OSHTEMO TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Sandy Villarreal didn’t just live in the Evergreen North Apartments just off Maple Hill Drive. Within five months, she dramatically changed the curb appeal of two spaces nearby to beautiful gardens.

An undated photo of Sandra Villarreal. (Courtesy Ree Adams)

Those who knew her say her soul beautiful was, too.

Villareal’s neighbors on the fourth floor, Beth Barrett and Hariett Robinson, said even if she didn’t have time, she would still be available.

“She always was kind. She smiled all the time,” Barrett said. “She always was busy … (but) she didn’t (say), ‘Oh, I’m busy, I’ll talk to you later.’ She would always take time to speak, talk and be kind.”

“Just a beautiful spirit,” Robinson added. “Just a beautiful person.”

Villarreal died on Aug. 9, after a driver hit her with his car at a Walmart parking lot. Investigators say the driver, who has been charged with open murder, did so intentionally.

On Monday afternoon, Barrett and Robinson were among those who gathered for a memorial honoring Villareal at one of her own gardens, which she called her happy place. Villareal’s granddaughter, Ree Adams, and their family were in awe of how many came to support them and remember her.

“I knew there would be a few, but I didn’t know it would be that many. That was great. She would love it,” Adams said. “She loved to be outside. She loved nature. This was just her way of being at peace.”

Along with the blossoming beauties Villareal planted, a plaque bearing her name and a fitting description will soon be placed there: “Creator of this Beautiful Space. Forever in her Happy Place.”

“I already came here once since it happened. Being here, knowing that this is where she loved to be … helps me a lot. As the little sign says, ‘This is our happy place,’ she put that on herself. That pretty much sums it up. That’s our happy place,” Adams said.

On behalf of the family, Adams thanked attendees for coming, but she also welcomed and encouraged them to maintain her grandma’s gardens so that her happy place can be their happy place, too.