Family recalls elderly woman killed in hit-and-run

An elderly woman killed in a hit-and-run crash in the Upper Haight neighborhood Wednesday was a longtime San Franciscan and churchgoer who had retired just last year, family said Thursday.

The driver of a Toyota Prius struck Joyce Lau, 70, as she was crossing the intersection at Waller and Cole streets around 8 a.m., authorities said. Lau later died in a hospital.

The driver fled, but police said a witness provided a partial license plate number that enabled them to track down the Prius and arrest Iddo Avital, 26, at his San Francisco residence.

Avital was booked on a felony hit-and-run charge, police Officer Samson Chan said. He may face more charges pending the results of drug tests taken after the crash, Chan added.

Witnesses said Lau was in a crosswalk when the Prius plowed into her, knocking her clear out of the path.

“It was upsetting,” said Clayton Barnett, 27, an employee at nearby Cole Valley Café. “You see someone lying on the ground … it was
shocking.”

The intersection of Waller and Cole streets has been a tragedy waiting to happen, said Jawad Swirky, owner of Cole Valley Café. He has operated the cafe for a decade and said cars are increasingly disobeying signs.

“Nobody stops at all [at the stop signs],” Swirky said. “They drive fast, they’re looking for parking, they’re not paying attention.”

Family members gathered at the scene, where a memorial was placed.

“We’re all in shock,” said Jennifer Valosek, 35, Lau’s youngest daughter.

Lau’s family immigrated to The City in 1978, Valosek said. In 1980, she purchased and ran a Laundromat on Ninth Avenue and Judah Street. She ran the business for almost 30 years and retired last year, Valosek said. During her retirement, she became more involved with “doing God’s work” as a parishioner of the Cumberland Church in San Francisco, she said.

Lau leaves behind her husband of more than 40 years, her mother, five children and two grandchildren.

“I’m a little more comforted knowing she’s with [God],” she said. “I guess she’s in a better place.”

Valosek she’s “at a loss for words” regarding the man who struck her grandmother and left her for dead.

“My focus is more towards my family than towards this person,” she said.

maldax@sfexaminer.com

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