A normally chatty Jordan Smith hurried Thursday to prepare for school. But she did take time to say goodbye and tell her mother she loved her.
"That was the last time I talked with her," Neva Tonich said through tears.
Smith died Thursday morning after losing control of her 1997 Mazda 626 and crashing through a guardrail half a mile from her home on River Road. The 17-year-old had just begun her senior year at Huron High School with ambitions to become a teacher.
"She was saving for college," Tonich said. "She loved school. She loved her friends. She always cared about them, worried about them. Anything you asked her to do, she would do it."
Friends and relatives gathered Thursday night to remember Smith, whom they described as vivacious, free-spirited, artistic, fiercely independent and never without a thoughtful gesture.
A former cheerleader and member of the school bell choir, she adored her brothers, Nicholas and Spencer, and sister, Chloe, her mother said. She enjoyed hip-hop music and was a dyed-in-the-wool Elvis Presley fan who collected his memorabilia.
She was also a teacher's aide in Spanish class and looked forward to decorating a block in the classroom wall, a tradition among fourth-year students.
"She had a good sense of humor. She loved life. She couldn't wait to become a teacher," Spanish instructor Andrea Arambula said.
She also really loved text-messaging, friend Jenny Catri said.
"She could do it with her eyes closed. She didn't even have to look," Catri recalled. "She was a great friend. She was always there for you."
A dietary aide at Admiral's Point Nursing and Rehabilitation, Jordan was a good dancer who liked to sing and paint portraits, stepfather Tom Tonich said.
"She was smarter than me most of the time," he said, wiping away tears. "She was a very good kid."
Tonich, who helped raise Jordan since she was 7, admits he could be strict. On his birthday a week ago, she gave him a card inscribed, "Now I understand why you're so tough."
Her mother said Jordan was an overachiever for whom everything came easy.
"I always wanted her to be a lawyer because she could come up with facts and figures," Neva Tonich said. "She never went with the flow. She was always independent in her thought process. But at the same time, she was always thoughtful."
According to the Sandusky post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, Jordan was driving south on River Road at about 11:40 a.m. when she lost control of her car as she rounded a curve north of Franklin Flats. She drove left of center, swerved right, then over-corrected and returned to the left as the vehicle spun and broke through a guardrail.
She was pronounced dead at the scene by medics from North Central EMS. They were assisted at the scene by Erie County Sheriff's deputies and the Milan Township Fire Department.
She was wearing a seat belt and shoulder harness, and the vehicle's front airbags deployed. Troopers said speed may have been a factor in the accident, but alcohol and drugs are not suspected.
Christopher Muzik, Tom Tonich's stepbrother, was close to Jordan, who confided in him and his wife, Sara.
Five days before her death, Jordan called Muzik unexpectedly and said of her parents: "For the first time in a long time, I know they're really proud of me and what I'm doing."
Huron High School principal John Ruf said counselors will be available today for grieving students.
"Anytime you lose a kid it's terrible," he said. "She had a smile on her face, and you knew she was well-liked. She's going to be missed. This type of thing isn't supposed to happen."