BOSTON (CBS/AP) – Friends of Easton native Christine Loeber described her Saturday as a “joy” and an amazing person to be around.
Now, they are mourning the sudden and tragic death of Loeber, 48, one of three women killed by an ex-patient during a hostage situation inside a Northern California veteran center on Friday.
“Light. She was just a light. She had a wonderful light touch with everybody. She was friendly, funny,” said her friend, Tom Turner, whose wife, Maura, was visiting Loeber in California when the tragedy unfolded.
“They’re like sisters, tremendously close over many years,” he said.
Loeber , a 2008 graduate of Boston College School of Social Work, worked as executive director of The Pathway Home, where the daylong siege ended Friday evening with the discovery of four bodies, including the gunman. He was identified as Albert Wong, 36, a former Army rifleman who served a year in Afghanistan in 2011-2012.
Investigators were still trying to determine when and why Wong killed two executives and a psychologist at The Pathway Home, a nonprofit post-traumatic stress disorder program at the Veterans Home of California-Yountville in the Napa Valley wine country region.
It was “far too early to say if they were chosen at random” because investigators had not yet determined a motive, California Highway Patrol Assistant Chief Chris Childs said.
Gov. Jerry Brown ordered flags flown at half-staff at the capitol in memory of the victims. The other two women killed were Clinical Director Jennifer Golick, 42, and Jennifer Gonzales, 29, a clinical psychologist with the San Francisco Department of Veterans Affairs Healthcare System.
“These brave women were accomplished professionals who dedicated their careers to serving our nation’s veterans, working closely with those in the greatest need of attention after deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan,” The Pathway Home said in a statement.
A Boston College spokesman praised Loeber’s passion for working with veterans.
“She distinguished herself at BC as a gifted student who was passionate about serving veterans. The prayers of the entire BC community are with the Loeber family in the wake of this senseless tragedy,” spokesman Jack Dunn said.
Golick’s father-in-law, Bob Golick, said in an interview she had recently expelled Wong from the program.
The Pathway Home is the largest veterans home in the nation, according to the state Department of Veterans Affairs.
Wong went to the campus about 53 miles north of San Francisco on Friday morning, slipping into a going-away party for some employees of The Pathway Home.
A Napa Valley sheriff’s deputy exchanged gunshots with the hostage-taker at about 10:30 a.m. but after that nothing was heard from Wong or his hostages despite daylong efforts to contact him, authorities said.
President Donald Trump tweeted Saturday morning: “We are deeply saddened by the tragic situation in Yountville and mourn the loss of three incredible women who cared for our Veterans.”
Loeber, who graduated from Oliver Ames High School in Easton, was dedicated to helping military veterans overcome PTSD and other mental illnesses.
How she died makes it that much harder for her loved ones to cope.
“To have someone who was in her care, ultimately be responsible for why she’s not here anymore is very difficult,yes, everyone is struggling with that,” Turner said.
Marian Dukeman Houser plays golf with Loeber’s father and says she is devastated for the family.
“Her father absolutely adored her,” she said. “Every week, we went to golf, he would mention Christine, what she was doing and how proud he was of her.”
Loeber is being remembered as a naturally nurturing person who cared deeply about helping others.
Loeber’s family is traveling to California.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)