Ashley Mead's big grin and devotion to her 1-year-old daughter, Winter, made an impression, both on close friends and those who had only met her a few times.
"She was such a bright light," said Owen Love, who organized a Sunday memorial for Mead along with his wife, Gwendilyn Love.
Friends and co-workers packed a room at the Boulder Public Library to remember the 25-year-old mother who police believe was killed in Boulder earlier this month.
Her ex-boyfriend and the father of her child, Adam Densmore, has been charged with first-degree murder. Her daughter, 1-year-old Winter Daisy Mead, was found with Densmore unharmed outside Tulsa, Okla, and is in foster care.
Sunday, Owen Love presented a slideshow of pictures of Mead that highlighted her trademark smile, oversized glasses and attachment to her daughter, who she usually carried wrapped against her.
Gwendilyn Love, who took care of Winter while Mead worked, said Mead was the "perfect friend who I never had enough time to spend time with." She said they bonded over baby wearing and extended breastfeeding.
Rachel Canfield, who went to high school with Mead, said she was always making people laugh.
"She really was a free spirit," she said.
Mead grew up in Warren, a city of about 10,000 in northwest Pennsylvania. She moved to Shreveport, La., to attend Centenary College of Louisiana before transferring to LSU-Shreveport.
While studying in Louisiana, Mead met Densmore — a U.S. Army veteran from Haughton, La. — and the two began what friends described as a tumultuous and emotionally abusive relationship.
The two broke up, and Densmore moved away to Colorado to go to chef school, which is when Mead found out she was going to have a baby girl. She followed him here because she wanted her baby to have a father, her friends said, though they were no longer romantically involved.
Mead got a job as a preschool teacher's aide after moving to Boulder. Most recently, she had been an intern teacher for Boulder County Head Start's preschool program since October.
Sunday, her Head Start co-workers talked about Mead's collection of colorful leggings, her energy, her kind spirit and all the color she brought to the world.
Sasha Strong, whose son Blake was in Mead's class, said Mead was "so funny and honest" and was known as "silly Ms. Ashley" to the kids.
"She's really, really missed," she said. "We're just grateful we got to know her."
Nicole Vollmerhausen, who works at Boulder's YWCA, met Mead only twice, but said they connected immediately over a shared passion for the Head Start program and attachment parenting.
"You could see her deep love for her child," she said.
Amanda Maya and Ingrid Castro-Campos, who work at Boulder Housing Partners in the community where Mead lived, brought a wreath of paper flowers made by Mead's neighbors to the memorial.
Maya said Mead "really put herself out there to build community," and wasn't at all deterred by a language barrier with some of her neighbors.
Neighbor Ana Karina Casas Ibarra said she and Mead talked about "everything" when they got together for playdates. She said Mead was a hard worker — and it was all for her daughter.
"She accepted and loved everyone for who they were," Ibarra said
Amy Bounds: 303-473-1341, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/boundsa
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