By Karen Billing
Solana Beach resident and devoted community volunteer Sedef Esener passed away on April 1 at age 48 after a courageous and selfless four-year fight with rectal cancer. She is survived by her parents Ozden Richter and Coskun Erkam; husband Sadik, children Selin and Eren, as well as a multitude of friends locally and across the globe.
She passed away peacefully in her Solana Beach home, holding her mother’s hand.
“If I had one word to describe her, it would be ‘Glue,’” said her friend of 13 years Janet Raschke, who spoke on behalf of Sedef’s many friends in this interview. “She was the glue that brings everyone together and holds them.”
“A lot of people said that she was the glue and that really represents her character,” said her husband Sadik. “Even at tough times, she was easygoing and smiling and making sure everyone else was comfortable.”
Memorial scholarships have been set up in her name at UCSD Moores Cancer Center, Rancho Santa Fe Youth Soccer, where she committed so much of her time, and at a Dollars for Scholars memorial scholarship at Torrey Pines High School. If all goes as planned, the first scholarship in her memory will be given this spring.
A celebration of her life was held at Powerhouse Park in Del Mar on April 6 and Raschke said they couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day.
“It was so beautiful, the sunset and the full moon rising,” said her mother Ozden Richter, noting it was as if the sun was setting in slow motion. Sadik let a balloon go into the sky and it got stuck on a palm tree.
“It was like one last goodbye,” said her mother through tears. “It was like she didn’t want to go yet.”
Sedef was born on Nov. 19, 1963 in Istanbul and lived in Turkey through her teenage years. She attended college in Maui, Hawaii, before moving to the mainland. After marrying Sadik, the couple moved to Solana Beach where they lived for the last 21 years.
“I will certainly miss her smile and the way that she loved life and nature,” Sadik said. “Mostly her smile.”
He remembers that the first day they met they had an argument about how to cook a certain dish.
“It was the only argument that we ever had in 20 years,” Sadik said.
Sedef was “the best mom” to her two children, Selin, 18, a Torrey Pines High School graduate who now attends UC San Diego, and Eren, a 15-year-old who attends TPHS.
Her home was a happy place for her children’s friends to visit.
“The kids loved her home, they loved Sedef,” said Raschke. “She fed them, had arts and crafts projects for them, she talked with them. She was very special to all of them.”
One day after having cyber knife surgery last summer, she boarded a plane and took 15 children, including her own, to Turkey for a six-week vacation.
“She wanted her kids to remember that vacation,” said Richter.
Her mother describes Sedef as being always happy, positive and down to earth. She was an adventurer who loved to travel and was very athletic — once she was a ping-pong champion in Istanbul. She loved fine dining and was a great cook—her father had been a hotelier and she had lived in hotels and enjoyed working with the chefs.
She was incredibly generous with her time.
“She did not know the word ‘no’,” said Raschke. “She did everything.”
“Whatever anyone needed, things that wouldn’t even cross your mind, she would think of it,” said Richter.
She was a devoted parent, the class mom at Solana Vista, Skyline, Earl Warren and very involved at Torrey Pines. She knew everything that was going on in the community and kept her friends informed.
She organized everything, it was often Sedef that remembered everyone’s birthdays, and arranged fun outings. She loved the outdoors and got her friends into cycling.
After being diagnosed, she was unselfish and never complained of the pain she must have been going through.
“She went through so much and how she tried to hang on is unbelievable,” said Richter. “It is a horrible sickness.”
She always worried for others. Raschke said she’d rather talk about her friend’s backache than her own pain. In her last months she always wanted to ensure that Eren’s water was ready for his soccer game or that his uniform was washed. She would continue organizing carpools even when it was difficult for her to speak.
She would often text her mother to reassure her that she was OK and not to worry.
“I cannot delete [them],” Richter said of those texts.
Sedef’s biggest devotion in her last years was RSF Soccer, where she was a team manager until the day she passed.
At RSF Soccer, if there was money to be raised, Sedef was on it. She raised money for seven kids to play in the league on scholarships and the day she got out of the hospital she held a garage sale to raise funds, even though she was so sick she couldn’t even sit.
Sadik admits that Sedef didn’t even like soccer to begin with but became the sport’s biggest fan when her children were playing.
“She would always say ‘just one more’,” Sadik said of Sedef attending games because she never knew when a game would be her last.
At her life celebration, RSF Soccer coach Nate Hetherington said that even after chemotherapy she drove out to Las Vegas for a tournament, refusing to rest because she wanted to stay busy.
“Always putting everyone else ahead of you,” Hetherington said. “You are perhaps the strongest person I know to go through those years and stay so positive.”
RSF Soccer’s Director of Coaching Malcolm Tovey said that “Saint Sedef” was honest, committed, selfless and caring.
“The legacy Sedef leaves behind as team manager is that of a pair of size 30 shoes, something that cannot be filled,” said Tovey.
In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that memorial donations be made to Rancho Santa Fe Youth Soccer. Please note the Sedef Esener Memorial Scholarship Fund in the memo section of the check. Visit www.rsfsoccer.com.