“It’s a huge loss,” he said. “She wanted to help, and there aren’t many people who do that.”
On Thursday, a memorial for Pesce remained at the corner of U.S. 2 and Main Street with flowers, chocolate, fruit and a jar of Red Vines.
There also was a drawing of an angel weeping over a tombstone, and a message mourning the death of “one of God’s most caring souls.”
Rikki King: 425-339-3449; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anyone with information about the crash or the truck should call police at 360-794-6300. Anonymous tips also can be left at 360-863-4600.
A time of remembrance is planned for Debbrah Pesce at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Monroe Covenant Church along South Sams Street.