Angela Steigerwalt will be remembered for her ready smile, quick wit and ability to make people she just met feel like old friends.
Now, on the one-month anniversary of her murder, those who knew the Tamaqua woman and loved her are keeping her memory alive.
Gina Hunsicker of Jim Thorpe, who is planning a candlelight vigil, was her best friend. They met when they worked together at the J.C. Penney warehouse in Breinigsville.
Hunsicker, her husband Rob and 22-year-old daughter Gabi were all close to Steigerwalt.
"She had no ill thoughts about anybody or anything. She was the sweetest person I ever met. She cared about everybody. She was an angel on Earth, and I wish I could get her back. We called her Little Miss Sunshine, because she always had a smile on her face, no matter what," Hunsicker says. "I just feel honored that I got to walk in her sunshine for a little while."
Hunsicker, Gabi and Steigerwalt got matching tattoos about three years ago. The heart with a Celtic knot is a symbol of friendship and love.
The friends were together one last time in December, at a friend's birthday party.
"I picked her up. We were there for a while, had a good time. I dropped her off. Usually, we hug and kiss and say goodbye," Hunsicker says, wiping tears. "For some reason, we didn't do that. And that's the hardest part for me, because it was always a hug and kiss and 'I love you' and 'be careful.'
"Her last text message was 'I love you, hunnich'," she says.
Hunsicker says her husband called Steigerwalt his ice cream lady, referring to her joking promise to bring him Leiby's ice cream when he was working near her home in Tamaqua.
Gabi says she first met Steigerwalt, her husband Gary and nephew Todd Deem, at a Lehighton Bike Night. The meeting tightened the close friendship between the two families when Steigerwalt introduced Gabi to Deem. The young people hit it off, and are now dating, Gabi says.
"She always made us laugh," she says.
Gabi smiles as she recalls how Steigerwalt had pet names for her friends. She called Gina Hunsicker 'Cheena Louise'.
"She always called me Gabbich," she says.
Tara Burian of Allentown, also met Steigerwalt at the J.C. Penney warehouse in 2002.
"Angie and I grew closer together as time went on, kind of like sisters. We laughed, cried, argued and talked about each other, but then always made up. We just looked at each other and knew what the other was thinking. She was always someone I could talk to about anything and when I needed to vent she was always there to listen and cheer me up and vice versa," Burian says.
Another co-worker, Cassandra Sabulsky, of Tresckow, remembers Steigerwalt as someone who spread cheer wherever she went.
"Angie was a great girl. She was one of those people you met and instantly get along with. I would come in early in the morning and get a big good morning greet. She was always smiling, along with walking around talking with a fake British accent. She was easy to joke around with, a down-to-earth fun person. If you needed anything, Angie would be the one there to help. She was a great listener and advice-giver," she says.
Jennifer Anderson-Harker, of Weatherly, says she'll always remember Steigerwalt's cheerful way.
"Angie was always smiling and made everyone around her in a good mood. You could tell from the first time you met her she was genuine and I was very lucky to have known and worked with her," she says.
Childhood friend Angela Lopata, of Andreas, remembers Steigerwalt fondly.
"I think of the Brownie troop we were in together. I particularly remember marching with our troop in the Andreas Halloween Parade, the year our costumes were to reflect what we wanted to be when we grew up, and how Angela and I both dressed as nurses," she says. "As a child Angela was a sweet, kind soul. She had a gentle and friendly spirit about her that just shone so brightly."
Several other friends have found solace by sharing their thoughts about Steigerwalt on a Facebook page, In Loving Memory of Angie Stagz.
Steigerwalt's uncle, Donald Serfass, with whom she enjoyed a close, loving bond, shared a glimpse of his niece's vibrant soul.
"Angela also learned to appreciate antiques at an early age, which is unusual for a child."
He took her to the Kutztown Antiques Extravaganza in 1993.
"She looked around and fell in love with a black amethyst Mt. Pleasant bowl made by the L.E. Smith Glass Co. It's a 1930s, Depression-era piece that appears to be black, but when you hold it up to the sun, you can see it's actually purple," he says.
"Angela was fascinated by it, and so I bought it for her. She always cherished that bowl," he says. "I gave her my Mickey Mouse collection, too, because her face lit up when she saw it."
He recalls her passion for the Philadelphia Eagles.
"I think she was northeastern Pennsylvania's No. 1 cheerleader for that team," he says.
Steigerwalt collected all kinds of pig figurines, and loved pizza.
"But she also enjoyed Pennsylvania Dutch pepper cabbage, a sweet-and-sour side dish made by my mother," Serfass says.
"After my mother died, Angela figured out how to make that dish, and was proud to serve it at Thanksgiving in honor of her grandmother. In fact, she wrote about it on Facebook to tell everyone she had perfected the recipe.
"That's the kind of person she was," he says. "Everything in life has meaning and significance, and Angela was aware of it."
Angela Steigerwalt's accused killer Anthony Darrell Heath is in Lehigh County Prison, awaiting a preliminary hearing.