She was surrounded by the love of her partner, family and friends
SAN DIEGO -- Charissa "Chazzy" Kolich, a beloved, bright light in the San Diego community for over a decade, died peacefully in her Hillcrest home on Tuesday. She was 36.
Surrounded in the care of her devoted longtime partner Cortney, loving parents Nina and Steve Kolich, and brother Jeff at the time of her death, Charissa had fiercely battled inoperable brain cancer with grace and an interminable smile, for nearly two years.
Her glowing spirit, open-handed generosity and fun-loving charisma was cherished by adoring friends and casual acquaintances, alike.
A native of Overland Park, Kansas, Charissa worked at San Diego International Airport, serving as an administrator within SAN's food-service sector for several years. She was also considered one of the finest basketball referees to ever adorn the whistle and stripes.
"When our Charissa passed away this morning, she was at peace," said her mother Nina, to San Diego Gay & Lesbian News correspondent Mary Buckheit.
"When I looked at her in that moment, I thought, 'it looks like she is smiling.'"
Charissa touched and inspired many, both in life and in her death.
Here are just a few of the messages posted on her Facebook wall since her passing:
Heather Wilson: Was so lucky to know her. She touched everyone who was lucky enough to cross her path, and we'll always remember her smile and her courage. Rest now, Charissa. Rest in peace you beautiful soul.
Jonathan Bova: You are forever in my heart Chazzy. Your smile big as life and heart of a champion will always inspire me. Be at peace my friend.
Amie Anderson: I will never forget the week I cared for you at Scripps Mercy and the amazing courage and strength you showed throughout your stay and diagnosis. We learned that we were not only fellow KC girls but even played high school basketball together. Of the thousands of patients I have cared for your unstoppable determination, courage, and energy has stayed with me and I will never forget you! My thoughts and prayers are with Courtney, your family, and army of loving friends.
Stephanie Sullivan: I knew Charissa Kolich from working at the airport ... we shared many a great times together - be it over coffee or just chatting in the hall ... she always had a smile on her face and a hug to share ... what an incredible lady ... I'm am honored to have known her and will always remember her.
Glen Wellbrock: Heavy heart. You were a hero at the way you handled everything. We were all better people for having known you. I know I am.
Kristen Albair: Charissa Kolich, you will always be one of the most amazing people I've ever met. In the 5 1/2 years I've had the pleasure to know you, your positive spirit, genuine strength & love for life have been a constant inspiration to me & to so many people around you ... the world needs more Chazzy's in it. I miss you & I will always love you.
Paul Demke: I love you Charissa Kolich. I love you. I was honored to be able to play basketball with you in the San Diego Hoops League and to work with you as a high school basketball official. You were my basketball teammate, my colleague, and most importantly, a friend. Love eternal.
While details of the services are still pending, a memorial celebration is expected in San Diego.
View a video of Charissa enjoying an outpouring of support through letters from fans all over the world in response to the Think Shrink campaign, a fundraising effort started by her friends:
Inspirational video made of "Chazzy's Brain Tumor Walk 2010 - Team THINK SHRINK!"
Friends are encouraged to leave messages of condolence in the comment section of this article, and share your memories and sentiments about Charissa Kolich.
Mary Buckheit contributed to this article.