Incense smoke drifted in slowly from the corner of the room as students wiped away their tears and placed bouquets of orange flowers next to portraits of a fellow Long Beach State design student who was killed over the weekend.
The LBSU Department of Design held a memorial Wednesday for industrial design student Alena Gretencord, who died after a hit-and-run Sunday morning.
The Duncan Anderson Design Gallery was filled with students, faculty and community members. Design students created a shrine to Gretencord in the left corner of the gallery.
According to Martin Herman, chair of the Department of Design, students stayed up late the night before, folding origami flowers and creating a hanging rainbow of streamers for the memorial.
According to a press release from the Long Beach Police Department, Gretencord fell from the center median of Second Street near Tivoli Drive into the first lane of eastbound Second Street around 1:30 a.m.
The suspected vehicle, a white Ford F-150, fled the scene and Gretencord was transported to a local hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
“I know you too, are going through extreme waves of emotion,” Herman said to the crowd. “Wishing we could move the hand of time back, wishing we could celebrate her birthday with her.”
Gretencord would have turned 23 on Nov. 1.
Herman said Gretencord was a student assistant, scholarship recipient and coordinator for design exhibitions, including the upcoming senior show.
“She was the lifeline between the industrial design and interior design programs,” Martin said. “Speaking for the staff, I can tell you that we viewed her and treated her less as a student and much more as a trusted member of our staff.”
Gretencord began her academic career at LBSU as a graphic design major and later changed to industrial design.
“I was glad she found something she really loved and loved her back,” said her father, Scott Gretencord. “She would bring that love home and tell me about it all the time.”
Outside of the design department, Gretencord was also a member of Queers and Allies on campus.
“I don’t know if the rainbows give it away, but Alena was a woman who happened to be queer,” LBSU student Roman Wiant said. “She was an advocate, not only for the queer community, but for all disenfranchised people around the world.”
Students and family members shared stories about Gretencord for over an hour, laughing and crying through their accounts. Along with her love of Mexican food, the color orange and being notably good at whistling, a constant theme was her love of the LBSU campus.
“She spoke so highly of all her fellow students and the design program and Cal State Long Beach,” her cousin, Courtney Witherspoon-Balkov said. “I just want to thank you for being her family, her extended family.”
Her roommate and best friend Brooke Harrington, senior design major, shared a conversation she had with Gretencord a week before her death. When asked how many fellow design students she planned to stay in contact with in the coming decade, Gretencord responded, “Every single person … I hope to be talking to every single one of them.”
Harrington, speaking through tears, said, “I just wanted you to know that because she loved this place so much, and we all loved her. I think she would really love this. I’m just going to miss her.”