DENVER | Around the glow of the firepit at Baker St. Pub & Grill, friends of Rebecca Wingo’s gathered July 27 wearing purple, her favorite color, and swapping stories about her life.
Wingo was a regular at the Denver Tech Center bar where many of her friends first met her. It was also the place where her friends discovered on their laptops in the early morning hours of July 20 that she had died in the theater shootings.
“We all found out together,” said Denver resident Tim Malmay. “We all cried a lot. It was very difficult, a hard night.”
Before she died, Wingo was working at Joe’s Crab Shack in Aurora, putting herself through school to become a social worker.
Friends described the 32-year-old mother of two as a woman that people were drawn to because of her liveliness.
“If you could imagine the biggest smile and the warmest hug, that’s what you got every time you ran into her,” Malmay said.
Valerie Pedersen, who had known Wingo for about five years, said she was a “great secret keeper.”
“If you met her once, you were her friend,” Pedersen said.
Brent Faulk, who met Wingo at Baker St. Pub & Grill four years ago, described her as “friendly and tenacious.”
“Everyone that knows her talks about her beaming smile and her amazing sense of humor,” he said. Faulk, who spent nine years in the U.S. Army, had regular conversations with Wingo about her time in the U.S. Air Force as a translator, fluent in Mandarin. Faulk said he was still reeling from the news of her death, trying to make sense of the shootings.
“Civilians shouldn’t have to go through this,” Faulk said. “I get chills talking about it.”
Although she was incredibly kind, friends say Wingo was also quick-witted and unafraid to speak her mind.
Arvada resident Mike Ivancich said when he first met Wingo at Baker Street, she sealed their friendship with an insult.
She asked Ivancich why he was trying to flirt with girls he had no chance with. He said he looked at her for a moment, shocked. Then he said, “You know what, you’re pretty funny.”
“She’d always laugh and make fun of everything, but more importantly, she’d always want you to be happy,” Ivancich said.
She often picked up on the moods of others. If someone was having a bad day, friends say she’d help console them, or force them to go out on the town even when they weren’t feeling up to it.
That’s what happened to Aurora resident Cody Shafer, who credits her for leading him to meet a man on Nov. 19, 2009, that would later become his husband.
“If Rebecca hadn’t dragged me out of the house, I would have never met Marq,” he said. “I didn’t go anywhere, I stayed home, and she wouldn’t take no for an answer. She made me meet my husband.”
She officiated the wedding ceremony for the couple.
Marq Shafer said during the ceremony she began laughing uncontrollably out of nervousness. Then, he said, she cried tears of happiness.
Cody Shafer said Rebecca had many friends, but each one of them knew something different about her.
“Rebecca let you know what Rebecca wanted you to know about her,” he said.
He’ll always remember her dazzling smile.
“Her smile could put you at ease and could light up a room and turn a bad situation into a good one all at once,” he said. “She never knew a stranger.”
Friends say Wingo’s death has brought them closer. As they drank beers and shots of Tuaca, her favorite drink, they thought about what she would say if she saw them at her favorite hangout spot.
Ivancich said he knew exactly what words would come out of her mouth: “I’m glad you’re all here. I love you all, I’m glad I met you all. Who’s buying?”
Reach reporter Sara Castellanos at 720-449-9036 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Friends of Rebecca Wingo’s are hosting a benefit for her, the proceeds of which will go to her daughters. The event will be held from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Aug. 10 at Baker St. Pub & Grill, 8101 E. Belleview Ave., Denver.