Next week marks six months since the tragic mass shooting at the Table Mesa King Soopers in Boulder and the loss of one of our beloved Via Paratransit riders, Teri Leiker.
Those who knew Teri remember her for her smile and her empathy. She was never afraid to speak her mind or stick up for what was right. During the nearly two decades that she used Via’s services, she formed friendships with many Via drivers.
“She saw the good in almost anyone, and she loved talking to people and making them feel better. Teri was really in tune with others, and when she sensed that someone needed to feel better, she always went out of her way to make them feel better,” shared Teri’s mother, Margie Whittington.
Teri first learned about Via through Imagine Colorado. At the time, Margie took Teri to and from work each time she had a shift at the South Boulder King Soopers. This schedule became increasingly challenging to keep up with, and Teri and Margie needed a better solution.
At first, Teri was apprehensive about riding with Via. Since childhood, Teri harbored a phobia of riding the bus because she was often bullied while riding the bus on her way to and from school. But, she decided to give Via a try.
Longtime Via employee Becky Leno helped set Teri up with a recurring ride, and it wasn’t long before Teri was looking forward to her trips. The newfound mobility independence was a sigh of relief for both Teri and Margie. And it wasn’t long before Teri got to know her drivers. Margie shared that whenever she and Teri were driving around Boulder together, they would see Via vehicles, and “Teri would exclaim ‘Hey Mom, there goes Mel,’ or ‘Hey Mom, there goes Dave!'” Margie also mentioned that Teri’s main concern was always getting to work on time, “If drivers took a route Teri was not familiar with, she would tell the drivers “You’re going the wrong way,” because she was afraid she would be late to work.”
Teri loved her job at King Soopers, and Via played a significant role in allowing her the flexibility to build her own schedule. “Via pretty much saved her life,” Margie shared. “Without Via, she couldn’t get to the job she loved, and I’m not sure that I would have been able to drive her for every shift.”
Over the nineteen years that Teri used Via’s services, she got a ride on buses and vans, but her favorite mode of transport was being picked up in a car. “She sat next to me and shared the same view of our route. Sometimes she would scold other drivers for their poor driving habits or make comments about driving conditions, but she always shared her love about the beauty of the foothills and mountains as we neared her destination,” shared former driver Harry Smith.
Harry drove Teri to work hundreds of times over the years. “I doubt if Teri ever had a down day in her life, and if she did, she never revealed it in my presence. She was always happy, full of joy and hope, and had a positive outlook on life. She had a keen sense of awareness with others, and if I gave the impression my day wasn’t going well, Teri made it her mission to pick up my spirits and encourage me. She always could be seen with a smile on her face, yet once we arrived at King Soopers, she focused on her job, her coworkers, and customers.”
Margie wasn’t surprised when we shared with her that our drivers had many fond memories of Teri. “At first, we didn’t know how she impacted her coworkers or customers; we didn’t know how she impacted her drivers or Best Buddies at CU. You don’t know until someone tells you, and it’s so important to listen to these stories so we can learn how others saw our loved ones.”
As we continue to mourn the tragic loss that our community experienced in March 2021, we’re taking time to reflect on the profound impact that Teri had on everyone around her. Via changed Teri’s life, and in return, Teri’s positive and hopeful influence will not be forgotten by all of us here at Via.