Snowball was a ray of sunshine, say co-workers

The Royal City Centre Safeway has opened a trust fund for the family of employee, and New Westminster resident, Gemma Snowball who died in hospital Wednesday night after she was struck by a vehicle March 11.

Co-workers of the 25-year-old Australian native say she was an energetic, cheerful and fun-loving girl who always had time to say hello and goodbye.

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Sue Lawson, deli manager at Safeway and Snowball's direct supervisor, remembers interviewing her for a position at the deli.

An employee had quit because she was a vegetarian and couldn't handle the dead chickens, Lawson recalls. When Snowball came in she asked her if she was a vegetarian, to which Snowball replied with gusto: "No! I eat beef!"

"She knew everybody in the store, she talked to everybody," Lawson said. "She was wonderful."

Snowball had been working at the deli counter at Safeway for the past five-and-a-half months. She was walking home from work Monday night when she was hit by a vehicle making a turn at Sixth Street and Sixth Avenue.

When co-workers were notified about the accident they headed over to Royal Columbian Hospital to visit her. Snowball never regained consciousness and Lawson said it was an emotional time for everyone who visited. A lot of tears were shed, but not all were from a place of sadness.

"Once in a while someone would pop out a joke about what Gemma did," she said. "She was really funny."

One of Lawson's favourite memories involves a roll of fancy pink duct tape that Lawson had at work. She remembers coming in one day and someone had used the duct tape to repair a leaky sink. When she asked who'd used her tape, Snowball replied that it was she. Lawson went out later that day and bought Snowball her own roll.

Other co-workers said they can already feel a change in the store without Snowball.

Ivana Brkic said that it was pretty obvious she came from a sunny place as she was "a ray of sunshine all on her own."

This seemed to be the consensus around the store.

Snowball was the first person Jacomina Kilburn met when she started her job at the deli counter.

"I got such a great energy from her," she said. "(She) was so cute, bubbly and from that day forward, when I first met her, I couldn't wait to come back to work."

Lawson couldn't agree more.

She's been working at Safeway for 28 years and has never had an employee make such an impact on the staff and the customers, especially after working there for less than six months.

"She loved life," Lawson said. "She lived life to the fullest."

And in a way her life will continue.

Snowball's organs were donated to 13 different people who will now get a chance at a healthier life.

Lawson said everyone at Safeway is happy she could help people right until the end, and they hope that one day they'll find out who got Snowball's big heart.

But for now, the staff at Safeway are still in mourning.

Kilburn said the mournful atmosphere in the store is very noticeable.

There will be a candlelight vigil at Sixth Street and Sixth Avenue tonight (March 15) at 6 p.m. in memory of Gemma Snowball. Lawson said this will help staff and customers in the community come to terms with losing such an important person.

"Right now it's a time of mourning and I think we need to have closure," Lawon said.

The trust fund has been set up at Westminster Savings' New Westminster location at Sixth Street and Sixth Avenue. Donations can be made directly to the bank, account number 449214601, or they can be dropped off at Safeway.

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