DOWAGIAC — Lisa Fiedler loved the water.
So much so, her last communication with her mother was a text message Sunday night telling her she was having a great time and had just finished a wonderful day of diving.
Fiedler, Miss Dowagiac 1985, was aboard the boat that went up in flames before sinking off the coast of Santa Cruz Island in Southern California early Monday.
Her mother, Nancy Fiedler, told ABC 7 News that Lisa thought of herself as “part fish,” and her zodiac sign was Pisces. The grieving mother said she takes comfort in believing her daughter died peacefully in her sleep after enjoying a day of diving.
Lisa Fiedler, 52, grew up in the Dowagiac area and most recently lived in Mill Valley, Calif. She was a hairdresser, photographer and an avid diver, her mother said.
She was one of 39 people on board the Conception, a 75-foot-long commercial diving boat. Coast Guard officials have said the few people who escaped the fire, the captain and four crew members, were awake on the upper decks and jumped off the boat. They made their way to another vessel called the Grape Escape, moored a few hundred feet away.
The others, 33 passengers and one crew member, were sleeping below and were unable to escape the burning vessel. The boat was carrying scuba diving enthusiasts on a three-day excursion. The marine biologist who was leading the diving tour is believed to be among the dead.
People who knew Lisa Fiedler when her family lived in Keeler, near Dowagiac, were expressing shock and sadness Wednesday as news of her death circulated throughout the community.
Steve Schuster lives in Jackson now but said he had a crush on Fiedler in high school and she was friends with his twin sister, Becky. He said the three were virtually inseperable in high school, and Becky has been in contact with Lisa’s parents.
“I think one reason Lisa, Becky and I were so close is that we all were adopted. Becky and I were adopted together as twins, and Lisa was adopted by her parents, Marvin and Nancy Fiedler,” he said.
Schuster said with all the cliques and groups that form in high school, Lisa Fiedler seemed to get along with everyone.
“She was such a kindred spirit, she had such a way about her, even back in high school. She had an infectious smile and a great personality,” he said.
Teddi Kella of Niles was Miss Congeniality the year Fiedler was Miss Dowagiac. Kella posted on Facebook, “I am extremely stunned and saddened tonight after learning a close high school friend, Lisa Fiedler, was killed yesterday in the boat fire. ... I am still in disbelief.”
Others posted that they were heartbroken, stunned, “shaking my head in disbelief” and “at a loss for words.”
Schuster spoke with Fiedler’s parents, and they said any friends who would like to view her photography may do so at www.lisafiedlerphotography.com. Also, donations in Lisa Fiedler’s name can be made to animal rescue mission of the donor’s choice.
Contact: jswidwa@TheHP.com, 932-0359, Twitter: @HPSwidwa