WHITE SALMON, Wash. – A foreign exchange student killed during a shooting spree in Portland, was remembered as a kind and curious young woman – eager to learn about life in the United States and share the dances and food of her native Peru.
Though she died in the heart of downtown Portland, Martha “Tika” Paz de Noboa, 17, spent her four months in the United States in this small, Columbia River town, where some 500 people filled the high school gymnasium in remembrance late Monday afternoon.
“It’s been overwhelming,” said Jason Spadaro, de Noboa’s host father for the first three months of her stay. “I will forever think of her as a daughter.”
De Noboa died Jan. 24, one of nine people shot by Erik S. Ayala outside an under-21 nightclub in what authorities suspect was a random attack. Ashley Wilks, 16, was also killed in Portland’s worst mass shooting. Seven others were wounded.
Most of the victims were foreign exchange students – all friends – who had gone to The Zone to celebrate a birthday. Ayala shot himself in the head after the rampage. He died three days later.
De Noboa’s mother is in Peru, and Rotary International Youth Exchange officials may accompany the victim’s remains back to her home country, said Jonathan Blake of the White Salmon Rotary Club.
Spadaro, in a eulogy, said de Noboa, who spoke limited English, came to the U.S. to learn the language and more about American culture.
He recalled that during the months de Noboa lived with his family last fall, she would watch TV shows like “Hannah Montana” and write down American phrases used during the programs. Then she would ask what the phrases meant.
He also remembered how de Noboa rushed toward his wife, Shelly Spadaro, and embraced her upon arriving from Arequipa, Peru, in September. He called de Noboa “thoughtful, caring and loving.”
He said her death was senseless: “A random act took her from us.”
Spadaro encouraged those seated in the Columbia River High School gymnasium to remember her by engaging in random acts of kindness.
De Noboa’s teachers at Columbia High School said she excelled at art. Her work, including a painting of Mount Hood, was displayed inside the gymnasium.
Others recalled her as a friendly young woman who loved to dance and meet new people.
Host mother Lori Stadler, who took the teen into her home shortly before Christmas, recalled how de Noboa moved the living room furniture to teach her children to samba. Stadler added that de Noboa wrote on her application that one of her goals as an exchange student was to bring people closer together.
“She certainly succeeded,” Stadler said to the gathering.