KEALIA — Michelle Pierson had a message for the world: live life to the fullest and love with everything you’ve got.
“She pulled a community together in a beautiful way and that community is still working together,” said Marni Kaduce.
Kaduce and other close friends gathered Wednesday for a sunset memorial for Pierson, 34, of Kilauea, who died July 3 after the kayak she and another woman were in was struck with large waves on the Na Pali Coast and capsized.
Pierson was a guide for kayak tours on the Wailua River and she moved to Kauai about four years ago.
“She really enjoyed being alive. She’d get the kids on her tours to paint their faces with mud and she would bring out their inner child again, make it a safe space for them to really play,” Kaduce said. “And she was fierce.”
Pierson was a spoken word poet and her YouTube channel full of inspirational and motivational videos is still active online.
Carrie Fox, also a friend of Pierson, said the pair would bump into each other when they needed it most and they always shared inspiration and strength.
She and her husband, Michael, met Pierson online a few years before they moved to Kauai and had been following her YouTube videos. When they met in person, it was in Lihue and both were in vehicles, traveling in opposite directions.
“We recognized each other instantly and she yelled across the road at me, then stopped traffic and high-fived outside our windows as we passed each other,” Michael Fox said. “She had this red Jeep Grand Cherokee that she’d drive all over the island and you’d see her everywhere.”
As the evening wore on, flowers were released in memory of Pierson, a bonfire was lit in her honor, and her Kauai ohana gathered to share in the memories they created together, and reflect on the impact she made in their lives.
Skylar Mallas said the Philadelphia native inspired her to strive to live a full life.
“She left a legacy. She left too soon and she really left a gift, a message to live your dreams,” Mallas said. “She came from hard times and she was here to shine. It makes me wonder if there is more that I can do to really leave a legacy like she did.”