Margaret “Maggie” Paxton often went out of her way to brighten the days of those who crossed her path.
UF housing cleaning staff once left a note for her mother recounting Paxton’s kindness. The guard at Paxton’s neighborhood residential gate described their conversations as the highlight of her day.
Paxton, an 18-year-old UF natural resource conservation first-year, died Dec. 9 in a hit-and-run crash on West University Avenue. She will be remembered for her encouraging nature and selflessness, her mother, Lisa Paxton, said. Her favorite saying was, “Progress over perfection.”
“She had such a bright light about her that will never dim,” Lisa said. “I’ll make sure of that.”
Paxton was born and raised in Jacksonville Beach, Florida. She loved to laugh and create TikToks with her sister and friends. She was also a competitive athlete — playing soccer for many years until one too many concussions forced her to quit, Lisa said.
In high school, she joined the lacrosse team, where she earned the nickname “Pitbull Paxton,” close friend Kylee Borg said.
“She may have been 5 foot tall, but she would knock you over like she was 7 foot tall,” Borg, an 18-year-old UF criminology freshman, said.
Paxton loved UF, where she was proud to be accepted as a student, Lisa said. She began Summer 2020 as an environmental engineering sciences major and later switched to natural resource conservation.
She was motivated and dedicated, especially when it came to school, her 16-year-old sister Holly said. Paxton was Holly’s best friend — they did everything together. When she hears “Jukebox Hero” by Foreigner, Holly remembers playing Guitar Hero with her sister on a cruise, she said.
“I feel like she knew me more than I knew myself,” Holly said. “She always had the best advice for me.”
Paxton joined UF’s Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority in August after she was drawn to the sisters’ genuine natures, Lisa said. The chapter posted a statement about Paxton’s death Dec. 11 on Instagram. Kappa Kappa Gamma also placed a stone marker for Paxton outside of the chapter’s house, Lisa said.
“Maggie is so special to all of us and has impacted the lives of each person who had the honor of knowing her,” according to the post. “To know Maggie is to love Maggie.”
But Paxton should be remembered as more than just a UF student, Borg said. She was also a daughter, an older sister and a best friend, Borg said.
Paxton and Borg — lifelong friends — were both born Aug. 25, 2002, in the same Jacksonville Beach hospital, Borg said. Paxton genuinely listened and always knew what to say, Borg said.
“Even if you only met her once, you really remember her just because the way she would look at you and make you feel like you were being heard,” Borg said. “It was a privilege, honestly, to get to know her, even if it was only for a little bit.”
Paxton was passionate about the environment, women’s rights, mental health and other social issues, Haley Mainwaring, a 20-year-old UF behavioral and cognitive neuroscience sophomore, said. Paxton and Mainwaring met in August through Kappa Kappa Gamma, and Mainwaring later became Paxton’s big sister within the sorority, she said.
“She was just one of those kinds of people that when you meet them, it just kind of feels like you’ve known them your whole life,” Mainwaring said.
The Gainesville Police Department released a statement Jan. 20 regarding Paxton’s death and the death of UF student Sophia Lambert, who died Jan. 16 after a car struck Lambert and four others on West University Avenue. According to the statement, GPD initiated the Gator Special Traffic Enforcement Program, or Gator STEP, which is a program aimed toward increasing safety measures for Gainesville residents and students.
A “Gators Against Student Pedestrian Deaths” Facebook page and petitions have been created by community members to make University Avenue safer and prevent this from happening in the future, Lisa said.
“You guys should feel safe walking across the street, and that place is nuts,” she said. “And they need to do something about it.”
Contact Juliana Ferrie at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @juliana_f616.
Juliana Ferrie is a second-year UF journalism student. She is excited to be working for The Alligator as the Santa Fe Beat reporter. In her free time, you can find her reading or listening to music.