A candelight vigil Friday evening drew about 150 people to remember Soledad Ochoa Hernandez, 22, of Fresno, who was killed in a freak crash on Highway 99 this week.
People sang songs, prayed, celebrated her memory and spoke of the things they loved about Hernandez at the vigil, which was held at St. Mary Queen of Apostles Church, west of Highway 99, in Fresno.
Several people described Hernandez as an amazing, positive woman with a bright future ahead of her, and as someone who had the greatest outlook on life.
Hernandez died on New Year's night when an SUV that she and her fiancé were riding in hit a horse that had wandered onto the highway.
She was a senior double-majoring in history and Chicano-Latin American studies at Fresno State and also worked in the afterschool program at Jackson Elementary School. Several of her co-workers attended the vigil, including Jose Sandoval, 31, who worked with Hernandez for about two years. Sandoval said that she was a rising star with limitless potential, and that her love and dedication for her job was amazing.
Friends of Hernandez said that she overcame a lot of hardships throughout her life but still always managed to keep a smile on her face. When Hernandez was younger she lost her mom to cancer, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer herself about a year ago but had beaten it, they said.
Kassie Chittaphong, 22, who knew Hernandez since middle school, said her friend always knew how to see the good in everything and was a strong person. "She really had great sass," she said.
Stephanie Torralva, 20, who went to high school with Hernandez, said she always had a positive outlook on life. After she beat the cancer, she started running marathons, traveling and doing a lot of things. Her nickname was "Sol," which is Spanish for "sun," and her name really did match her personality, Torralva said.
William Skuban, a history professor at Fresno State, said Hernandez attended three of his classes in the past two years and was extremely bright. Skuban said Hernandez often came to his office to talk about school and her future, and so hearing the news about her unexpected death saddened him.
A fund to help with Hernandez's funeral expenses has been set up at the Educational Employees Credit Union by Central Unified teachers: SOLEDAD OCHOA HERNANDEZ MEMORIAL FUND, EECU #11913710
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