Kenmore community comes together to remember Sarah Paulson

It was Sarah Paulson's big smile and the contagious love of life her family and friends that was remembered the most during a candlelight vigil Monday night.

Around 300 people stood in a circle with lit candles, praying and embracing each other at Rhododendron Park in Kenmore. There was a moment of silence then an invitation for attendees to come to the center of the circle and say something about Paulson.

"She always had a huge smile on her face and gave everyone lots of hugs," said Mary-Alyce Burleigh, a friend and former Kirkland mayor. "She had the greatest spirit of anyone I've ever known."

Paulson was walking in the crosswalk on Juanita Drive Northeast and NE 160 St. in Kenmore Friday morning when she was hit by a car driven by a 53-year-old Kirkland man. The Kenmore resident passed away from her injuries at Harborview Hospital later that day.

Detectives said they do not believe alcohol or drugs are a factor. The man from Kirkland was arrested and booked into the King County Jail for Felony Hit and Run.

"Sarah was blessed with so many lovely family and friends, just as we were blessed with a young life full of enthusiasm, love and kindness,"said Sarah Frostad Hudkins, a family friend. "I know she was looking down on us with a huge smile and wrapping her arms around each of us with a big hug."

Paulson was in her 20s and graduated from Ingelmoor High School in 2011. She was enrolled in the Occupational and Life Skills program at Bellevue College, which is an innovative 90-credit associate degree program. It gives adults with cognitive disabilities the opportunity to acquire an accredited college degree.

"Sarah was a leader among the students, everyone just loved her," said Marci Muhlestein, program director. "She always was a positive person. Her favorite thing to say was 'no excuses;' she was determined to be successful no matter what."

Paulson was in her third year at the college and had one year left. She was on her way to graduating with honors and wanted to be a costume designer or attendant for Broadway stars.

"She had such an impact here that we planned to have a memorial for her this Thursday and unfortunately had to turn some people away because it was so full," Muhlestein said.

At the memorial, students will pick a characteristic of Paulson they appreciated the most and write it on a piece of paper to create a chain.

"Sarah was an amazing, bright spirit," said Larry Morris, family friend. "Although you could see in her face that life wasn't easy, she never complained. She always made everyone around her feel good."

In addition to school, Paulson was involved in many extracurricular activities including the Special Olympics and the Northshore Wranglers.

"If you just look around here tonight you see all different kinds of people here," Burleigh said. "She was always on the move, involved in so many things and had so many different kinds of friends."

Janet Jones knew her since Paulson was five years old.

"She was always so full of love," Jones said. "She was so energetic and happy. Sarah made everyone around her feel good."

She and Samantha Bush were friends and attended Ingelmoor together.

"We had lunch together at least every Friday of my senior year," Bush said. "I picture her now, excitedly waving at me in the halls and running up to hug me between classes. She made everything fun. She was real bright spot in my day, every day."

Paulson's friend Alan Bridgeford played "Amazing Grace" and "Lean on Me" on his accordion while the crowd sang along.

"I loved Sarah," Bridgeford said. "She stayed with me at Children's Hospital and was a great friend."

A memorial for Paulson appeared over the weekend on the northeast corner of the intersection. Dozens of flowers surround a photo of Paulson.


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