Days after an explosion leveled a New Jersey home and killed the woman inside, friends held a memorial for the victim Sunday afternoon. They remembered a free spirit who opened her heart to everyone.
A lone candle flickered to remember Deborah Smith, the woman killed in the blast in Hampton, Hunterdon Co.
"My mom is the one who got the call from her," said Kara Vishnesky, a longtime friend. "She just wanted help. She was trapped."
Smith's friends called her "Jesse James." Perhaps a bit of outlaw, but those who knew her said Smith was also a friend to everyone.
As friends gathered to remember Smith at the New Hampton Inn where she was a bartender, investigators continue to probe the explosion that killed her. They believe a propane leak may be to blame, but it could be weeks before they know for sure.
"You could see how many lives that she really touched by how many people came here, spoke up, the things that they said," said Mason Lynch, another longtime friend.
According to friends, Smith cheated death once before.
"About a year ago, she fell ill with a very life threatening illness," said Vishnesky, "and she was in the hospital. She suffered; it was very hard."
Even in death, friends are remembering a woman who loved life -- and made them love it, too.