For North Bethesda resident Sarah Carter, walking the Bethesda Trolley Trail has become a daily exercise routine. But it is also her way of honoring her late friend and former graduate school classmate Jennifer DiMauro.
DiMauro, of North Bethesda, was struck July 20 by a 2015 Chevrolet Spark at the intersection of Tuckerman Lane and Kings Riding Way while walking the trail around 10 a.m. She died three days later.
The driver, 27-year-old Chase Lawrence Dobler of Rockville, was charged this month with traffic-related offenses. Criminal charges have not been filed, but have not been ruled out, a state’s attorney’s office spokesman said last week.
DiMauro, 31, graduated from George Mason University’s six-year clinical psychology Ph.D. program in 2018. DiMauro was working at the Washington, D.C., Veterans Affairs Medical Center as a postdoctoral fellow. She was moving to Boston soon with her husband to take a job with a VA hospital there.
Carter, who was in the Ph.D. program, too, said DiMauro always made sure she had time to herself every morning before work.
“She would do these long walks every day. She took a morning walk that day, and she was almost home when she was struck by the car,” Carter said.
Carter said the two spent “most of their waking hours together” throughout the program, including classes and clinical work.
“We really were joined at the hip, and outside of work, we were incredibly close. She was family to me,” she said.
DiMauro’s passion, Carter said, was working with people suffering from severe trauma. The Boston VA job was her dream job because it involved working at one of the premier veteran trauma care centers in the country.
“She had been working toward that goal from day one of graduate school,” she said. “She carried the weight and pain of people who had been through so much.”
DiMauro, Carter said, was driven in class and kept everyone in the program organized. DiMauro was also the “social ring leader,” and never forgot to send her a birthday card, Carter said.
“She was this tiny woman, and looked serious much of the time. And she had this explosive laugh. When she found something funny, you couldn’t help but laugh along with her,” she said. “She made sure there were celebrations, and that we had the enjoyable part of grad school.”
Carter, who was living in Seattle at the time of DiMauro’s death, and had planned to meet DiMauro for dinner that week in Washington following a job interview. She got the call on the Sunday before that her friend had been hit in a crash.
Three months later, Carter said DiMauro’s absence still weighs on her.
“She’s left such an indescribably large hole. The lack of her presence reverberates. She was on the verge of starting her life goal,” she said.
DiMauro was most passionate about treating both veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and sexual assault survivors, said Julie Rones, who worked with her during their postdoctoral fellowship at the Washington, D.C., VA.
During the fellowship, five participants shared an office. Rones said DiMauro was known for always being the most organized.
“She had everyone’s back. She got all of the documents organized into the files. She kept track of all of our deadlines,” Rones said.
She said DiMauro had a reputation for being “funny, witty and quirky” and always had keen insight. She auditioned to be on “Jeopardy!,” but did not make the show, Rones said.
Rones said she found out about the crash from another fellow and was shocked.
“I think I was in disbelief because it was something so random and unexpected,” she said.
The fellows were devastated, Rones said. They worked with the hospital chaplain and a program supervisor to honor DiMauro with a memorial service a month after her death.
DiMauro’s mother, Mary Ellen Negri, traveled from Hartford, Conn., to attend the service and accept a certificate of completion on behalf of her daughter from the fellowship program’s training director. Following the service, Rones said, DiMauro’s husband showed slides remembering DiMauro and guests ate Smith Island Cake, one of her favorite desserts.
Negri said in an interview Tuesday afternoon that her daughter was an “amazing young woman with significant accomplishments for someone who was so young.”
“She was someone who was very passionate about working with veterans. She and her husband were planning on relocating to Boston and had accepted a position there. It was her dream job and what she had been working for since grad school,” she said.
“She was tenacious. She was passionate. She was completely committed. It wasn’t something she would have compromised in taking a position anywhere else.”
DiMauro’s death was from one of 24 fatal crashes in Montgomery County this year, according to the county’s database. In 10 of those, a pedestrian or bicyclist was killed.
A week after DiMauro’s death, 17-year-old Jacob Cassell lost control of his bicycle while riding along Old Georgetown Road in Bethesda and fell into the road. He was struck by a passing SUV and died the next day.
The two fatalities prompted community members to hold a memorial bike ride for Cassell and DiMauro and redouble the county’s efforts in pushing for safer roads.
Carter said thinking about her friend’s death makes her nervous every time she crosses the street.
“She [DiMauro] was someone who was responsible and did the things she was supposed to do,” Carter said. “She would check both ways to cross the street. … She always did the right thing. And it didn’t matter. Someone else chose not to do the right thing, not to stop at the flashing lights. And she lost her life because of that.”
Following DiMauro’s death, her classmates at George Mason University set up a memorial fund in her name to support free assessments and therapy for veterans. Those wishing to donate can specify “Jen DiMauro Memorial Fund” in “additional comments.”
Dan Schere can be reached at Daniel.firstname.lastname@example.org