A 28-year-old Minneapolis woman known for her creative associations with outdoor puppetry, music, bicycling and a dedicated crowd of performance artists was mourned by friends and family Monday, two days after she was killed by a hit-and-run driver while riding her bicycle.
Elyse Mary Stern was a beloved figure in Minneapolis’ outdoor puppetry scene, having performed for In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre and the Bedlam Theatre in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood. She also played clarinet and drums with BareBones Productions, a puppetry group that hosts an outdoor Halloween show.
“She is just sort of unlike anyone you’ve ever met, more loved than anyone I’ve ever met,” said friend Betsy Burr. “This is so devastating to so many people.”
Burr and Stern were part of a group of nine apparel designers who put on a fashion show called the “Fashion Sabbath” in 2009 at the Bedlam. Stern was also part of the army of creative bicyclists behind the annual Mayday Parade in the Powderhorn neighborhood. Stern, a waitress, rode her bike everywhere year-round, Burr said.
Family and friends packed her house in the Phillips neighborhood Monday, said Burr, sharing stories and support.
Another hit-and-run crash left the same community reeling in 2010, when a speeding driver struck a car driven by Ethan T. Johnson, killing the 37-year-old University of Minnesota scientist who, like Stern, played music and performed at many of the same venues.
The collision that killed Stern early Saturday took place near the intersection of E. Lake Street and Cedar Avenue S. The driver fled, but witnesses described his vehicle and police found him near E. Franklin and Bloomington Avenues S. He appeared to be drunk, according to police. Charges were expected Tuesday, according to the Hennepin County attorney’s office.
Stern rode without a helmet or lights, something noted by a police spokesman at the crash scene. He urged city cyclists to use safety gear. That caught the attention of Anthony Desnick, a St. Paul transportation consultant, who said street design probably played a larger role. While cautioning that no road is collision-proof, he said that if E. Lake Street had separate bike lanes demarcated by a barrier, Stern might not have died.
Memorial donations in Stern’s name are being accepted at the Seward Café on Franklin Avenue.