IRVINE — On Friday afternoon about 200 people gathered at UC Irvine to celebrate the life of Jessica Hoke. The 23-year-old UCI alumna died Dec. 3, three days after car crash debris hit her while she walked to work at South Coast Plaza.
Family, friends and fellow students shared their stories of Hoke, a San Diego native who was known for her vivacious charm, sense of humor and creativity. Held at the Gateway Plaza, Aldrich Park served as a serene backdrop to the memorial service while Hoke's 5-year-old cousin, clad in a green floral dress, handed out sunflowers to everyone present.
Hoke, who had a bachelor's degree in literary journalism, grew up with the arts, attending the School of Creative and Performing Arts to study dance. Her uncle, David Hoke, marveled at the former ballerina's ability to do pointe at a young age.
While many were dressed in black, others were clad in hip attire, similar to the clothes Hoke, who worked at the trendy H&M store, might have donned. KUCI music played in the background, a nod to the late DJ whose show "The Exposure" played every Friday afternoon.
"I know for sure she would definitely want us to not be sad or glum," said David Hoke. "This gathering and how we put it together. I know it's kind of how Jessie would have liked it. We have a DJ; we have a few of her favorite foods."
The mood may have been somber, but it was not sad. Guests hugged each other with tears and smiles. Her uncle made jokes, comparing his job as the memorial's moderator to a bad comedy night or being a cruise director. Everyone laughed, and it seemed fitting because, as her family said, she loved to laugh.
"We need to make sure to honor Jessica by smiling, rocking our own personal style and always planning for our next big adventures because that's what it's all about," said Gary Hoke, her father.
Gary Hoke thanked One Legacy, an organ donor network that helped facilitate the donation of his daughter's organs to patients in need of a transplant.
There was a common thread in what everyone spoke about: the ability of Hoke to form an instant bond with people and leave an indelible imprint on their lives.
Each person spoke of a larger-than-life laugh, a wit that involved stringing words together in a sassy drawl that made people fall in love with her, and a passion for music that went beyond the confines of the KUCI studio.
A roommate and best friend, Ryan Davis, spoke of sharing their lives and secrets.
"When I told her I was gay, she said, 'I'm proud of you. I mean I knew that already, but I'm proud you know now'," Davis said.
Her boyfriend, Damon Murray, said he had talked to her a day before the accident on Google chat. He had lost his phone and that was their way of communicating. Shortly afterward, he realized Google saved the chat and he read it.
"Sometimes you lose somebody, and you want to say something nice and you kind of have to dig for it, but everything everyone said was in that conversation," Murray said.
In the conversation she talked about how much she loved her parents, he said, and how excited she was about a new writing prospect and looking forward to the future.
"I think I would be remiss if I didn't tell everybody that if you didn't take one thing from this, it's don't wait," he said. "She had all the talent in the world, and she didn't really get the chance to do everything she wanted to do. Let's not make that a repeat offense."
In lieu of flowers, the Hoke family is asking for donations to be made in her name to KUCI, UCI's public radio station. They can be addressed to Kevin Stockdale at KUCI Radio, PO Box 4362 Irvine, CA 92616.