Hope Sega was to turn 19 today. But instead of celebrating her birthday, her family is gathering to remember the recent Elsie Allen High School graduate, known as a gregarious and strong-willed woman.
Sega died Sunday after falling unconscious, having ingested drugs, and could not be revived. The medical examiner has not yet determined how she died.
Sega was going through a time of experimentation that her family hoped she would outgrow, said her mother, Mary Sega of Santa Rosa.
The talkative teen was incredibly social and upbeat, known for making an extra effort to bring shy people into the fold, her mother said. Sega's ease with befriending people is a story her family has heard repeated from many friends who have contacted the family following her death.
"It is soothing to our soul that our daughter cared so much about people," Mary Sega said. "She impacted our lives too. She just got off track, and took a path that wasn't her calling."
In addition to her mother, Sega is survived by her father Hama Sega, brother Tama Samoa Sega and a close, extended Samoa Polynesian family in Sonoma County, Alaska, Oklahoma, Hawaii, Samoa and Texas.
Sega attended Bellevue Elementary School, Lawrence Cook Middle School and studied for three years at Rancho Cotate High School before graduating from Elsie Allen in 2012.
At Elsie Allen, she was a member of the photography and Food for Thought clubs and the girls golf team, principal Mary Gail Stablein said. She was pictured in her senior yearbook working on a project for a psychology class and performing in a drama class production of "The Miracle Worker."
"We have lost a vibrant, enthusiastic, and compassionate Lobo and she will be greatly missed," Stablein said. "Our prayers go out to her family."
She played in a football league until she injured her knee and competed in shot put in track.
Sega adored her older brother, Tama, who also played football. She learned traditional hula dancing from an aunt, another skill at which she quickly excelled, Mary Sega said.
"Her field of friends was just vast; she knew all kids from all the high schools," said her aunt, Margie Johnson of Santa Rosa.
After graduating in the spring, Sega worked various jobs, most recently at Oliver's Market on Stony Point Road, where she made fast friends.
Sega could often be found baking cookies and cupcakes or corralling people for parties, her family said.
"She was wanting to be an events coordinator; she loved putting things together, making all the arrangements, getting things going," Mary Sega said. "But because of the drugs and alcohol, that all fell through the cracks."
On Sunday, Sega was with her boyfriend and a friend at a homeless camp in a field off Dutton Avenue near West Robles Avenue when they reported she was unresponsive, Sonoma County Coroner's Sgt. Greg Stashyn said. Paramedics tried to revive her. She was pronounced dead at 2:20 p.m.
Authorities found evidence that people in the area had been "huffing." Huffing involves inhaling chemicals, often from a pressurized can, essentially starving the brain of oxygen.
Coroner officials are still investigating how Sega died and are waiting for additional tests, including toxicology, to be completed, which could take weeks.
A memorial will be held at 11 a.m. today at Eggen &amp; Lance Chapel, 1540 Mendocino Ave. in Santa Rosa. A reception will follow at Uncle Suki's place, "Da Barn," 3850 Llano Road, Santa Rosa.