Faribault woman found her lost mom, then died in car crash

The story of Marisa Bocanegra, a mother of five who was killed in a car crash south of Wanamingo, Minn., on Tuesday, is the very portrayal of life’s unfairness.

She had finally met her birth mother just a few weeks ago, ending decades of searching for the woman who was tricked into giving her up in Colombia.

“My mother has searched for me for 36 years,” she wrote on her GoFundMe page. “She didn’t want to give me up for adoption. My mother was tricked to give me up as she was drugged and told to sign a blank page and then I was gone. I was sold for money. Her heart has been broken for years and tomorrow I speak to her for the very first time.”

She and her mother had planned to spend the next two months getting to know each other, says GoMN.com, which had produced a four-part video series of the search and reunion. And now she’s gone.

Last night she and her family were to participate in a testimony of hope at the Nueva Jerusalem Church in Faribault, Minn., the Faribault Daily News says. Instead, it was changed to a memorial service.

Bocanegra was a southern Minnesota anti-domestic violence/sexual assault advocate with ThinkSelf, a program of Community Services of the Deaf, and despite being on leave to spend time with her mother and brother, she didn’t lose touch.

“[She] still found time to check in with us, saying ‘It’s hard not to work when you love what you do,’” read a Facebook post from ThinkSelf. “Her work loved her, too, and will continue to be inspired by her story and spirit.”

“Marisa Bocanegra was an inspiration to us all,” said Aaron Gutzke, Minnesota State Program director for ThinkSelf, in an email to the Daily News. “Her dedication to survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking was unparalleled and she will be sorely missed by our staff and participants.”

United Legacy, an organization focused on search management for missing persons, was another organization that Bocanegra was involved with.

“She was such a beautiful soul, a real life angel who walked amongst us. She selflessly spent her life loving her family and helping others to make this world a better place,” a Facebook post from the organization read. “We will forever miss her infectious smile and willingness to love whoever with an open heart.”

As a “fierce advocate,” who was “incredibly strong,” Staab-Absher said Bocanegra was always willing to go the extra mile.

Take a recent phone call that Staab-Absher received, for example. Despite not directly working for the HOPE Center, Bocanegra took it upon herself to set up a Giving Tree ornament for the clients of HOPE Center.

“She wanted to make sure our clients [had something this holiday season],” Staab-Absher said. “It shows who she is.”

Now, there’s a new GoFundMe drive underway to raise money to help her mother and brother return to Colombia.

(h/t: Audrey Helbling)

  • Anna

    Life can be unfair but instead of raising money to send her mother and brother back to Colombia sooner, why not let them stay as planned and get to know her children and her adopted family?

    Maria’s daughter is going to need a lot of help once she leaves the hospital and Maria’s birth mother and her brother could provide that love and support. Loving words and tenderness are the same in any language.

    Condolences to Maria’s family and her many friends and co-workers.