Megan Kelley’s light shined brighter than most.
People were drawn to her high-wattage smile, her infectious laugh, her kind spirit and comfort in being exactly who she was.
Although the 25-year-old died Aug. 26 in a rocking climbing accident on Cathedral Peak in Yosemite National Park, her loved ones say Kelley’s light will never dim in their hearts.
“It was definitely a brighter place with her in it,” said her dad, Reed Kelley. “We’ll miss her very much.”
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Kelley grew up in Tacoma and attended Charles Wright Academy, which is something of a family tradition. A memorial service will be held for her at 11 a.m. Saturday on the lawn in front of the Upper School building.
She was in the fifth grade when she met a new student, Soraya Bodaghi, and invited her to jump rope at recess and practice their vocabulary words.
The girls became best friends.
“When I think of Megan, I think of sunshine reflecting off the water, powerful and blinding,” Bodaghi said. “She is and will forever be my sunshine girl, reminding me to jump into life with passion and resolve.”
Kelley had the same impact on her teachers, impressing them by asking for extra help on lunch breaks, volunteering for school activities and treating every student with kindness.
Bill White, head of Charles Wright’s Upper School, said he remembers her dogged determination, perseverance and sweetness.
Teachers who gathered to share memories of Kelley after her accident summed her up in a word: luminescent.
“She could just glow,” White said. “She was always emitting light and happiness.”
Leon Phillips, who taught her in the eighth grade, said Kelley shaped who he was as a teacher after observing her focus on bringing students together and making them feel good about themselves.
“We’re not supposed to have favorite students,” he said. “Not only was she one of my favorite students, she was one of my favorite people.”
Kelley played tennis for a year at Hamilton College in upstate New York before transferring to Claremont McKenna College in California, where she studied economics.
She worked in the marketing division at Trinchero Winery in Sonoma before moving into the world of tech startups. She had just been promoted to a management position three weeks before her death.
“She definitely forged her own way in the world and followed her own path,” her father said.
Friends said she worked hard and loved fiercely.
Her world changed when she met Ben Chute on a kickball field where they both played in an adult league.
He struggled to get out coherent sentences at their first meeting, but they eventually became a couple of two years.
“She took my breath away the first time I met her,” Chute said. “She was so beautiful. She was unabashedly her whole self and so humble. She treated every wonderful thing as a gift and was so happy, kind, caring and compassionate.”
Kelley loved the outdoors, whether it be hiking, snowboarding, skiing, wakeboarding or rock climbing, which she picked up last year.
She also enjoyed cooking and baking, earning herself the moniker “Queen of Baked Goods.”
But friends and family came first, always.
Pooja Reddy, a close friend and college roommate, said Kelley was the first to volunteer to help move furniture, drive you to the airport in rush hour traffic or bring you food on a down day.
“She did the dirty work that most people didn’t want to do because she knew you needed help and she cared about you,” Reddy said.
Kelley is survived by her parents, David “Reed” Kelley and Laurie Kelley; sister Lauren Kelley and brother David “Austin” Kelley.
“She left us as she lived, with an indomitable spirit and passion for life,” according to her obituary.
In lieu of flowers, the Kelley family is asking people to contribute to a Charles Wright Academy scholarship that is being created in Kelley’s name.
Stacia Glenn: 253-597-8653