Beaches clean up their act in memory of community activist
Published - 10/17/17 - 10:11 AM | 2321 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Maruta Gardner
Maruta Gardner
Maruta Gardner was so highly regarded in the beach communities that several local groups have teamed up to turn their annual beach cleanup day in November into a tribute to the late educator, who was killed two years ago by a drunk driver while painting out graffiti on the Mission Beach jetty.

“From a simple beach cleanup, it has now blossomed into a multi-project community-service day,” said Dawn Reilly, project administrator for Beautiful MB, a nonprofit dedicated to community improvement and enhancement.

“Maruta Gardner touched countless lives in our beach communities, as a friend, an educator, an activist, and through decades of selfless community service,”Reilly said. “She is responsible for encouraging many of us to take active roles in various clubs and boards.”

Reilly added, “Maruta was such a remarkable lady that the San Diego City Council declared Nov. 3 as ‘Maruta Gardner Day.’ We will always remember her, but we can best honor her spirit on that day by following her example: performing community service, and in doing so inspire others to serve in the future, and strengthen our community bonds. I am hoping together we can create a true day of service as part of her legacy.”

Gardner's passion was community service, which anyone who'd seen her painting out graffiti along the boardwalk and elsewhere in Mission Beach can attest to.

Reilly said there are five projects volunteers can choose from in participating in Maruta Gardner Day on Friday, Nov. 3:


• Graffiti cleanup in Mission and Pacific beaches;

• Community cleanup in Pacific Beach;

• Rose Creek and Crown Point Preserve borders cleanup;

• Outreach at senior centers to offer companionship and various tasks;

• Painting beach-themed art on utility boxes along Mission Boulevard in Mission Beach (artists still needed).

“We are also seeking funding for a tribute mural at Mission Bay High School,” said Reilly. “Interested parities are urged to contact Beautiful Mission Beach ASAP.”

Organizations participating in Maruta Gardner Day include Mission Beach Town Council, OMBAC, Mission Beach Women’s Club, Pacific Beach Town Council, PB Street Guardians, Pacific Beach Library, Friends of PB Library, Beautiful PB, Mission Bay High School, MBHS Muralist Club, The Patio Restaurant Group and ANOC World Beach Games 2019.

Of Gardner, Gary Wonacott, president of Mission Beach Town Council, said it's impossible to overlook the crucial role she played as a public servant— or her positive influence on others.

“There is a term of endearment, ‘Marutarized,’ which means that you are doing something, usually related to community service, that you had no intention of doing, and don’t quite know how you ended up doing it — but you know that Maruta had something to do with making it happen," said Wonacott. "Many people in the Mission Beach Women’s Club and the Mission Beach Town Council were Marutarized. I was Marutarized, which is how I ended up serving on the Mission Beach Town Council.”

Wonacott added, “There were countless days and evenings when we would see her on her tricycle painting out the graffiti.”

Reilly hopes Maruta Gardner Day will not be a one-time observance.

“I certainly hope it gets its own legs, that community groups make it happen year after year, in one fashion or another,” Reilly said.

Get updated event details, sign up to volunteer or make a donation at

Jonathan Domingo Garcia, 24, the drunk driver who killed Gardner, 68, in Mission Beach in February 2015 was sentenced to 11 years in prison. San Diego Superior Court Judge Kathleen Lewis also ordered Garcia to pay $1,349 in restitution and fined him $3,524. She gave him credit for serving 400 days in jail.

Gardner, a retired teacher and principal at Mission Bay High School, was struck at 5:45 p.m. by Garcia, who drove away without stopping from the scene in the 600 block of San Diego Place. Judge Lewis said she believed Garcia was “a danger to others,” mentioning his first hit-and run accident that occurred that January, some three weeks before he killed Gardner. Garcia pleaded guilty to gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and admitted leaving the scene of an accident.

Maruta Gardner Day

When: Friday, Nov. 3

Where: Pacific and Mission beaches.


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