At Wheatfields Bakery on Saturday morning, business continued as usual during the breakfast shift at the popular Lawrence restaurant.
But the mood for both employees and regular customers was understandably somber, said chef Phillip Toevs, as they mourned the death of 20-year-old Rachel Leek, who had worked at the bakery at Ninth and Vermont streets for the past two years.
“We’re hanging in as best we can,” said Toevs. “(But) it makes everything less important.”
Leek died Friday at a Topeka hospital, where she had been taken following an apparent hit-and-run accident that occurred early that morning as Leek rode her bicycle in the 1000 block of Tennessee Street.
Toevs said Leek was known at the store by customers for her easy-going demeanor.
“She was one of the most considerate, genuinely friendly people I came across,” he said. “To see her, there was just something right in the world.”
The Leek family is well-known at Wheatfields, as two of her sisters, including Lawrence resident Mary Leek-Stolz, have also worked at the bakery.
Leek-Stolz said that when one of the sisters would go into the bakery, people would say, ‘Oh, it’s a Leek.’
“When we’d go in there together, it’d be fun,” she said.
Leek was from a large family in Olathe – she had five brothers and five sisters – and had lived in Lawrence for the past two years after graduating from St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park.
Leek-Stolz described her sister as a spirited young woman who was trying to figure out what she wanted to do with her life.
Leek had taken classes at both Kansas University and Johnson County Community College, and she had recently discovered a talent and love for photography, her sister said.
“She really got into that (photography). She was a natural at it,” said Leek-Stolz, who said her sister, who was 11 years younger, was her “teacher.”
But figuring out her path in life was something she was allowing to happen, not forcing, said Leek-Stolz.
“She didn’t waste any of her life on worrying,” she said.
It was that relaxed approach to life that made her instantly likable, said her boyfriend, KU student Sam Goodell.
“She just knocked everybody’s socks off,” he said.
Goodell said Leek was on her way to a friend's house early Friday to spend time with friends after dancing – one of her other passions – at a downtown club. She was hit just two houses away from her destination.
Goodell said he was grateful for the outpouring of support from Leek’s friends, and that there have been initial discussions about creating a memorial for Leek near where she was hit.