Mo Janecek remembers 17-year-old Dawn Malek as a “free spirit” who wore Western wear to a high school formal and rode her horse any chance she got.
Malek, an East Valley High School sophomore, died unexpectedly Feb. 11 at Deaconess Medical Center from a heart attack. Her funeral was Friday at the Foothills Chapel of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Evergreen Road.
The teenager had a defect in an artery that wasn’t detected, said her father, Dwayne Malek. His daughter suffered a massive heart attack at school on Feb. 9 and was taken to the hospital. She was transferred to Deaconess Medical Center and seemed to be improving Saturday.
“She got off the phone with one of her friends and told the nurse she felt like she was going to faint again,” he said. Then her heart stopped.
“She was loaned to us for 17 years,” her father said this week. “From the time she was born she was on the run.”
Janecek, who leads the St. George Equestrian 4-H Club that Malek belonged to, had first-hand experience with the girl’s energy.
“Every waking moment she could be, she was on her horse,” Janecek recalled. The barrel racer probably would have gone to state competition this year, Janecek said.
At a December formal dance, the girl and her two best friends shunned traditional velvet and pearly lace. “They went in show jeans, roper boots and lace blouses,” Janecek said.
Amity Lemburg was one of those friends who danced line dances in jeans and cowboy boots next to the girls in formal gowns.
It was Lemburg, a junior at EVHS, who got Malek into 4-H after discovering other common interests.
“I met her through my violin class,” Lemburg said. “Not a lot of people who are cowgirls play the classical violin.”
The two hung out and then both ran for 4-H offices last year. Lemburg became treasurer while Malek was elected secretary. Their horses, one male, one female, look exactly alike.
Malek was devoted to horses from an early age. She fed a neighbor’s Shetland pony over a fence for three years before the family bought it for her on her 12th birthday, her father said.
“It was a love affair from the word `go,”’ he said.
When she outgrew the pony, Malek got a horse, Sandra, which she trained for Western games and even rode to school.
To coax her parents into taking her to early morning competitions, she would get up at 4 a.m., groom the horse, load it into the trailer and, finally, go into the house to wake somebody up, saying, “I’m loaded. Would someone come drive me?” her father recalled.
The violinist followed her brother’s footsteps in East Valley orchestras, where she played violin for six years. East Valley High orchestra teacher Marla Pflanz said she was well-liked by all the students.
A soccer player and skier, Malek also did volunteer work with her 4-H club. They recently took potluck dishes and warm winter clothes to Crosswalk, a downtown agency that helps troubled youths.
It was hard for East Valley High students to believe that someone so active could have been so sick, her friend Lemburg said. Earlier this week, some of the students hadn’t heard about her death.
“It’s tough when you go to school and you go around the corner and you expect to see her and she’s not there,” Lemburg said.
“She was always on the go. I know that’s the way people will remember her.”
She is survived by her parents, Dwayne and Melody; a brother, Jeffery Martin Walton; and a sister, Anna Marie.