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Icons of a lost friend

Alex Wagner

To honor and remember the person who “exuded love 24/7,” Cassandra Schley-May’s co-workers and friends have set up a memorial display in front of BriarPatch Community Market.

Filled with emblems, photographs, and even her favorite fruits – figs and mangos – the altar is an attempt to capture the compassion and fun-loving spirit of the 22-year old peace activist, dancer and sandwich maker who was killed in a Highway 49 collision Friday.

“Cassie always had a smile. She emanated joy,” BriarPatch General Manager Paul Harton said.

Signs and cards are scattered across the memorial table, and a figurine of the Buddhist goddess of love is poised next to a photograph of Schley-May at last year’s annual BriarPatch Christmas party – a photo that reveals her cheerfulness, Harton said.

Schley-May died after a sport-utility vehicle crossed the double-yellow center line and crashed head-on into her smaller Ford Festiva at Old Downieville Highway near Nevada City Friday afternoon.

The driver, Kelli Townsend, 35, and her 5-year-old daughter in the back seat were unharmed. Townsend was arrested after the crash on several charges including DUI vehicular manslaughter

Schley-May’s death is described as a loss to not only those who knew her, but also the world. She was a peace activist and committed to improving life for everyone, friends said.

“She was one of the most heart-full people I’ve ever come across in my life,” said Anjé Water, a friend and co-worker who first proposed the idea to build the altar for Schley-May.

“Our world needs people like her so badly right now, the way things are, full of war and violence,” he said. “It’s just so hard to see someone young and so bright in heart and spirit go.”

Nevada County peace activist Loraine Webb also emphasized Schley-May’s tremendous empathy.

“She was unconditionally loving and never descended into the pettiness the world often bestows upon us,” Webb said.

In addition to an unwavering commitment to peace, Schley-May was a devoted dancer, friends said. According to one BriarPatch employee, she was a belly dancer and a member of a Congolese dance troupe.

Schley-May worked at BriarPatch on two separate occasions. She started three years ago as a sandwich maker and then most recently as a cashier, Harton recalled. To her co-workers, “she was an employee the customers all loved,” he said.

As of Tuesday evening, no memorial service had been scheduled, but the altar is expected to stay up in front of BriarPatch until next week and then be given to Schley-May’s family.

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