Remembering her magnetic spirit, laughter and her love of books, Mallory Rae Dies’ friends and family gathered Monday afternoon to remember her, overlooking the ocean and beach they said she loved so much.
The 27-year-old Santa Barbara woman died last Wednesday when she was struck by an alleged DUI driver while crossing the 500 block of Anacapa Street in Santa Barbara. She suffered major head injuries and was in critical condition, and was taken off life support five days later.
The driver, Raymond Morua, is facing charges of murder, gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, and leaving the scene of an accident that resulted in death.
Hundreds of people packed into Shoreline Park on Monday, with some seated in chairs but even more spread across the grass, sitting on blankets and listening to the speakers. A pastel winter sky stretched over the park as people took the microphone to share about Dies, known for her laughter, her love of books and crosswords, and her charismatic personality.
Shades of yellow were everywhere, as many people wore flowers in their hair or bands around their arms in Dies’ favorite color.
Matt Dies, Mallory’s father, was the first to speak on Monday night, and painted a more complete picture of Mallory’s life for the people who may have just known her for several years.
Growing up with two brothers, Matthew and Michael, and many other boys in her neighborhood as a young girl, “this may explain why she gained so many big brothers.”
He described a rambunctious toddler, tossing toys out of her crib and speaking to her parents early.
Mallory had loved learning from an early age, he said.
On her second day of kindergarten, she returned home angry, telling her parents, “They haven’t even taught me how to read yet,” Dies recalled.
She grew up in Corona, and went to high school at Santiago High School, where she was a cheerleader and an overachieving student, taking AP classes and dreaming about going to UC Santa Barbara.
Dies recalled how ecstatic his daughter was to get her acceptance letter to the school, where she joined the Alpha Delta Pi sorority and double majored in history, and law and society.
“After graduating, she never wanted to leave Santa Barbara,” he said.
She worked in the city as a bartender, living in a house on Haley Street full of friends, an “ever-changing cast of effervescent young people,” he said.
Those people showed up in a big way when she was in the hospital, and “I never knew until this tragedy how big that love is,” he said.
After her death, Mallory’s family donated her organs, and as a result, five people’s lives were saved, he said, including a 28-year-old father of two.
“If you haven’t checked that box on your license, do it,” he told the crowd.
Dies also spoke about the “preventable plague” of drunken driving, and said that even if someone is below .08 blood alcohol level — the legal limit — they should not choose to drive.
“I’m not talking about .08; I’m talking about zero,” he said. “Whatever it takes, we’ve got to give meaning to my little baby’s life being lost.”
Dies thanked the team at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, from the doctors and surgeons who operated on his daughter, to the nurses who cared for her, even to the night security guard who talked to Dies about his own 26-year-old daughter.
The waiting room at Cottage Hospital became ground zero for what he called “Camp Dies,” as friends of Mallory and family filtered in and out to wait and comfort Matt and his wife, Raeona.
That’s where he met Mallory’s “Santa Barbara family,” he said, and that people he’d never met hugged him on the streets and cried with him in the waiting room.
When they asked, “How can we help?” Dies responded by saying, “Go home and hug your children. You don’t know how long you’ll get,” he recalled to the crowd.
Funny stories about Dies were shared by friends, recalling a young woman full of life.
Saba Jahavery, one of Dies’ closest friends, also spoke, and kept the community up to date with his updates on Dies’ Caring Bridge website.
He recalled waking up screaming at 1:30 a.m. the night Dies was struck, and knew immediately something was wrong. Several minutes later, he received a text from a friend saying Dies had been hit by a drunken driver.
He drove up from his home in Los Angeles to sit with Dies for the next five days, and as he blogged about her situation, he saw outreach from the across the country and world.
Javahery said the experience has changed him personally and even drawn him closer to God, which he’d been opposed to before.
He also used his time at the microphone to urge others not to drive under the influence.
“It’s about saving others, even though we’ve lost one,” he said.
— Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.