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Family, friends remember Atascadero teen as ‘full of life’

“She really lived fearlessly,” said her sister Hailey Sudbrink, 20. “She didn’t care what other people thought, and she thought it was crazy that I cared.”

On Monday, Shelby’s family and friends gathered to remember the Atascadero girl who always had a smile on her face. Shelby, 17, was killed Friday morning when her car crashed into a tree on a winding back road surrounded by horse pastures. She was on her way to pick up a friend to go to the beach.

“She really enjoyed life,” said her mother, Emily Sudbrink, as she sat on the couch in her home surrounded by her three other children and husband. “She was hoping to go to (UC) Santa Cruz next year and become a doctor, either a pediatrician or an anesthesiologist. Or a pediatric anesthesiologist.”

Family members each jumped in with more memories of Shelby. She loved anything made out of potatoes, they said. And homemade Belgian waffles. She was a bright child — she started kindergarten at age 4, and her teachers wanted her to skip ahead to first grade. She had been a vegetarian since she was 3 years old, after asking her mother where chicken nuggets came from.

“She got tears in her eyes and she said, ‘That’s the meanest thing I’ve ever heard,’ ” Emily said. “ ‘I’m never eating meat again.’ And she didn’t.”

Her younger brother, Colby, 12, remembered that she would always make him do things for her. If he was upstairs and she was downstairs near the kitchen, she’d call for Colby and ask him to bring her a glass of water from the kitchen. Shelby’s little sister Kiley, 7, said Shelby taught her the dance to “Juju on that Beat,” a rap song.

Kiley, who plays basketball like Shelby, said her sister told her last year to dab after she made a basket at her first game, mimicking a popular move where a person leans their head into their arm like they’re sneezing.

Sure enough, when Kiley made a basket, she looked for Shelby in the crowd and dabbed.

Shelby was either always on an adventure or lying in bed watching Netflix, her family said. Shelby liked watching “The Originals,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “One Tree Hill.”

“She took the car a few days ago to pick up her friends so they could go watch the sunrise,” her mom said, who added Shelby would sometimes spontaneously tell her she was going on a day trip to Santa Cruz or Big Sur.

“She was so full of life and a pure soul,” added her father, Michael Sudbrink.

The high school senior was more comfortable in jeans and flip-flops than a dress and heels, her family said. When she won homecoming princess her junior year, she didn’t want to dress up. “She said, ‘Dad, they’re saying I can’t wear jeans,’ ” remembered her father. “When I walked her on the field, I envisioned walking her down the aisle.”

Hailey said Shelby’s favorite song was “No Flocking,” by Kodak Black, her favorite musical artist. She also loved to draw and paint. One of her paintings, the words “Love + Basketball” on an orange background, hangs in the entrance of her family’s home. On the opposite wall are pictures of Shelby throughout her life: from babyhood to her senior pictures.

“Everyone thinks their kid is perfect, but she really was perfect,” Emily said, tearing up as she looked at the painting.

Preserving memories

Nyhoni Foster, Shelby’s best friend who also lives with the Sudbrink family, said Shelby was great at getting people out of their comfort zone.

Foster said she used to dislike the beach, but Shelby got her to go and enjoy it.

“We would always go to Morro Bay,” Foster said.

She said she liked Shelby’s confidence and how she cared for her friends. “She was always doing stuff for people,” Foster said.

Shelby’s family said they were thankful for the outpouring of community support they have received, which Shelby’s father called “humbling.”

Shelby’s uncle, Adam Kovach, set up a video camera in the Student Union Room at Templeton High School to film anyone who wished to share memories of Shelby. The stories will be edited into a video to be shown at Shelby’s memorial service.

Kovach said he also plans to be at the school Tuesday and Wednesday to film and invites any community member who wants to share a story about Shelby to come by. He added that anyone who wants to send the family pictures or videos of Shelby can send them to her mother at

Shelby’s friends, Natalee Gang, Ali Barton and Alex Reeser stopped by on Monday.

They said that over the weekend, they went to the tree where the crash happened and decorated it, tying a blue bow around the trunk, in honor of Shelby’s favorite color. On Monday, tire marks and trauma to the tree where Shelby crashed were still visible. Flowers and photos of her surrounded it.

Barton showed a reporter videos of Shelby making a goofy face, singing and dancing in the car, and wearing a homemade Spiderman costume while doing the “whip,” a popular dance move.

“She made you laugh and smile,” Barton said. “She put everyone in a better mood.”

Service planned

A memorial service has been planned for 1 p.m. Sunday at Oyster Ridge Barn and Event Space in Santa Margarita, Kovach said. Immediately following the service, the family will celebrate Shelby with food, music and stories of her life.

“Anyone whose life was touched by our amazing Shelby is welcome to attend,” Kovach said.

The family has set up the Shelby Sudbrink Memorial Scholarship, a fund that will be given every year to a selected Templeton High School senior. Donations can be made at the Templeton High School main office with a debit card, or by mailing a check (write Shelby Sudbrink in the memo) to: Templeton High School, attn: Sheila DeLisle, 1200 S. Main St., Templeton, CA 93465.

Anyone with questions about donating to the scholarship may call 805-434-5865. Those who wish to contribute in any other way can contact Kovach at 310-938-5625.

Gabby Ferreira: 805-781-7858, @Its_GabbyF

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