MARYSVILLE — Two years ago on Thanksgiving, Gia Soriano surprised her parents with a note. Handwritten in tidy printing, with the sort of smiley face used in texting, it was a sweet 12-year-old’s expression of gratitude.
“I am writing this to you to tell you how thankful I am. I know I don’t always act like I am, but I am,” the Marysville girl wrote on Nov. 22, 2012. She thanked her parents for her home, for food and friends. It ends: “You have raised me good. So thank you. I love you! Happy Thanksgiving!”
What was then an unexpected gesture is now an irreplaceable gift. The note is a lasting remembrance, in Gia’s words, of a girl senselessly taken from her parents, Bryan and Susan Soriano, her 10-year-old brother, Anthony, and all who loved her.
Gia Christine Soriano, 14, died Oct. 26 at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett from injuries suffered in the Oct. 24 shooting at Marysville Pilchuck High School.
In an interview Monday, her mother had a single word for the acts of Jaylen Fryberg, 15, whose gunfire also claimed the lives of 14-year-olds Zoe Galasso and Shaylee Chuckulnaskit and 15-year-old Andrew Fryberg, and injured Nate Hatch, 15. The shooter took his own life.
“Unimaginable,” Susan Soriano said.
Today, the Soriano family is sharing their gratitude. Gia’s family wants to acknowledge the outpouring of love, concern and generosity they have experienced since the tragedy.
“Our hearts are heavy with sadness and grief, but we would like to thank everyone who has helped us through this tragic loss of our beautiful Gia,” the family said in a written statement shared Monday by Susan Soriano and her sister-in-law, Gia’s aunt, Gay Soriano. They wanted their message shared on Thanksgiving.
“Gia was an extraordinary young lady, and through her gorgeous smile and her kind words, she radiated sunshine in everyone’s eyes. She brought love and happiness to so many lives,” the statement said.
Bryan Soriano, a member of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, is the youngest of six children of Everett’s John and Elaine Soriano. He and his wife are Everett High School graduates with deep roots in the city. Along with her paternal grandparents, Gia is survived by her grandfather, Jerry Boeder, and a large extended family.
“She was my favorite cousin,” said 11-year-old Gabby Soriano, Gay Soriano’s daughter. A sixth-grader at North Middle School in Everett, Gabby spoke at Gia’s memorial service Nov. 15 at Everett’s Immaculate Conception Church. “She was my cousin, my best friend and my hero,” Gabby said. “I always looked up to her.”
At the service, Gabby remembered sleepovers, shopping and trips with Gia to the ocean and Great Wolf Lodge. “We got to do a lot of special things together, like skip school and go to the Justin Bieber concert,” Gabby said.
“Gia taught her a lot of things about growing up. She was kind and patient,” Gay Soriano said. Anthony Soriano also spoke at the service, calling Gia “a great sister to me.”
“She had a way with kids. It was a calling,” Susan Soriano said. Her daughter wasn’t shy, but was so soft-spoken that people were drawn to her and listened closely.
Gia grew up in Marysville, where she attended Marshall Elementary School and Marysville Middle School before starting at Marysville Pilchuck this year.
An animal lover, as a child Gia set up a make-believe veterinary clinic. She dreamed of being a veterinarian. Her family had bunnies. And Gia used to ride horses at the Equine Rescue facility near her Marysville home.
She had an artistic flair. Her mother marveled at her knack for wrapping gifts, and her willingness to write the family’s Christmas cards. Growing up, she played basketball and violin. As a little girl, Gia’s curly hair reminded her mom of Shirley Temple. As a teen, Gia tamed her ringlets into sleek styles.
Her favorite color was purple. Cousin Gabby liked the purple decor of Gia’s room. On Monday, Susan Soriano shared a purple wristband printed with “GIA God’s Incredible Angel.”
Gay Soriano organized the service at Immaculate Conception, where Gia was baptized as a baby by Deacon Matt Zuanich. More than 1,000 mourners filled the church and the gym of Immaculate Conception &Our Lady of Perpetual Help School to celebrate Gia’s life. In the gym, the service and slide show of Gia’s life were shown on a screen, with the help of technician Mike Schafer. The Rev. Bryan Hersey, pastor of the Roman Catholic parish, officiated, along with Zuanich and Deacon Dennis Kelly. A reception followed the service.
Along with expressing thanks to the church, the family’s statement acknowledged the Marysville Getchell TV production program, Starbucks and Olive Garden in Everett, Costco, McDonald’s in Marysville, Jersey Mike’s Subs at Smokey Point, Fred Meyer, Nordstrom at Alderwood, Pacific Copy &Printing, Solie Funeral Home, Gary Sundseth, and “all our brothers and sisters at the ILWU Local 32 and Local 52.”
Susan Soriano felt the community’s love at Gia’s memorial. “It just hit home, how much they care,” she said. Her family also appreciated the compassion of the Providence hospital staff.
The family plans to have a bench installed in Gia’s honor at Legion Memorial Park, within sight of her Soriano grandparents’ home. Elaine Soriano also has notes from her granddaughter. One Thanksgiving card, sent several years ago, says: “Sorry I couldn’t be here this night, so I made you all this pumpkin cake in honor of my love and appreciation.” Gia’s mother remembers helping her make that cake.
Gia didn’t have one best friend, she had many. Her mother and aunt said she made each one feel like a best friend.
“Everybody loved her,” Gay Soriano said. “She had a way about her that touched people.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.