Maria Marcelo, San Jose community activist, killed during religious walk

A well-known community activist in San Jose was the city's latest pedestrian death after she was killed during a religious procession Wednesday night.

Maria Marcelo, 47, was fatally struck around 7:30 p.m. at the intersection of Perrymont Avenue and Little Orchard Street near Plant Shopping Center.

She died at the scene, and the driver is cooperating with the investigation, authorities said.

Marcelo served as the community engagement director at Healing Grove, a nonprofit center focused on providing holistic primary care to all residents.

Maria Marcelo, 47, was the latest pedestrian death in San Jose after she was struck and killed Wednesday night.

She was leading a procession for the eighth day of Virgen de Juquila, an Oaxacan Christmastime tradition, when she hit while crossing the street, according to a Facebook post from Healing Grove.

"No doubt about it, Maria died in the line of duty doing exactly the thing she loved the most — practicing Healing Grove’s mission: Sharing the love of Jesus through health care, soul care, and culture care, in order to bring the "healing of the nations" to our community," Healing Grove said in its Facebook post.

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo touched on Marcelo's on Twitter saying, "With Maria Marcelo’s passing, our community lost a tireless champion, & many lost a dear friend. Maria fought for the health & safety of immigrant families in Washington-Guadalupe & ⁦@CityofSanJose. Our hearts break for Maria's family & friends @HealingGrove."

Marcelo was also the president of the Latina empowerment program, Madre-A-Madre, which she co-founded 15 years ago.

Residents who live in the area where Marcelo was killed have long complained about heavy traffic in the area and the need for more safety.

A neighbor said it's not the first time a pedestrian has been killed at the intersection and she’s protested in the past for a crosswalk to be installed here.

"The last time somebody was killed I asked, I actually put giant cardboard signs that said how many more people will die?" Gloria Ploch said. "It’s inevitable that this would happen when you have residents over here, and then you build a giant mall, and then there’s nowhere to cross."

The fatal accident set a new record for San Jose, the 31st pedestrian death this year so far.

Thursday night, dozens of Maria Marcelo’s family, friends and supporters gathered at Healing Grove Health Center where she worked for the last three years. 

"If anyone has any problem, they go to Maria and that includes me. I mean she was one of my best friends. If ever I had a problem I didn’t know how to solve, I would call Maria and say hey, what should I do? Maria would figure it out," said Dr. Angela Bymaster, who also works at the Healing Grove Health Center.

People at the gathering told KTVU that Marcelo truly cared about her community and became a dedicated advocate for all of them.   

"Maria Marcelo was everything to her community. She was the one who made sure all the kids had shoes when we were growing up. She made sure that all the kids had uniforms for school. She really cared about education, especially among young girls," said Briseida Perez, from San Jose.  

Healing Grove Health Center also set up the Maria Marcelo Memorial Community Fund in her honor.