Kristina Chesterman was remembered Thursday as "an angel with a backbone."

Called a "born nurse" determined to spread care and compassion, from poor and war-torn locales through Doctors Without Borders to the emergency room at Stanford Hospital, the 21-year-old Livermore nursing hopeful was described by loved ones at a celebration of her life as a heavenly being.

"I wonder aloud if she wasn't perhaps an angel sent here from God to do her work in a short time," Chesterman's father, Dave Chesterman, told the crowd through composed tears. "It's the only explanation that helps me make sense of this tragedy."

Kristina Chesterman was hit Sept. 22 by a suspected drunken driver as she rode her bicycle home after a night of studying at Chico State. She died two days later.

Hundreds of friends, family and educators arrived at Livermore's Cornerstone Fellowship Church to remember the senior nursing student, described by teachers as "the nurse that all of us wanted to be" and by friends as "incapable of doing wrong or ever harming anybody."

They paid tribute to Chesterman by donning dresses, ties and even hair color in shades of pink, her favorite color.

"She was my world, my heart, my soul," her mother, Sandra Chesterman, said in a statement read by a longtime family friend. "We had an unbreakable bond."

Chesterman was riding home from Chico State's library when an SUV police said was driven by Riley Hoover, 19, hit her and drove away from the scene. Hoover was later arrested on suspicion of DUI and felony hit-and-run and has since been charged with gross vehicular manslaughter, Chico police said.

Two days after she was hit, doctors declared Chesterman brain-dead, but her family decided to keep her on life support so her organs could be used to help save the lives of as many as 50 people.

By the time of her funeral, she had already saved at least five. One of her kidneys went to a man who was on dialysis for three hours a day, who has since been able to return home to his wife and infant son, Dave Chesterman said. The other kidney went to a young girl whose family has already thanked the Chestermans, and parts of her liver were given to multiple infants, one of whom had liver cancer.

Flowers and photos fill courtyard tables during a memorial service for Kristina Chesterman attended by hundreds at Cornerstone Fellowship in Livermore,
Flowers and photos fill courtyard tables during a memorial service for Kristina Chesterman attended by hundreds at Cornerstone Fellowship in Livermore, Calif., on Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013. Chesterman, 21, who graduated from Granada High School in Livermore and attended nursing school at Chico State, was struck and killed in Chico by an alleged drunken driver. Her organs were used to help save the lives of several people. (Cindi Christie/Bay Area News Group)

In perhaps the strangest twist of fate, Dave Chesterman said his daughter's heart went to a patient at Stanford Medical Center, where his daughter dreamed of working in the emergency room.

Her aunt acknowledged Kristina Chesterman's caring and giving spirit but also her strength of character, calling her "an angel with a backbone." Then she read from a statement her niece had written before her death for an upcoming court hearing for a man accused of assaulting her brother in Chico.

"I hope you realize who you are now and who you want to be and that those images are on the opposite sides of the spectrum," she wrote in the victim impact statement for her brother's case.

Dave Chesterman reflected on the what he and his wife believe was a final message from his daughter after they received the call from the hospital "that was every parent's nightmare."

Sandra Chesterman, he said, found it when she pulled on their daughter's favorite jacket to drive to Chico in "the longest three hours of her life."

"Sandra pulled a fortune out of the pocket of the jacket, which read 'We must always have old memories and new hopes,'" Dave Chesterman recalled. "At that moment, we knew that was Kristina's last message for us."

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Donations in honor of kristina chesterman
  • Kristina Chesterman's family has created a website in her name where visitors can search for locations to participate in a blood drive, an effort she participated in every year since she hit the minimum weight requirement at age 15.
  • Donations can also be made on the website to the Kristina Chesterman Nursing Scholarship fund and to Doctors Without Borders.