On a brisk December afternoon, family and friends gathered together to celebrate the life of 17-year-old Daron Michelle Howley. Daron passed away on Dec. 14 following a 19-month battle with brain cancer. A junior at Lake Washington High School, Daron was well known and loved. She will be missed.
Daron played premier soccer for the Lake Washington Youth Soccer Association. While still a ninth-grader at Rose Hill Junior High, she tried out and made the varsity soccer team for Lake Washington High School.
Her battle with cancer became well known among the soccer community. Her teammates continued to visit her throughout her illness to relay soccer scores and to fill her in on all the high school happenings. Daron's mother Pam said, "Daron treasured each and every visit, as it made her day special."
Daron's teammates held numerous fundraisers to help offset her growing medical bills. At soccer tournaments, teams were given "goal buckets" to collect donations for every goal scored. Even out-of-the-area teams rallied to wish Daron well and support her throughout her difficult treatments.
At a garage sale, Crossfire U-16 coach Pat Williams grilled and sold hot dogs to hungry shoppers. Even the soccer referees' association contributed to pay for medical expenses. And when Athletic Supply in Redmond heard Daron's teammates were chipping in for a letter jacket for Daron, the company gave her one for free. The start of one of the Lake Washington vs. Redmond High School soccer matches was delayed so that both teams together could sing "Happy Birthday" to Daron.
Daron's next door neighbor, Norm Storme, warmly remarked that there were sometimes so many friends visiting Daron, he couldn't even find a parking spot.
Throughout her illness Daron continued to receive visits from her former teachers at Rose Hill Elementary, including Mike Flanagan, Chris Onchi and Michele Timmerman. Rose Hill Elementary Office Manager Jan Blaud remembers Daron "as a very sweet child who had a lot to give and who will be missed very much by her friends."
Daron was an accomplished cellist who enjoyed playing in the Rose Hill Junior High orchestra, performing in Canada and cutting her first CD with her fellow musicians. As a tribute to Daron, more than 30 RHJH and LWHS orchestra students cancelled their Friday night plans to perform at Daron's memorial service, playing some of Daron's favorite pieces. RHJH orchestra director Janet Miller commented, "Music is a gift, a gift for joyous occasions in celebration, and a gift to be shared as a comfort in times such as this."
Having so many young musicians perform for the memorial reception also was a comfort to the musicians. Miller added, "Music is a wonderful way for students to reach outside themselves and to express appreciation and concern for others."
In addition to her success on the soccer field and on the music stage, Daron excelled in the study of Japanese. Daron loved everything Japanese (including sushi) and had hoped to become a foreign exchange student in Japan. Daron was also a gifted poet. Soccer teammate Caprice LaVigna read one of Daron's poems at the memorial service. The Howley family hopes to get Daron's book of poetry published.
Being of Irish descent, Daron had always dreamed of visiting Ireland - her wish was granted in November 2004 by the Make-a-Wish Foundation. Daron traveled with her mother, brother Sean and his girlfriend Ashley Fedan, a nurse at the University of Washington.
According to Fedan, "Daron was determined to kiss the Blarney Stone, which actually involves a strenuous hike, even for people in the best of health. But Daron was determined to make it to the stone. Finally, on hands and knees, she made it."
Daron's brother Sean commented that Daron loved the city of Donegal, where the people embraced her. "People would even give her their own relics of the saints to help her in her battle against cancer," he said. While in Ireland, Daron attended a soccer match (of course) as a guest of the Shamrock Rovers. At the match, in a strange twist of fate, 60-year old Irish soccer legend Pat Dunne suffered a heart attack. Fedan administered CPR and revived Dunne, receiving a standing ovation from appreciative soccer fans.
The name Daron is a traditional Irish name meaning "great." Daron Howley will be remembered as a great daughter, friend, teammate, classmate, cellist, poet and a very beautiful and talented young woman who touched a great many lives.
An account has been set up at Venture Bank (formerly Redmond National Bank) in Daron's name. Donations can be made at any branch. For questions, please call 881-8111.