Teen remembered for her love of life

She was the beloved baby of the Coffey family of Santa Rosa, whose heart condition never overwhelmed her zest for life.

Seventeen-year-old Alexa Coffey collapsed last Wednesday while baby-sitting her nephew. She was rushed to Kaiser, then transferred to UC Medical Center in San Francisco where she died Friday.

She was a girl with a private interior and a joyous exterior, her family said.

Alexa Coffey spent every minute of her 17 years quietly rising above a serious heart condition, striving to do all the normal kid things she could, including playing basketball and soccer and dancing to her favorite tunes.

"She had two open heart surgeries before she was 2; another when she was 6½. I think after that, fears set in as she became more aware," said her mother, Judy Coffey, senior vice president and area manager for Kaiser in Sonoma and Marin counties. "But she always had a grin, ear to ear. She was always the life of the party."

Born Sept. 13, 1989, in Santa Rosa to Judy and Harry Coffey, Alexa attended College Oak Montesorri, Riebli and San Miguel elementary schools, Rincon Valley Middle School and would have been a senior at Maria Carrillo when classes resume Wednesday.

"I was 11 when Alexa was born," said her sister, Lacey Currie of Petaluma. "When I was in high school at Ursuline, she was going through a lot and I took her with me everywhere. She came to friends' houses and to parties."

The petite, 90-pound teen was known as a high energy, free-spirited dynamo, defined by her love of family and friends.

"She was the kind of friend that always had your back. She cared more about others being happy. She had a very big heart," said friend Robin Pistorio, 18, of Santa Rosa.

Indeed, she once joked with her mother that she might as well become a therapist because she listened to everyone's stories anyway.

Her passions included music of all types, but especially Bob Marley's reggae. She liked photography and making videos and enjoyed cooking. She also loved to dance -- and would -- anywhere, any time.

Yet, she was private about her medical condition and her surgery scars. Only her closest friends knew that she had a bad heart her whole life, her mother said.

"As a family, we made a decision to give Alexa a normal life. When she played basketball in the driveway one Halloween and she fell and broke her arm, that was a thing that could happen. She didn't have a lot of stamina, but she wanted to play," her mother said.

"People were very drawn to her. She overcame so much and was such an inspiration," Currie said.

In addition to her parents and sister, she is survived by a brother, Cletus Coffey of Seattle and a sister, Lynsey Serpa of Portland.

A celebration of Coffey's life is planned for Aug. 24 from 2 to 5 p.m. at Paradise Ridge Winery. Internment will be private.

By RAYNE WOLFE
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

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