Memorial event remembers Maggie Paxton

One year after her death, a group of just over 100 people gathered at the intersection of Gale Lemerand Drive and University Avenue on Thursday night to remember Maggie Paxton.

A driver hit Paxton at that intersection last Dec. 9 before fleeing the scene.

With lit candles and many dressed in green―Maggie’s favorite color―the group also left the intersection and walked down University Avenue before turning onto SW 13th Street and making its way to Tigert Hall.

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Different organizations came together for the event: fellow UF students, Gators Against Student Pedestrian Deaths (GASPD) and Florida Not One More.

The group met to remember Paxton, but also to raise awareness and promote design changes to University Avenue.

Amy Grass-Gilmore, an administrator for the GASPD Facebook page, told the group to look out for each other.

“Look to your left, look to your right,” Grass-Gilmore said. “You are responsible for these people.”

Lisa Hammer speaks to the crowd at University Ave and Gale Lemerand Drive.

Lisa Hammer, a moderator on GASPD, encouraged the group to remember Paxton through three ways: share memories of her and laugh while walking, donate to the causes trying to make improvements and add your voice to those demanding change.

Less than two months after Paxton’s death, another UF student died on University Avenue. In the spring of 2020, changes began.

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) reduced the speed limit to 25 and added speed tables along University Avenue where it borders UF.

The Gainesville Police Department launched the Gator STEP program, issuing 322 citations in one month along West University Avenue, beating out previous months by more than 300.

In July, GPD arrested Joshua Alexander Figueroa as the driver who hit Paxton.

The City of Gainesville finished a study of University Avenue and 13th Street to find improvements. The city commission voted in October to move forward and find funding for several design changes.

Group ended at Kappa Kappa Gamma with candles and luminaries lined the walkway

At the steps of Tigert Hall, friends of Paxton spoke about her passion for social issues and personality. The group then crossed SW 13th Street to arrive at the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority house.

After lining the walkway with luminaries and candles, the group held a moment of silence before dispersing.

In March, the families of Paxton and Sophia Lambert, the other UF student killed in January, filed separate suits against the drivers of the vehicles and others.

Lawmakers have said change is coming.

“We are going to have to change people’s mentality about what this road is for,” said Commissioner David Arreola at an October meeting. “It is no longer the state road that was the only east and west through Alachua County. They’re traveling through the middle of one of the fastest growing cities in Florida. And directly in front of the university is the highest pedestrian area.”

Nearly 30,000 vehicles travel on University Avenue in front of Heavener Hall, with almost as many traversing NW 13th Street a few blocks north.

Proposed changes include wider sidewalks, narrower vehicle lanes and a reduction of lanes in some places.

More than 100 people walked from Gale Lemerand Drive to Paxton's sorority house.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified Amy Grass-Gilmore as the sorority mom for Kappa Kappa Gamma. 

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