By Michael Alison Chandler
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 28, 2010; B08
Michelle Humanick was ever-present in her College Park neighborhood. Stopping to chat while walking her golden retriever, Rocky BalBubba. Playing with her daughter in the snow. Hosting political events, countless play dates, family-friendly movie nights and a regular poker party with her husband.
So two days after she was killed by a falling tree while running errands with her mother-in-law, friends and family were still in disbelief that the energetic new mother, community activist and longtime University of Maryland employee is gone.
"I have never personally faced such a totally random yet utterly unfair event," said John Romano, a close family friend.
Humanick was one of four people killed in the storm. The most recent victim was Carl Henn, a Rockville community activist, who died Tuesday at a hospital after apparently being struck by lightning Sunday, said Rockville Mayor Phyllis Marcuccio.
Relatives, friends and neighbors of Humanick are creating a memorial fund and reaching out to support her husband of 16 years, Thomas C. "Clay" Gump, and their two adopted daughters, Sophie and Amelia, both under age 4.
Gump wrote in an e-mail that he has been overwhelmed since the accident. "Michelle was a joy and the love of my life," he wrote.
Humanick, 44, was driving on the Capitol Beltway on Sunday afternoon when the storm struck, Romano said, and she took an exit to seek refuge from the high winds and torrential rains. But soon after she turned onto Rhode Island Avenue in College Park, a falling tree crushed her blue Odyssey minivan, killing her instantly and pinning Sue Lantz, her mother-in-law, in the front seat.
Emergency personnel worked for two hours to remove them from the car. Lantz was treated for lacerations on her face and released from the hospital Monday, Romano said.
Neighbors and friends described Humanick and her husband as contagiously friendly and deeply committed to their community. Their house, with its garage roof of solar panels, was a neighborhood hub. Humanick was a member of the College Park Recreation Board, and also served on the board at her children's nursery school.
"They didn't do things halfway," Romano said.
The striking woman with dark curly hair was a friend or a friendly face to almost everyone in her College Park development.
"It was always nice to look outside the window and see her playing with the girls in the snow or walking by with the baby in a stroller and Sophie holding her hand," said Karin Deck, 26, who lives across the street.
Humanick worked part time as a graphic designer at U-Md., where Gump is a network engineer, a university spokesman said. Both are Maryland alumni.
She was an avid swimmer who once swam across the Chesapeake Bay, friends said. She was also a creative cook who made her own marshmallows and a gardener who filled the back yard with vegetables and flowers each summer.
The couple bought their house a decade ago with their future family in mind, according to a Web site they created as they searched for a child to adopt.
"We first met and instantly fell in love in 1990 and were married four years later," the Web site said. "Our relationship is built on trust, love, communication and large helpings of laughter."
In an interview, Gump said: "It took a long time for us to become parents. So we were living that and really loving it."
Memorial contributions may be made to the Sophie and Amelia Gump Educational Fund in memory of Michelle, c/o Juliet Johnson at SunTrust Bank, 2825 Smith Ave., Baltimore, Md. 21209.