COSTA MESA – Like many musical prodigies, she reached a point where it was no longer just about the music.
For Haeyoon Miller, the Julliard-trained violinist who died when a tree crushed her car last week, it was when "everyone else was just another competitor, not just a true friend," her older sister Erika Ahn said at a Costa Mesa memorial service Thursday evening.
Plenty of friends came to mourn the loss of Miller, 29, whose death made people imagine how they could have easily been under that eucalyptus tree. While some tried to lighten the mood in the Harbor Lawn-Mt. Olive Memorial Chapel, the grief from such a sudden loss filled the room.
Videos of a young Miller playing violin streamed throughout the modest hall, and Ahn took the stage soon after the screens went black.
"Haeyoon hated watching videos of herself playing violin," she said beside an open casket, "and I was hoping she'd sit up and say, 'stop that!"
Many of the roughly 100 mourners sobbed, while relatives and close friends in the first few rows remained reserved, often with their heads bowed.
A white ribbon with Korean lettering draped around one of the largest of about 10 bouquets. Miller was born in Seoul and while her mother was in attendance, her father was in Korea Thursday. Her family moved to the U.S. when she was 10.
During her adult life, she developed a love for animals, gymnastics and photography, her friends and coworkers said.
"Only now do some of us realize the impact she has made on some of our lives," said her boyfriend of seven years, George Osorio, 58.
One video showed her feeding and petting animals – deer, tigers, an opossum, wolf, dolphins and a giraffe.
"She loves animals as much as I do, and that's a rarity," said Kelly Sceberras, 29, who taught Miller how to ride horses.
When Sceberras walked into the chapel lobby and saw a photo of Miller riding Lucy, her mare with a red coat, she broke down.
"At least she got to ride," Sceberras said.
A week ago on September 15, Miller was waiting at a red light at Westcliff Drive and Irvine Avenue in Costa Mesa when a 10-ton eucalyptus tree toppled onto her blue Hyundai. She died at the scene from blunt force trauma, the coroner said. Newport Beach officials are still investigating the cause.
On Friday the family will be holding a graveside service at Pacific View Memorial Park in Corona del Mar.