A woman who was well-recognized in Vista for decades passed away this weekend. Neighbors are now raising money for a Celebration of Life ceremony in her honor.
Maria “Mariana” Georgescu was a part of the Vista community for over 20 years, according to friends. While she was technically homeless, she made a home in the parking lot near Starbucks on South Melrose Drive.
"She was always singing and would make your day," said Angie Santo, an employee of Starbucks who was friends with Mariana for the last five years. Santo added Mariana was like family to her.
In the last few days of her life, Santo was able to gain Power of Attorney over Mariana so that she could lay her to rest. She created a GoFundMe page to hold a public Celebration of Life ceremony for Mariana on what would have been her 67th birthday.
Starbucks employees would bring Mariana a cup of water with ice every day, Santo said. They built a memorial of flowers, cards and balloons for her outside the front door of the business.
Santo said Mariana was born in Romania in 1951 and resided in the Starbucks parking lot for 23 years. Businesses and neighbors around the area knew her well and described her as caring. Santo said Mariana passed away Saturday morning.
"Whenever someone would give her money, she would give it to another homeless person who needed it," said Digger Jacobs, a friend. "She just knew if you were hungry or thirsty. She was a very generous person."
Santo said Mariana's health had been deteroriating for six months after a cut got infected, making it hard for her to walk. Santo added she does not believe Mariana had any children.
"Her smile will always be remembered along with her kind and caring heart. She has impacted so many of our lives and we are all better off for having known her," the GoFundMe page honoring her reads.
The page exceeded its goal of raising $1,500 for the ceremony. As of Thursday morning, it was already at $2,200.
Santo added she plans to buy a plaque with Mariana's name on it at Madison Middle School.
The public Celebration of Life ceremony will take place June 7th from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Starbucks on 251 S. Melrose Avenue in Vista.
If you want to donate to the cause, click here.