Many in this caring community came to an emotional standstill on Saturday, July 14 when news spread concerning the untimely passing of Leslie Mar, who lost her life in a hiking accident the previous evening at Panther Creek Falls in Skamania County, Washington. One of five children from what might be the single-most active, recognizable family in San Marino, Leslie produced a wide wake of energy during her all-too brief stay on this Earth.
“She left a great many loving friends who miss and think of her often,” reads a quote about an athlete dying far too young. “But when they think of her, it’s not how she died that they remember—but how she lived. How she did live!”
Leslie Mar’s exceptional legacy was forged at an early age. At Valentine Elementary School, Leslie received the J.P. Blecksmith Award, an honor given annually to two students who display the tenets of integrity, dedication and leadership. That same year, she received the Presidential Athletic Award and was named Most Outstanding Band Member. She also played for the San Marino National Little League Softball All-Star team in 2006, which finished runner-up in the state. They were the Section 2 and California District 17 champions as well.
The plaudits continued to pile up at Huntington Middle School, where Leslie was named the Most Valuable Player of the school’s traveling volleyball team in 2007. A year later, she was named Most Inspirational Player, an honor that could justifiably be presented in her name for the rest of time.
Leslie continued to shine at San Marino High School and was frequently acknowledged for her wide range of contributions. A skilled dancer and actress, she performed in musicals all four years at SMHS. She played the trumpet in the wind ensemble (and won the Director’s Award and Most Improved Instrumentalist), was ASB Spirit Commissioner and participated in Varsity Yell, where she was named a captain. She played volleyball all four years as a defensive specialist and during her senior year, received the True Titan Award from this newspaper and this reporter for a career marked by outstanding performance, leadership and dedication. She was also voted Freshman Homecoming Princess and a debutante in the NCL-San Marino Chapter’s class of 2013, where she served as Cultural Liaison.
After graduating from San Marino High School in 2013, Leslie surprised many by heading to Washington State University – a sunny, Southern California girl now skipping across the cold, wind-blown dunes of the infamous Palouse.
Pat Mar, Leslie’s mother, for the first time I can remember verbalized a small amount of concern about one of her children—albeit with a wide smile across her face—mentioning that Leslie was experiencing a difficult transition to the unique climate of the Pacific Northwest. But typical of Leslie, she attacked the challenge head on, developing during those four years an appreciation for the outdoors that surprised even her parents. Her social media pages are teeming with photos of Leslie swimming, hiking, snowboarding, kayaking and hiking, usually framed by snow-capped mountain vistas.
“We didn’t really see that side of Leslie here in Southern California,” said Harry Mar, Leslie’s father. Pat Mar said that she and her husband were scheduled to visit Leslie this weekend so their daughter could show her the natural treasures she had become so fond of.
“She kept asking us to come up and visit her,” Pat Mar said, her voice reflecting an understandable mixture of sadness and joy. “She always wanted us to come visit these majestic waterfalls, trees and rolling green hills.”
After graduating from Washington State in 2017 with a degree in Business Administration, , Leslie took a job at Fisher Investments in Vancouver, Washington, where she was a Regional Sales Associate – Operations & Portfolio Analyst and, the Mars would recently learn, in line for a promotion.
As everywhere else in life, Leslie was much loved and respected at her place of business. When the Mars traveled to Washington following Leslie’s passing, Fisher Investments held a vigil in their former colleague’s honor, with many company members in attendance. Pat Mar noticed in Leslie’s office a badge that said “mentor.”
“That made me very happy to know that Leslie had helped others in her professional life, because that’s who she was,” Pat said.
And, unbeknownst to her parents, Leslie never lost that love for volleyball.
“Her friends told us that they had formed a team and Leslie was playing,” Pat Mar said. “And they told us she was not only the best player, but kept up the team morale when the game got tough.”
The Mars had traveled as a family—everything and always as a family—to meet Leslie’s friends and co-workers. Courageously, they traveled last Monday to the waterfall where their beloved daughter and sister had lost her footing.
Stuart Mar, Leslie’s older brother, constructed a makeshift cross near the waterfall and etched “Leslie 4ever loved” into a wooden beam.
Amidst the grief, Pat Mar said there was a certain amount of solace in visiting the site.
“To know that she was surrounded by so much beauty, doing something she loved so much during her last moments was very comforting,” she said.
Leslie Mar was just 23 years old.
A wake is scheduled for Friday, August 10 at Glendale Forest Lawn from 4:30 – 9:00 p.m. with a memorial service on Saturday, August 11 at First Chinese Baptist Church, Los Angeles at 2:00 p.m followed by graveside service at Glendale Forest Lawn.
A GoFundMe account has been created to benefit the Leslie Mar Memorial Fund. The Mar Family has declared that any donations from the account will be used to set up the Leslie Noelle LienJun Mar Scholarship Fund at San Marino High School. Due to a large number of donations, the account has been re-set twice and is more than two-thirds of the way to its goal of $50,000.
“A part of me is missing,” said her sister, Adrienne. “Leslie, we love you so much. We will always be the seven Mars.”
“I lost my baby sister and best friend. She lit up my world with laughter and courage…..” said her sister, Kelly.
“I love you so much, sis,” said Spencer Mar, youngest of the family, who graduated in June from San Marino High School. “Your spirit will forever live in me.”
Pat and Harry Mar said their daughter was “a gift.”
“Her simple presence brought so much joy and happiness to our lives,” they said. “We are so proud of her. She was such a loving daughter, sister, cousin, niece, and friend. We will miss her terribly. Leslie will live in our hearts forever.”
“To be a star, you must shine your own light, follow your own path, and don’t worry about the darkness, for that is when the stars shine brightest.”
– Napoleon Hill