Community celebrates Maruta Gardner Day, mural unveiled at MBHS
by DAVE SCHWAB
Published - 11/19/17 - 08:41 AM | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Maruta's husband Willie receives a proclamation honoring his late wife from Dawn Reilly of Beautiful MB. / PHOTO BY DAVE SCHWAB
Maruta's husband Willie receives a proclamation honoring his late wife from Dawn Reilly of Beautiful MB. / PHOTO BY DAVE SCHWAB
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Maruta Gardner, killed by an intoxicated driver while painting out graffiti in Mission Beach two years ago, was honored for her volunteerism on Nov. 3 with a day named in her honor, which included several “Day of Service” events.

Organizations and neighbors in Mission and Pacific beaches came together to memorialize Gardner, as well as dedicate a mural designed by Israel (Ezra) Cervantes, painted by him along with the aid of the Mission Bay High Mural Club.

Participating community organizations included the Mission and Pacific Beach town councils, OMBAC, Mission Beach Women's Club, BeautifulPB, BeautifulMB, PB Street Guardians, PB Library, Friends of PB Library, Mission Bay High, Olive Cafe & Bakery and ANOC World Beach Games 2019. 

There were refreshments for guests, and brief presentations by organizers, before the formal unveiling of the Maruta mural on a building wall around the corner from the MBHS gym.

“Such a beautiful mural is going to open up a conversation for future generations,” noted Dawn Reilly of Beautiful MB Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to Mission Beach's improvement and enhancement.

“It's about how one person can make a difference, that what you do matters.”

It was Reilly who first suggested a service day would be an appropriate tribute for a community hero and volunteer.

“Along the way, we heard wonderful stories about Maruta Gardner,” Reilly said. “It's just lovely to see how one person, who was so dedicated, could cause so many ripples, and those ripples became ripples of their own. It's just lovely to see that community can be built around that.”

A tearful Sarah Mattinson from Olive Cafe, which catered the special recognition, talked about Gardner's legacy characterizing being under her spell as being “Marutaized.” 

“It may not be in the dictionary, but people who knew her (Gardner) know exactly what it (Marutaized) means,” Mattinson said. “She had a way of getting you excited about any kind of project, especially community service projects. Maruta wouldn't let anyone sit on the sidelines. Before you knew it, you found yourself chairing an event, wondering, how did that happen?”

Community service projects done on Gardner's memorial day included a cleanup around the Rose Creek and Crown Point Preserve areas, weeding and cleanup along the sidewalks, streets, and alleys in the business districts around Pacific and Mission beaches, utility box painting and sealing along Mission Boulevard, anti-graffiti cleaning around the community (something very important to Gardner), and conversation and companionship at a local senior center.

Jonathan Domingo Garcia, 26, the drunken/drugged driver who killed activist Gardner in Mission Beach after she painted over graffiti, was sentenced to 11 years in prison in front of a packed courtroom. In handing down the sentence, San Diego Superior Court Judge Kathleen Lewis turned down his attorney’s request for probation.

Judge Lewis said she believed Garcia was “a danger to others,” and mentioned his first hit-and-run accident that occurred some three weeks before he killed Gardner. “You had a wake up call that you didn’t answer,” said Lewis. “I don’t doubt you have remorse now.”

Gardner, a retired teacher and former principal at Mission Bay High School, was struck at 5:45 p.m. by Garcia, who drove away without stopping. Garcia pleaded guilty to gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and admitted leaving the scene of an accident.

Lynette Blakney, a 35-year Gardner friend, told Garcia when he was sentenced to learn from his mistakes and “make your life a memorial” to Gardner. Lewis ordered Garcia to pay $1,349 in restitution and fined him $3,524. She gave him credit for serving 400 days in jail. 

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