Ron Zurfluh, a longtime Elverta resident, woke up Saturday morning and left for his job at 3:30 a.m., as he had done hundreds of times before.
Turning onto Elverta Road, he kept an eye out for his wife, Donna Zurfluh, 65, who would wake up every morning at 1:30 a.m. to walk for five hours, logging close to 125 miles per week.
“She liked to walk in the early hours because it was cool,” said Ron Zurfluh, 69. “As she was walking, she would always pray.”
But Zurfluh never saw his wife, who typically wore a reflective jacket while she walked. It was only after his shift that he learned she never returned home.
The California Highway Patrol identified Donna Zurfluh as the victim of a fatal hit-and-run early that morning. She had been walking east on Elverta Road between 2 and 6 a.m. when she was hit by a vehicle heading the same direction, police said. The speed of the car and reason for the collision have not been determined.
“I totally lost it,” Zurfluh said about learning of his wife’s death. “She was the love of my life, and it was just devastating.”
Friends and family described Donna Zurfluh as a selfless and exuberant person who would help others before helping herself.
Originally from New Hampshire, she moved to California during her teens, her husband said. The pair met in a pizza parlor in Yuba City while they were trapped in unhappy marriages and battling drug and alcohol addiction.
They married 41 years ago, and lived in Colfax and Yuba City before landing in Elverta, he said. The two raised their three children and eventually got sober. They also started a group for people battling with addiction at their local church.
“We dumped all of that,” Zurfluh said. “We’ve been 29 years clean and sober.”
Donna Zurfluh had also lost 130 pounds since she first began walking in the mornings, Ron Zurfluh said, adding that it was his wife’s goal to make a lifestyle change.
Most recently, she worked as an instructor at Short Center North, a program for adults with developmental disabilities that teaches arts, a job she held for more than 20 years.
“She just loved it,” Ron Zurfluh said. “That’s just something that she loved to do, work with developmentally disabled adults.”
Co-workers recalled her effervescent nature and said she strove to increase advocacy for people with developmental disabilities.
“She really saw her place in the world as trying to make it better for others around her,” said Greg Germany, an instructor at the Short Center North who worked closely with Zurfluh.
Though the program is art-based, John Berger, the program director for the center, said Zurfluh helped teach classes on relationships, sexuality and practical tools for life.
“I think a lot of people, when they see people with disabilities, they have this want or need to coddle them, Berger said. “She would treat them with respect, but she would also make them responsible for their actions, which I think is very important.”
The hit and run remains under investigation, according to Chad Hertzell, a spokesman for the California Highway Patrol. Hertzell said investigators believe the person who hit Zurfluh was driving a burgundy, mid-’90s Ford SUV or pickup truck, such as a Bronco, F-250 or F-350.
Anyone with information can contact the Special Investigations Unit at the North Sacramento Area CHP office at 916-348-2300, the Sacramento Valley Crime Stoppers at 916-443-4357 or 800-222-2746.