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One year since a fatal hit-and-run on University Avenue, Gainesville remembers Maggie Paxton

hit and run
A crowd gathered on the corner of Gale Lemerand Drive and University Avenue for a memorial ceremony to honor Maggie Paxton. She died on Dec. 9, 2020, in a hit-and-run crash on University Avenue. (Julia Cooper/WUFT News)

About 80 UF students, parents and activists gathered on the corner of Gale Lemerand and University Avenue Thursday to honor the life of Maggie Paxton.

She was an 18-year-old UF student who died in a hit-and-run crash on University Avenue in 2020. Thursday marked one year since her passing. 

Despite the changes made to University Avenue in 2021, including the installation of speed tables on the busiest part of the road and lowering the speed limit to 25 miles per hour, more needs to be done, according to Lisa Hammer. She is a parent of a UF student and co-founder of Gators Against Student Pedestrian Deaths.  

“We have seen there are visible changes on University,” Hammer said. “But more still needs to be done; we really are pushing for a complete streets model on University Avenue.”  

Complete streets are a type of road design that enables safe use for people of all abilities, regardless of if they are traveling as pedestrians, drivers or bicyclists. Complete streets can reduce motor-vehicle related crashes and pedestrian and bicyclist risk, according to the U.S Department of Transportation.  

Hammer said she hopes that the Florida Department of Transportation, the City of Gainesville and the University of Florida will work together to implement better solutions to ensure student safety on the busy street lining campus.  

People attending the memorial ceremony donned green clothing, Maggie's favorite color, and walked along University Avenue with candles and luminaries in hand.

First, the group stopped at Tigert Hall where organizers gave speeches about how they hope to push the movement to make changes to University Avenue forward and friends of Maggie spoke about her as a person. They ended the ceremony at Kappa Kappa Gamma, Maggie’s sorority where people lined the front walkway of the house with the luminaries and visited a memorial stone dedicated to her.  

Jack McKinney, a friend of Maggie’s, spoke to the crowd and said he hopes people remember Maggie's humor and heart.  

“Maggie was one of a kind,” McKinney said. “And I think everybody knows that and the amount of love in her heart for everybody, and the amount of humor and beauty, all the great parts of her were the best.”  

Julia is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.