In the hours and days before she was killed in an early morning car crash, Joy Weiss was on the phone to friends and family with exciting news: She had just become engaged.
The marriage proposal was among the reasons Weiss, her fiance and several friends were out late Tuesday night in what was also a birthday celebration, friends said.
Loved ones now are planning a different kind of ceremony for the 31-year-old Petaluma woman.
Weiss was driving on Highway 101 with three others in her Toyota pickup when it veered off the road and over an embankment, landing in a ditch near the Sonoma-Marin county line shortly after 2 a.m. Wednesday, the CHP said.
One of the passengers was able to call 911 and directed authorities to the area where the wreckage was found.
Authorities still are investigating the crash, but Weiss' friends and family said she was proudly, outspokenly sober after four years in recovery and do not believe she would have been drinking prior to the accident.
"She had just really got her life together and was really happy," said Breanna Capener, a friend from the Seattle area.
Weiss worked at Safeway in Corte Madera, a grocery representative said.
She was raised in the Bellevue, Wash., area but lived in several different states before settling about nine years ago in Petaluma, where her mother was living at the time, close friend Carolina Lanza, also of Seattle, said.
But she'd recently come north to Seattle to spend time with friends, her father, Rick Weiss, and stepmother, Toni Weiss, in February. They feel blessed, Capener said, to have seen her so recently when they only visited a couple of times a year.
"Her name says it all," Lanza said through tears. "She was just a joy -- a joyful person. She always made you smile. She was the kind of person who you could tell everything to . . . . She was just trustworthy, funny, one of the best people I've known."
They said Weiss met her fiance at a 7-Eleven where he worked near her home in Petaluma, though it took some persuading before she agreed to go out with him.
Her boyfriend, Gaurav "Sandy" Saxena, 31, was in the right front passenger seat at the time of the crash.
The couple had been dating for three or four months when he asked her a few days ago to marry him. She was lining up her bridal party and talking dresses with her sisters when she died, Rick Weiss said.
He said his daughter's health had improved recently because of a new medication. But there was an extended period during which she suffered from asthma exacerbated by bronchial inflammation that landed her repeatedly in emergency rooms, unable to breathe.
Her family was always on guard for calls they feared might convey tragic news, Weiss said, but recently had begun to relax because of her improving condition.
"My daughter was an incredible individual," Weiss said, "and it's just sad for everybody, including the families of the other folks who were in the vehicle."
The passengers included Saxena and Charan Singh, 29, both of Petaluma, who suffered major injuries but were in good condition at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital on Thursday.