When 31-year-old Brandy Mendes was killed in a hit-and-run collision this month on Kahekili Highway in Waiehu, it was the second time Shirley Ferreira lost a daughter in a traffic crash.
Her other daughter, Dawn, was 17 when the Jeep she was driving overturned, pinning her beneath it, in a fatal crash 22 years ago on another portion of the highway in Kahakuloa, Ferreira said.
Brandy, who was 8 years old at the time, would leave Ferreira notes saying, "Mommy, you have another daughter. You still have me."
"You know what, this is the second time around," Ferreira said this week. "I realize I can scream and cry like I did back then, and nothing is going to bring her back.
"I'm the only one that's going to raise her daughters now. I have to be strong for them."
Mendes, a mother of three, was walking home along Kahekili Highway near Kamaile Street in Waiehu when she was hit by a truck and killed the night of Aug. 16, police said. She was off the roadway and walking in the Waihee direction on the makai side in an area with no streetlights, police said.
A passerby found her body along the northbound shoulder at 5:49 the next morning.
That night, the police Vehicle Homicide Unit located the dark red 2000 Chevy pickup truck believed to have struck Mendes. On Aug. 24, police arrested a 43-year-old Wailuku man for investigation of first-degree negligent homicide and leaving the scene of a fatal collision. He was later released while the police investigation continues.
Ferreira said that her daughter's friends have said Mendes and the suspect knew each other.
The night she died, Mendes called her mother at 7:45 p.m. to see if she could get a ride home from Wailuku. But Ferreira was going into Costco in Kahului, so Mendes said she planned to start walking.
"I'll probably reach home before you," she told her mother.
"That's the last call she made from her cellphone," Ferreira said. "It must have happened just minutes after. She's always using her phone."
Police said Mendes was struck between 7:45 and 8 p.m.
As she drove home that night, Ferreira thought she might see her daughter walking and give her a ride the rest of the way. When she wasn't home and didn't answer her cellphone, Ferreira thought it was unusual.
When Mendes still wasn't home and wasn't answering her cellphone the next morning, "I knew something was wrong," Ferreira said.
She said Mendes had walked the 30 minutes from Wailuku to Waiehu Terrace before, usually during the day and always staying on the shoulder of the road.
"She was so close to making that turn to get into Waiehu Terrace," Ferreira said.
She said her daughter was a good mother to her two daughters, 15-year-old Dawn and 11-year-old Selena, and her 7-year-old son, Vinny. Mendes named her first daughter after her late sister. The two girls live with Ferreira, while Mendes' son lives with her father, Alan Mendes Sr.
"They miss her terribly," Ferreira said. "She loved her children dearly. She said prayers with them every night."
Ferreira said Mendes' younger daughter especially misses the nightly ritual of praying with her mother. "Everybody prays differently," said Ferreira, who has stepped in to pray with the girls. "I tell her, 'I know I'm not your mommy, but I'm trying to do the best I can.' ''
Mendes also was an animal lover who had cats and would care for injured animals she came across.
She grew up in Kahakuloa, attending Waihee School and Kaahumanu Hou Christian School. She had worked for many years at Mendes Ranch, owned by her father.
Working part time, she would saddle horses and help prepare tourists for trail rides, her mother said. She also cooked the barbecue lunches served as part of the rides.
"She had a very strong love for animals," Ferreira said. "She would even bring animals home that were wounded on the road.
"She said if you don't pick it up, someone would run it over with a car."
A few months ago, Mendes tried to save two baby goats from the ranch after their mother had died.
"She brought them home and fed them a couple of bottles every day," Ferreira said. "She tried so hard. She really felt like they were going to live."
But the goats, which were already weak by the time Mendes got them, ended up dying.
Mendes' favorite cat, a Persian female, disappeared the same night Mendes died, Ferreira said.
Remembering her daughter, Ferreira said she was usually happy.
"She's a very sweet person," she said. "You never see Brandy without a smile. She was always smiling, even when she was down.
"Just before she died, she was in a very happy mood. They say God prepares you because they know you're coming.
"I still don't believe that she's gone. I keep looking at the door. I keep hearing the sound like she's going to come walking up the stairs. I know there's a reason for everything. But, oh, it's hard."
Mendes' funeral will be Tuesday at St. Anthony Church in Wailuku. Visitation will be from 10 a.m., with a Mass at 11 a.m. Burial will follow at St. Ann Church in Waihee.
Mendes will be buried next to her sister, who died Feb. 20, 1990.
In addition to her children and parents, Mendes is survived by her brothers, Alan Mendes Jr. and Joshua Mendes.
* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.