Arcata Mourns Loss Of ‘Brilliant’ Mother, Scholar, Runner Suzanne Seemann – October 2, 2012
Kevin L. Hoover
MYRTLE AVENUE – Arcata was wracked with grief and dismay last week after three women were struck and one killed by a hit-and-run driver on Myrtle Avenue Thursday morning, Sept. 27.
According to the CHP, at 5:50 a.m., Terri Vroman-Little, 50, of Eureka, Jessica Hunt, 41, of Eureka, and Suzanne Seemann, 40, of Bayside, were jogging northbound on the west shoulder of Myrtle Avenue, south of Ole Hansen Road.
For unknown reasons, a 2005 Kia Spectra, driven by an unknown subject, left its lane of travel and struck all three of the female joggers. Jessica Hunt and Terri Vroman-Little sustained major injuries and were taken to St. Joseph Hospital. Seemann sustained fatal injuries and was pronounced deceased at the scene. Additionally, Hunt’s dog, Maggie, was struck and killed during the collision.
The driver of the Kia fled the scene directly following the collision. The Kia was later found abandoned by Eureka Police Department officers on California Street in Eureka. Myrtle Avenue was closed for approximately four hours due to the investigation.
Monday, CHP spokesman Officer Brent Chase said that a “person of interest” has been identified and is being sought. He declined all further details on grounds that the investigation is ongoing, and disclosure could both lead to flight risk by any suspects and could jeopardize future prosecution.
The three women ran the Myrtle Avenue route regularly and were active with the Six Rivers Running Club, which posted several updates over the weekend on its website, 6rrc.com.
According to the club, Hunt and Vroman were lodged in the same room at SJHS. Both were in serious condition, but headed for recovery. Support for the victims’ families had been arranged.
Later Thursday morning, at about 10:30 a.m., a California Highway Patrol Officer conducting a follow up investigation discovered a deceased female in a residence on Little Moon Lane, Hoopa.
The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office and Hoopa Tribal Police responded to and took custody of the scene. Sheriff’s detectives were notified and also responded to the residence.
At 2:50 p.m. a search warrant was issued by the Humboldt County Superior Court and detectives entered the residence.
The woman was later identified as Dorothy Ulrich, and HCSO said her death was a homicide.
Discovery of Ulrich’s body triggered speculation that there may have been some connection between the two incidents. That had not been verified at press time. [Note: Tuesday afternoon, Sheriff Mike Downey said a "person of interest was in custody regarding the two incidents. – Ed.]
The loss of Seemann sent shock waves through Humboldt State University. President Rollin Richmond called Seemann “an extraordinarily talented and popular instructor” (see below).
A wife and mother of two seven- and four-year-old children, Seemann had taught at HSU since 2011, and College of the Redwoods before that. She held multiple degrees from prestigious universities – Princeton, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Wisconsin.
Geography Dept. Chair Stephen Cunha said he, fellow professors and students were grieving the loss of an extraordinary educator and human being.
“Suzanne was a beloved instructor and colleague,” Cunha said. “She was brilliant. She had a gift for teaching that cannot be taught.”
Cunha noted that with her impressive academic credentials, “she could have made gobs of money, but she chose to be with us, and teach half-time. That gave her the flexibility to be a wonderful mother and spouse.”
He said that students noticed the wise life choices Seemann made, “and they revered her for it.”
“How lucky can a 20-year-old be to have a teacher with such a passion for her subject, and who could impart it so gracefully, from the classroom to the lab to the field?”
Cunha noted that Seemann’s dynamism extended to other areas of her life. She was a volunteer in local schools and an accomplished runner. “We were all in awe of this woman – students and colleagues alike,” Cunha said.
Harry Kavich, vice president of 6RRC, echoed Cunha’s remarks. “She was a brilliant woman,” he said. “She always had a smile.”
He noted that Seemann, along with Hunt and Vroman-Little, had all qualified for the Boston Marathon, something many runners aspire to.
Despite her academic and athletic accomplishments, Kavich said her family was always first in her life. “She was a tremendous mother and person,” he said. “Beyond all, she cared for her children. She got up in the morning and went to bed thinking of her kids.”
Shock and aftermath
Blogs and facebook pages were filled with expressions of sadness and anguish over the loss of Seemann and the injuries to her regular running partners.
Some suggested that the incident was another reason why an Arcata-to-Eureka trail should be established, to give pedestrians and bicyclists an alternate, car-free route.
Third District Supervisor Mark Lovelace said he had heard the suggestions, but that it wasn’t appropriate to leverage the incident for political purposes.
“We need to give the families time to cope with this unimaginable tragedy before we start turning it into a cause or drive,” Lovelace said.
A memorial service to celebrate and remember the gift of Seemann’s life will be held at Freshwater School on Saturday, Oct. 6 at 10:30 a.m.
Six Rivers Running Club has set up these accounts at Umpqua Bank for those who wish to help:
Jessica Hunt Medical Fund 992682534
Terri Vroman-Little Medical Fund 992682526
Seemann Family Memorial Fund: 992682542