On the showroom floor at Riverhead Nissan, Kelley Blanchard would “zip around” in her high heels. Next month would have marked her one-year anniversary as a sales and leasing consultant at the Riverhead dealership, where her smile would light up the room.
Whether it was at Michelangelo Pizzeria in Mattituck, where she was a longtime manager, or in her newest role at the dealership, Kelley was known for her energy and her larger-than-life personality.
Staffers at the dealership referred to her as their “little-big sister” because of the way she looked out for younger co-workers, said general sales manager Francois Wall.
“We were the family away from her family,” he said.
Kelley, who grew up in Southold and currently lived in Riverhead, died Sunday night in a boating crash in Mattituck. She was 27.
Her sister Megan, 29, was also injured in the crash and is expected to recover.
“Kelley was very loud and outgoing,” said Claire Vega, an aunt of the sisters. “She just put herself out there. She was nice to everybody. And funny. She had so much fun with anything she was doing.”
Ms. Vega said the sisters were “best friends” who did everything together.
Natalie Zappola, a close friend of Kelley’s since they met in eighth-grade gym class, said Kelley and Megan were “soul mates.”
Ms. Zappola said she made a promise to Kelley to look after her sister.
“That would be her biggest worry right now,” she said. “All I keep hearing is, ‘Take care of Megan.’ ”
Ms. Zappola said Kelley’s life had begun to take off in the last year, as she began a new job, and she was excited to advance her career.
The family will receive friends Sunday, Nov. 17, from noon-4 p.m. at DeFriest-Grattan Funeral Home in Mattituck. The Liturgy of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Monday, Nov. 18, at Our Lady of Good Counsel R.C. Church in Mattituck. The Rite of Commital will be private.
No matter where she was in her life, she always found the time to take care of the people closest to her. She was a loyal friend who made sure everyone close to her knew how much they meant.
“She always put everybody else before herself,” Ms. Zappola said.
Kelley turned 27 on Oct. 26. The next night she celebrated her birthday with family and friends with a night out in Riverhead. Ms. Zappola said she met the group after they had dinner and they hung out the rest of the night and ate breakfast the next morning.
The pictures they took during that birthday celebration were the last of them together, she said.
“She’s one of the greatest people I’ve ever known in my life,” Ms. Zappola said. “She’s truly an irreplaceable person.”
Kelley graduated from Southold High School in 2010. Ms. Zappola said they met at a time when Kelley lived up-island and was attending the Sachem School District.
Ms. Vega said she grew up just a few houses from her nieces in Southold and they spent every day together as kids because they were close in age. They would have sleepovers, ride bikes and go to the beach.
“They were like my best friends growing up,” she said.
From an early age, Kelley and Megan both loved Halloween. The proximity of Kelley’s birthday to the holiday made it all the more fun.
“They were the Halloween queens,” Ms. Zappola said.
Mr. Wall, who hired Kelley at Riverhead Nissan, said she was eager to try something new. Right away, he said, her “bright” and “energetic” personality stood out to him.
“There are certain things in sales that you can’t teach. I can teach you how to sell a car … but I can’t teach you energy,” he said. “She came to work and customers loved her. Everyone that met her was instantly drawn to her.”
Fellow sales manager Tommy Maiorini of Deer Park said when Kelley was hired, she was excited to join the sales team and loved coming to work.
“She literally came to work to work,” Mr. Maiorini said. “She was excited to jump in front of customers, excited to help them out. Every time she came into the store, she’d smile and light up the room.”
Mr. Maiorini, who has worked at the Riverhead dealership for a year and has been in the business for 14 years, said the sales team is a tight-knit group of roughly 10 employees, so they were all close to Kelley.
“We definitely lost a good one here,” he said.
The relationship Kelley formed with her co-workers prompted general manager Vinny Purrazzella and sales and leasing consultant Mario Gonzalez to create an online fundraiser.
The GoFundMe page created Monday, “For Kelley Blanchard”, had already raised over $4,000 as of Wednesday afternoon. The page states that funds will go to her family. A separate GoFundMe page has raised more than $5,500.
GoFundMe works to merge the funds in situations where multiple pages are created following a tragedy.
Sales and leasing consultant Peter Agudo of Holtsville started at Riverhead Nissan in February and was trained by Kelley.
“She was always funny, wacky, and spoke her mind,” he said. “I don’t know where she got it, but she was always talking about cheese and wine.”
Mr. Agudo said Kelley inspired him to be himself.
“Don’t take anything for granted,” he said. “Just be yourself. Just do you.”