Thunder with passing rain showers couldn’t dampen the outpouring of love for Savannah Page Gold as family, friends and even strangers came together at her favorite park Saturday in a vigil celebrating the life of the 21-year-old Jacksonville woman discovered slain a week ago.

 

Jacksonville police recovered Gold’s body from a Westside pond last Saturday – three days after she had disappeared from the parking lot of Bonefish Grill in Mandarin, where friends said she’d work about two years.

To thank her friends and the community for their support, Gold’s family held the vigil from 2 p.m. to dusk at Losco Regional Park, 10931 S. Hood Road.

Gold’s uncle, Frank Pastine, said she loved the park and spent many happy hours climbing its broad-limbed trees, riding her bicycle along its winding paths and simply enjoying its serenity.

“She spent a lot of time here. She just really loved this park, so we though this would be a great opportunity for us to express our gratitude to the family, friends and the public, especially the Mandarin community who have been unbelieveably supportive,” Pastine said.

Gold loved people, and had all kinds of friends in different areas such as sports and the art world, he said.

“All she cared about was what was in your heart. She didn’t care about where you came from, how much your parents made. She just loved people for who they were, and vice versa,” Pastine said.

Rebecca Oakes said she and her late husband, Farley, had been occasional customers at Bonefish Grill. While they didn’t know Gold well, she always made time to say “hello,” and ask how they were doing, when she saw them, Oakes said.

“I just felt I had to come. Pay my respects. She seemed like such a sweet girl,” said Oakes as she began walking toward the tent set up in the park where Gold’s family and friends hugged and shared their memories.

A memorial featuring photos of Gold through the years as she grew up, her lacrosse sticks, fresh flowers and tiny ribbons filled a table at one end of the tent.

Almost full to the brim, a jar rested beside sheets of paper on one end of the table. A small hand-written note attached to the jar said:

“Please take a sheet of paper and write a favorite memory of Savannah. Fold it up and put it in the jar for the Golds to read each year on Savannah’s birthday.”

Gold was born on April 26, 1996 to Dan and Sherri Gold. She is survived by her parents, brother, Chris Gold; grandparents and many aunts, uncles and cousins.

Pastine said a private funeral will be Sunday.

Pastine said his niece was a gifted athlete who loved playing lacrosse, and was a talented artist who also loved sewing and dancing. Gold also was natural care-giver who passed up a scholarship at Savannah College of Art and Design about four years ago so she could help care for her mother, who was ill at the time, he said.

A GoFundMe account in Gold’s memory had raised nearly $28,000 of its $50,000 goal as of Saturday. The fund was established by Gold’s aunt to help the family with burial expenses.

Because the influx of donations has been so great, the family intends to use any money remaining either to invest in a memorial fund in Gold’s name, or for donations to organizations “near and dear to Savannah’s heart.”

Those organizations are:

  • Hubbard House in Jacksonville, a full-service certified domestic violence center that provides prevention and intervention to domestic violence survivors and their families in Duval and Baker counties.
  • First Coast No More Homelss Pets in Jacksonville
  • The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)
  • LaVilla School of the Arts, where Gold attended school.

To donate or more information, go to https://www.gofundme.com/SavannahGoldAngel.

Jacksonville police have charged Lee Rodarte Jr., 28, with murder and tampering with evidence in Gold’s death. Gold and Rodarte were co-workers at Bonefish Grill in Mandarin. Rodarte, the restuarant’s culinary manager, is accused of killing Gold the evening of Aug. 2 inside his car in the parking lot of the shopping center where the restaurant is located.

Gold’s car was found unlocked with her purse inside and a punctured tire the night she went missing. Her body was discovered in a Westside pond last Saturday after surveillance video led police to Rodarte, who the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office said provided them with the location. Rodarte remains jailed without bail.

Teresa Stepzinski: (904) 359-4075