Rafu Staff Report
ORANGE — Shocked and saddened by the sudden death of Steven Okamura, friends are working to ensure that he is remembered and to prevent similar tragedies in the future.
Okamura, 50, of Orange was driving west on Chapman Avenue on Orange on the evening of May 12 when he was rear-ended near South Yorba Street. The impact sent his car into the intersection, where it hit another car before bursting into flames. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
The driver that hit his car, Stephanie Marie De Rosas, 32, was arrested on suspicion of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. She sustained serious injuries and the driver of the third car had minor injuries.
Okamura was an active member of Salem Lutheran Church for more than a decade. Since the end of last year he and his family have been attending Wintersburg Presbyterian Church.
“Steve Okamura, a very dear friend of mine that I’ve known for over 28 years, was fatally struck by a drunk driver while waiting at a signal on Thursday evening at 8:40 p.m. just a few blocks from his home,” Karen Such posted on Facebook. “Steve was one of a kind, and what I remember most is the fact that he could make me laugh under any circumstance. His strong faith and overwhelming kindness was undeniable. I can’t begin to tell you how devastating this is for me and so many others, especially his wife and three kids.
“Sometimes when we’re in the midst of such a loss, it’s easier to cope if we take some action and in this case that’s exactly what I’m doing. In Steve’s name I set up Team Okamura for the Walk Like MADD 5K event in Huntington Beach on 10/15/16. I would like to get as many team members signed up for the walk and/or donations in his name to help prevent such a tragic loss from happening again.
“If we can turn this tragic loss into saving just one other life, I think Steve would be very proud. I will be making shirts for all those who walk in honor of Steve Okamura on the day of the event and show him how many lives he’s touched and how many he can continue to touch. Please go to MADD website and look for Team Okamura under the Walk Like MADD event and join us… please! This one’s for you, Steve!!”
Supporters are asked to make donations, participate in the walk, and spread the word about the event using the hashtag #DrunkDrivingEnds Here. As of Thursday evening, $2,312 had been raised from 18 people, 77 percent of the goal of $3,000. Go to www.walklikemadd.org/team/okamura for more information.
“Steve was a remarkable, kind, and godly person and he will be missed terribly,” said Such. “At 50 years old he was suddenly gone. This could happen to anyone if we don’t stop these senseless acts that typically take the lives of others and not the driver who’s intoxicated. Don’t take life for granted; rather take action while on this Earth to prevent this nonsense and from lives being swept away leaving family and friends to cope.
“I am participating in Walk Like MADD to raise mission critical funds for Mothers Against Drunk Driving to put an end to the 100 percent preventable crime of drunk driving. Walk Like MADD provides an outlet for those impacted by drunk driving to channel their grief into hope and healing and provides communities the chance to surround and support those hurting by taking action to prevent others from suffering because of drunk driving.”
Another friend and fellow church member, Michelle Aceves Southall, has established the Okamura Children Help Fund at www.gofundme.com/na1gp0.
“We are setting up this fund for the three Okamura children, Lauren, Jackie and Craig,” she wrote. “They have tragically lost their father Steve Okamura, who was killed by a DUI driver on a suspended license on May 12 at 8:42 p.m. in Orange. They are so heartbroken trying to make sense of this horrible tragedy.
“Steve was a devoted father and husband to Kim. He worked hard to provide for his family, whether it be cooking or cleaning or doing the grocery shopping. He loved his family so much! He was an elder in his church and a kind, loving man who sought to help those in need.
“With the funds raised, we are hoping to help support and reassure Kim of the future for the children’s education and activities. Also, since his death was caused by a crime, they will have to endure the long journey of attending trial dates. This can last up to two years of reliving the night over and over again.
“Let’s help support them for the future so they know they are not in this alone. Let’s help give them some peace of mind.”
As of Thursday evening, $24,770 had been raised from 257 people toward the goal of $25,000.
Longtime friend Stephen Moriyama responded to the “senseless tragedy” in a Facebook post: “About 15 years ago Steve Okamura, Karen Such and a few others, we opened a chapter of StandUP for Kids in Orange County. We did this from the ground up to advocate the serious issue we have with the homeless kids in Orange County. Today, this chapter has perpetuated forward and has made a major impact in the work of youth homelessness and advocacy to bring awareness to Orange County.
“Steve was also a leader and advocate to the Vince Ferragamo Foundation. Steve and I worked golf tournaments together and met with Vince and others to benefit the Special Olympics and a variety of other youth athletic programs.
“The Okamura family has lost a father, son, brother and uncle. Our community has lost a friend who worked to protect the interests, families, and kids of our community.”