Friday will mark eight weeks since a local family lost their 13-year-old son — "Petaluma's Angel" — in a , and the healing is progressing slowly. But Joe and Pam Smith of Petaluma have decided it's time to thank families, businesses, churches and other groups for an emotional outpouring of support.
Trevor Smith, a Kenilworth Junior High student, died June 15 on his way to a boating birthday party at Lake Mendocino. According to the California Highway Patrol, his host's truck ran out of gas on the freeway and, while helping push the vehicle, Trevor fell between the pickup and the boat trailer as the vehicle gained momentum heading downhill.
The Smiths, Petaluma residents for the past 13 years who have deep Novato ties as well, said the condolences were immediate.
"We had no less than 20 or 30 people in the house every night, showing their love," said Joe Smith, a teacher in Novato public schools for 19 years. "... People would say, 'What can I do to help?' We were at a point where we didn't even know what they could do, but they just started doing things."
"It's been overwhelming," said Pam Smith, owner of the salon on Novato's Grant Avenue. Of Petaluma's outstretched arms of support, she said, "I always knew it was awesome, but I've always been on the other side of things, trying to help in situations where a family went through something like this. I knew the generosity was awesome, but this has just been ... beyond."
The Smiths, including Trevor's older brothers Dylan and Tyler, have received cards, gifts, meals and other in-kind donations since the accident. Friends and neighbors gave the Smiths' yard a makeover, resulting in a park-like oasis. Many businesses, law enforcement agencies and other groups have "gone above and beyond" or have donated goods and services to several special events. There are too many to thank by name ... "We'd worry that we'd leave somebody off the list," Joe said.
Pam said Trevor's involvement in so many things — baseball, wrestling, acting, church, school — resulted in a wide swath of sympathy and love.
"Those groups have been acting together because of Trevor's loss, and I think lots of people have met for the first time at some of these events," she said. "That's been nice to see. We've seen how the tragedy has affected so many people. Even though it's been a horrible nightmare for us, the outpouring of positive feelings has been amazing. It's come from our very closest friends and family to people we don't even know."
Through all the tears, smiles started to appear when something miraculous appeared in the sky above the Smiths' neighborhood on June 16. Nolan Gasser was walking with his family when they all noticed a cloud formation shaped like a cross or a T. Pam says she has no doubt what it meant.
"A T for Trevor or a cross ... either way, it was him," she said.
That photo is now poster-sized inside the family's home.
Joe's heart was warmed again one morning just a few days after Trevor was killed.
"The doorbell rang and there was a lady there who said, 'You don't know me but I signed up to bring food and I just want to give you a hug,'" he said.
Many people from Novato have contacted the family as well; Pam grew up in Novato and works there, and Joe has taught special education at several elementary schools there. The family lived in the Parkhaven neighborhood for several years before moving to Petaluma.
The community tributes started just hours after the news of Trevor's death, fueled by social media. Kids from St. James Catholic Church, the Smiths' parish, held a candlelight vigil at 9 p.m. that night. In addition to another vigil service June 19 at St. James, a funeral mass was held at the church June 20 and was so packed that people stood outside and looked and listened in through open windows.
The gatherings continued. An outdoor screening of "Grease," Trevor's favorite movie, was held at Petaluma's Eagle Park as a memorial fundraiser on June 25. A lemonade stand and bake sales were held in Trevor's name.
The Fabulous Women of Petaluma, a nonprofit that supports charitable causes, has organized the Smith Family Octoberfest on Oct. 20 at the Petaluma Valley Athletic Club. Organizers are seeking donated items for a raffle, and all money raised at the event will go toward a memorial scholarship fund to be set up in Trevor's name. (See the attached flier for more information).
"October is the month of Trevor's birthday, and this will be a very nice tribute," said Krista Gawronski of the Fabulous Women of Petaluma. "Pam hasn't always been able to participate in the things we've done in the past, but she has always been keyed in and tried to contribute. She has that loving spirit and we've considered her part of our group. Our hearts go out to them. They are just a loving family. We hope this will provide some healing."
For those who would like to contribute, an account has been set up in Trevor's name at Exchange Bank (account No. 1190027530). Checks can be mailed to the bank at Parkway Plaza, 701 Sonoma Mountain Parkway, Petaluma CA 94954.