'She was always laughing'

Friends said Nina Fitzpatrick could light up a room when she walked in.

On Thursday night, those same friends and family paid tribute to the 22-year-old Costa Mesa woman, a senior at the Laguna College of Art + Design, by lining Laguna Canyon Road while holding glowing tea lights.

Fitzpatrick died earlier this week after she was hit by a car while walking in a crosswalk in front of the college's main campus at 2222 Laguna Canyon Road about 8:45 p.m. April 3.

About 200 mourners gathered to hug, share stories and remember the fine arts student, an oil painter whose bubbly personality was contagious, friends said.

Glowing lanyards hung on an easel with the words, "We love you Nina."

"She was always laughing," said Valerie Beneventi, who met Fitzpatrick in 1998. "She loved surfing and the ocean, bicycling and loved to draw."

To show Fitzpatrick's sense of humor, Beneventi played a video on her smart phone of Fitzpatrick modeling a pair of high heels at a garage sale in hopes of securing a buyer.

Friend Gene Wie met Fitzpatrick in elementary school and said when it came to art, she was determined.

"She had a big smile, contagious laughter with a healthy dose of sarcasm," Wie said. "She became [an oil painter] because she wanted to.

"The first time she applied to Orange County [High] School of the Arts [a public charter school for grades seven through 12] they turned her down. She said, 'I need to be better.' She could have taken it to mean she wasn't cut out to do art, but she got into the school."

Fitzpatrick was born in 1991 in France and moved to Irvine at age 6, according to her online biography. She was accepted to OCHA at age 12.

A bulk of her work focused on waves, according to her website.

"My intent is to capture the beauty of the ocean and its ephemeral waves, as well as the many nuances and elements in waves such as the transparency of water, thickness of foam and lighting effects," Fitzpatrick wrote on her website. "This passion that I wish to share comes from surfing and the moments I spent in the ocean feeling the wave's immense power and analyzing its beautiful form and color."

Forty-five minutes into the vigil a handful of mourners broke into song: first the Beach Boys' "Surfer Girl" followed by The Temptations' "My Girl."

"I can't remember a time she wasn't smiling," LCAD game art student Alex Maxwell said. "She would always be smiling, no matter what class she was taking."

An 83-year-old Minnesota woman driving a Honda sedan struck Fitzpatrick, according to Laguna Beach police, who are investigating the collision.

Alcohol or drugs did not play a factor, police said.

Fitzpatrick's work will be on display from May 6 through June 6 at the LCAD art gallery at 225 Forest Ave.

A grassy knoll on the college's main campus will be renamed Nina's Park in honor of Fitzpatrick.

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