COURTESY OF KITV
Karen Ertell was found dead on Friday in her home in Ewa Beach. CLICK FOR LARGE
Break-ins plagued Ewa woman's home
Karen Ertell's generous spirit, busy life is recalled
Malanie McLellan was only 15 when she found herself looking for a home after drugs had torn her family apart.
Karen Ertell took her in and gave her a second chance in life.
"The first time she met me she just fell in love with me and she knew that she was going to take care of me," said McLellan, now 27, in a phone interview. "She loved making sure that people were OK."
McLellan struggled yesterday with the death of her foster mother, whom she considers her mother and role model.
On Friday, police found Ertell, 51, dead in her Ewa Beach home. Police said there are suspicious circumstances surrounding her death, but have not yet classified the case as a homicide.
An autopsy is scheduled for Tuesday.
Ertell's blue Volvo was missing from her Akua Street home and was found later that night at Geiger Park.
Ertell was having problems with a series of break-ins into her home over the past year and a half, McLellan said.
She lived alone with two dogs and a cat.
McLellan recalled feeling unsafe while house-sitting Ertell's home several months ago. "Karen was almost naive to stuff like that," McLellan said, adding that she was always looking at the good in people.
"She had a huge heart of gold. Everybody got a second chance. She was the most loyal friend anybody could ever have," said boyfriend Kevin Callahan.
Ertell even gave a neighbor who broke into her home a chance to make amends by doing yardwork, McLellan said.
"Karen never gave up on me. She loved me and took care of me. She made sure I had what I needed no matter what cost to her. She was a really good woman. All she did was help people," McLellan said.
Now married and working at United Airlines, McLellan is 38 weeks pregnant.
"She was going to be a grandma. Now she doesn't have that," she said. "I can't stop thinking about it."
Ertell's dream was to join Doctors Without Borders, an international organization that provides medical aid to people in countries with need, McLellan said.
She put her heart into several projects, from buying her Ewa Beach home to fix up to buying the Koko Crater Coffee Roasters company in Kakaako. The company supplies locally grown and imported coffee beans to independent coffee shops around Oahu.
In the beginning, Ertell was the only employee.
Her company was selected as last year's best local coffee roaster by Honolulu Magazine.
At the Kapiolani Community College farmer's market, the space where Koko Crater Coffee Roasters normally stood was empty yesterday morning for the first time in four years.
Since the market began four years ago, Ertell and her coffee beans were there, said Dean Okimoto, the farmer's market co-founder.
"For us it's a big loss, because the farmer's market is partly about the community," Okimoto said.
The coffee stand was popular among the thousands of residents who visit the farmer's market each week.
Several vendors gathered around where Ertell's booth would be and held a moment of silence yesterday.
The vendors hope to place a memorial at the site soon, Okimoto said.
"She was one of the gang," he said. "And we missed her so much in the morning."