Friends, family remember a cheerful, friendly woman

Kelly Morehouse had aspirations to become a teacher, like her parents.

She earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Cal State Long Beach in May and started talking with Circle View first-grade teacher Heather Pouelsen. She was planning on student-teaching with Pouelsen in the fall, said Karen Morehouse, Kelly’s mother, who has been teaching English at Huntington Beach High School for 38 years.

Bill Morehouse, her father, who retired in 2012 after 37 years at Huntington Beach High, said his daughter had an inkling of what she wanted to do when she was still in high school, but he remembers when the idea really began to crystallize for her.

“All of a sudden a light came on and that’s what every parent waits for,” he recalled. “They wait for that light to turn on that says, ‘This is what I want to do now.’ That’s what was happening to her and her flame was coming on.”

But those hopes for the future ended when Kelly Morehouse was killed in a traffic accident in Huntington Beach on Saturday.

The 25-year-old Huntington Beach native died after the motorcycle she was riding with her boyfriend, Taylor Rolfson, collided with a sedan at Goldenwest Street and Rio Vista Drive. The driver of the sedan,

Tadashi Mizutani, of Huntington Beach, was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence causing injury. He posted bail of $100,000 Sunday morning, a jail official said.

No charges had been filed against him as of Tuesday, Huntington Beach Lt. Mitch O’Brien said.

Rolfson and Morehouse were reportedly heading south on Goldenwest Street while Mizutani was traveling north. Mizutani was not injured.

Morehouse was taken to UCI Medical Center, where she later died. Rolfson, 24, was transported to a local hospital. He remains hospitalized with broken legs, friend Chanel Fugnetti said.

Bill Morehouse became visibly frustrated when he talked about discovering that the 68-year-old driver may have been impaired when he was behind the wheel that night.

“If you want to drink and do your thing, stay home and do it,” he said. “But don’t be going behind the wheel of a car, because you change everybody’s life. And what happened with this death didn’t just change us, it’s changed the world and all the people out here.”

Her parents have started a scholarship in memory of their daughter. The Kelly Blue Morehouse Memorial Scholarship will help students who want to pursue a career in education, Karen Morehouse said. It will be offered through the Huntington Beach High School Education Foundation.

“It will reach out to someone who can have a zest for education and for life and needs that financial support,” she said.

Though Kelly Morehouse earned her degree from Long Beach State in May, she opted not to participate in the graduation ceremony so that her brother, Billy, would be in the spotlight when he graduates from Huntington Beach in June, Karen Morehouse said.

Instead, Kelly wanted to finish student teaching in the fall and attend graduation in spring 2014, when her mother would be retiring.

“Give Billy his time to shine this year, and next year you’ll be retiring after 39 years at Huntington,” said Karen Morehouse, recollecting what Kelly told her. “We’ll celebrate my graduation and your retirement.”

The Morehouses sat at the patio in front of the Sugar Shack with owners Michele and Timmy Turner and reminisced about Kelly. Pictures of her were placed outside, with vases of flowers around them. .

Morehouse had worked at the downtown eatery for nine years and was known for being their best server, according to the Turners.

“She liked all types of people, from younger kids to the older people. She related to all of them,” Michele Turner said. “When they come in, she made them feel like they were the only ones in the room. And she did that with every single customer. Even if they didn’t like her and they were harsh, she made sure they liked her at the very end.”

Rick “Rockin’ Fig” Fignetti, his daughter, Fugnetti, and friend Samantha Patsos couldn’t hold back their tears as they talked about the weekend death of their close friend.

A collage made by Fignetti honoring the life of Morehouse sits in front of his store, Rockin Fig Surf Shop, on Main Street. Pictures of Morehouse and friends make up the poster, along with the words “R.I.P. Kelly; Luv U Miss U” on top.

“She was an outgoing figure that was fun to be around,” Fignetti said. “Her and my daughter were friends since they were little kids. I’ve seen her through bad times when they’ve been in trouble. There were times where I was looking for them, driving [in downtown Huntington Beach] past 12 o’clock at night in my truck looking for them.”

The Huntington Beach surf legend considered Morehouse to be part of his family, welcoming her at gatherings and functions, he said.

Chanel Fugnetti, 24, and Patsos, 25, had known Morehouse for 13 years. They attended Huntington Beach High School together.

Patsos said teens at the high school wore the color blue Monday in memory of Morehouse. Blue is her middle name and the nickname her friends called her.

“She would bring a smile to anyone’s face,” Patsos said. “She was always cracking jokes and [was] the life of the party.”

Fugnetti said Rolfson had told Morehouse on Saturday night that they would be engaged by the end of the summer, and the couple were on the way to meeting Fugnetti and friends to celebrate.

“We’ve been inseparable for the last seven years,” Fugnetti said. “A part of me died. I can’t imagine life without her.”

Fignetti reminisced about the times he would visit Morehouse at her work at the Sugar Shack, just down the block from his shop.

Co-worker and longtime friend Eric Ramsey, 25, said she was hard-working and cheerful.

“She just had the best smile on her and was always in a good mood,” he said. “She would stand up for herself. She was a strong girl and really outgoing. It’s all a horrible thing.”