At the first Celebration of Mass every morning at American Martyrs Church in Manhattan Beach, 87-year-old Ruby May Hixson would sit in her usual spot, a pew some 10 rows from the front. And each morning toward the end of service, she would offer up a prayer “for the safety of all travelers,” Msgr. John Barry remembered.
At the 6:30 a.m. mass Tuesday, a week after Hixson was fatally hit by a motorcyclist just a few blocks away from her home, another parishioner called out Hixson’s signature prayer in her memory.
“I think that will continue,” Msgr. Barry said.
Family, friends and the parish will celebrate Hixson’s life Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. in a funeral mass held at her home church of more than six decades, continuing a peaceful process of healing that those who knew her believe she would have wanted.
The death of Hixson, a 66-year Manhattan Beach resident, left the church community in a “state of shock and sadness” last week, Msgr. Barry said. As she did almost every morning for the last 20 years, she had been taking a two-mile stroll from her Sixth Street home to the church for early-morning mass when she was struck by the motorcyclist. Hixson died at the scene—on the 600 block of Sepulveda Boulevard—as did the 41-year-old Torrance man Daniel Lindeman.
“Above all, the family says we only want healing,” said Msgr. Barry, who has known the Hixson family for 30 years. “They were immediately praying for the family of the other victim. That’s what their mom would do. She’d never want to have any anger.”
Hixson, who is survived by her 91-year-old husband Harvey Hixson, has always valued the church, her youngest daughter Maryanne said, and would usually arrive at mass a half-hour early for extra time in the prayer room.
“She just loved being in church because she felt close to God there—it was so beautiful and holy,” Maryanne said.
The walk to and from American Martyrs was part of her regular exercise routine, as she often made sure to “put in five miles a day,” she added. “She was quite the walker.”
As the news of her death traveled up and down the street, neighbors came by the Hixson home—currently occupied by her husband Harvey and four adult children visiting from out of state, Susan, Ellen, Bob and Maryanne—to share their memories of her.
“There’s people in the neighborhood around here who’d say, ‘I knew your mom, she walks past our house,’” Maryanne said. “Or ‘I met her when I was walking my dog,’ or ‘Every time I see her, she hugs me.’”
Still others remembered her volunteerism at local hospitals, for which she knitted and donated colorful Afghans. Her daughter Susan noted that a tall stack of Afghans still remains in her room.
Janet Murphy, 81, said she was at a loss when she couldn’t spot Hixson at mass last Tuesday morning, a ritual she almost never missed. At the Altar Society meeting later that day, she learned what had happened.
“I still miss her,” said Murphy, who’s known Hixson for nearly 10 years. “I feel like she’s on vacation and she’ll be back. I don’t think she ever knew a stranger. She was just friendly. I’d describe her as a gentlewoman.”
Another friend and church member, Phyllis Koffman, 82, also remembered her friendliness and positive energy, always offering words of prayers for others.
“It was always a comforting thought knowing she was praying for you,” Koffman said. “I’m sure she still is.”
Msgr. Barry, who considered Hixson a “very, very good friend,” said her kindness was not only consistent but contagious.
“She came with a smile, she left with a smile, and those around her, if they came in any way with a grouchy face, they left with a happy face because she made them smile,” he said. “That was her gift.”