Friends, neighbors, family, colleagues, clients, cycling advocates and loved ones gathered near the Shape-Up Fitness Center this afternoon to pay tribute to Sarah Leaf, a club nutritionist who was killed when struck by a truck while bicycling on East Coast Highway last week.
The group — some dressed in workout gear — remembered Leaf as a high-energy, positive woman who brought out the best in people, once inviting a stranger to hang out with her friends because she was too cute to be alone.
“I could always be myself with her,” said Jessica Sharp. “I never once felt insecure or judged by her. She made me want to be better. She was a pure soul. She was simply the best.”
Leaf’s father attended the memorial and spoke to the crowd of about 200 people.
“As a parent, all you want is your kid to grow up happy and healthy,” Bill Leaf said. “As far as the healthy part, give me a break…”
The group laughed as they recalled Leaf’s efforts to create healthy recipes and menus for her hundreds of clients.
Eric Hefner, who was Leaf’s neighbor in Carlsbad, said he once heard a loud whirring noise in the middle of the night.
“It was some big blender,” he said, describing how she tricked him into eating tofu by adding it to a delicious chocolate pudding.
“I’m a hamburger guy,” he said. “She always gave me a raised eybrow. I want you to know that she’s the real deal.”
Shape Up’s owner, Robert Burns, opened the memorial and told of hiring Leaf three years ago. Any doubts he had about her handling the workload, he said, quickly evaporated.
“She definitely had steel in her back,” he said. “She had so much sincerity. Once you got her started, she was off. I watched her touch so many lives. I mean really touch them.”
Brian Kurlan described Leaf as the love of his life.
“She loved life,” he said. “Everything was an adventure for her in life…I would do anything to have an hour, 25 minutes, ten minutes…She was so quirky and funny and unique.”
Bill Leaf described visiting his daughter in July, when she kept him busy, not letting him sleep in but pushing him to get up and get moving.
“When I left, I felt so glad,” he said. “She truly loved life. She loved her friends. She loved her job. She woke up in the morning, happy. I would say a normal day for her was like a busy week for me. A father could not ask for a better daughter than Sarah. I guess I’m lucky.”
After the service, which was held under tents in the Shape Up parking lot, the crowd moved inside the club to share stories and snacks made from Leaf’s favorite healthy recipes. A family funeral in Arizona will take place Sunday.
Leaf died Sept. 14 while bicycling on East Coast Highway and Bayside Drive; read our earlier story here.