Community mourns tragic loss of Penn Valley mother, child |

Community mourns tragic loss of Penn Valley mother, child

Photo for The Union John Hart
John Hart | The Union

A community congregated at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Grass Valley to grieve collectively over the tragic death of a Penn Valley woman and her daughter.

Cynthia Peterlin, 42, and her daughter, Sophie Peterlin, 12, were killed when a boat piloted by Paul Peterlin, 42, was struck by a watercraft allegedly operated by 53-year-old Jeffrey Sandow of Auburn, according to Lt. Damon Gil, spokesman for the Yuba County Sheriff’s Office.

Sandow was allegedly intoxicated at the time.

However, not even a hint of outrage was expressed during Friday’s ceremony; instead, those collected expressed sadness over the brevity of the lives of Cynthia and Sophie Peterlin, while celebrating their personal attributes and vast array of interests.

“In a way, Sophie was a typical girl,” said Edee Wood, principal of Mt. St. Mary’s, where Sophie attended the eighth grade. “But there was nothing typical about Sophie.”

The young girl combined an interest in typical pre-teen things, such as clothes, hair and makeup, with a love for the outdoors, Wood said. She was fond of horses and tried out for the basketball team.

During Friday’s ceremony, Sophie Peterlin’s somber classmates carried items dear to her in a procession and laid them at the foot of the altar. The items included a basketball, her nail polish, her sunglasses, white roses — her favorite flower — and her Bible.

Also included was a letter from one of her classmates that read: “Dear Sophie, I miss you. I like you.”

Wood praised Sophie Peterlin’s ability to accomplish her academic goals with tenacity.

“She was a dreamer,” Wood said. “But when she set a goal, she set out to accomplish it with determination.”

Father Simon Twomey, who delivered the homily during the ceremony, praised Cynthia Peterlin for her commitment to her family and the community.

“She was so involved,” he said. “She was a dynamic lady. Maybe the Lord wanted someone to wake up the rest of the people in heaven.”

Paul Peterlin, who suffered serious injuries in the accident, remains hospitalized at Sutter-Roseville Medical Center.

He has been upgraded to fair condition. Brock Peterlin, son of Paul and Cynthia, said Paul continued to make progress in his recovery, via email to The Union Friday.

A memorial fund has been established to provide support to the Peterlin family. Those willing to donate may do so using one of several options.

A memorial fund has been established to provide support to the Peterlin family. Those willing to donate may do so using one of the following options.

To access the donation page, visit:

For Facebook users, a memorial page has been created. The link to the page is

PayPal users may sign into their accounts and transfer money to

For supporters who desire to send a check, please make the check out to The Peterlin Family Memorial Fund. Please send the check to: Wells Fargo Bank, 17446 Penn Valley Dr., Penn Valley, CA 95946.

“The response of love and support from all that are connected to the Peterlin family has been incredible,” said JT Kohler, a Peterlin family friend who is helping to organize the memorial fund.

“Thank you to everyone who has given and supported and (to those who will) continue to do so in the coming weeks and months.”

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Renda, email or call (530) 477-4239.

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