Suburban native killed by stray bullet in Mexico loved volleyball, art and food
Tatiana Mirutenko loved volleyball, art and food, those who knew her say, and she pursued it all with a passion.
The 27-year-old, who was born in McHenry and grew up in Hawthorn Woods, was killed Saturday in Mexico City in an apparent drive-by shooting in Lomas de Chapultepec, a wealthy neighborhood in the Mexican capital.
Her father, Wasyl Mirutenko, said Tatiana was visiting Mexico City on an anniversary trip with her husband of one year, James Hoover. Mexico was a common vacation destination for the Mirutenko family and a place Tatiana loved, her father said.
As a foodie with a taste for fine restaurants, Tatiana looked forward to experiencing new ones on the anniversary trip.
"Her goal was to visit as many Michelin-starred restaurants in the world as she could," her father said.
Mexican authorities said she was leaving a taco restaurant with her husband and two friends on Saturday when she was struck by a stray bullet fired by gunmen on a passing motorcycle.
Mexican officials said the intended target was a local bouncer, who was wounded but survived.
Mirutenko said his family is thankful for the Mexican authorities who are investigating his daughter's death, the parishioners at a nearby church who prayed for her the morning after she was killed, and everyone who helped bring Tatiana's remains home to the Chicago area for her services this weekend.
"We're grieving right now for her and James and his family and our family," Mirutenko said. "We want this period to be a celebration of her life, to recognize all the people that she touched."
Growing up, Tatiana attended Montessori School of Lake Forest, where she made friends and established an early enjoyment of art and athletics. She gravitated toward volleyball, which she played both in high school and at the Division I collegiate level at Clemson University in South Carolina.
"She worked hard to achieve what she did," her father said. "The discipline and work ethic that she learned from training for volleyball, that continued throughout her life."
Tatiana was a high school junior when she entered Lake Forest Academy as a transfer student from Woodlands Academy of the Sacred Heart and was "super eager to be part of our community," Dean of Students Chris Tennyson said.
The 2009 graduate was the type of student who knew what she wanted and was willing to work for it, whether in the classroom or on the volleyball court.
"She was super determined and driven, but always with the perspective of not doing anything at the expense of others," Tennyson said. "She always looked out for others while trying to achieve her goals."
She challenged herself academically, he said, and took advanced economics courses, laying the foundation for college. She also was a "phenomenal volleyball player," he said, "and a fantastic leader on and off the court."
In looking through teacher comments about Tatiana, Tennyson said, similar words and phrases kept popping up: "passionate," "engaged," "lit up a classroom."
Tatiana remained active with the academy, he said, making it "especially difficult when you hear of a tragedy like this. She was a young woman who had so much of her life in front of her."
For the past 2½ years, her father said Tatiana lived in San Francisco and worked at Nektar Therapeutics, a pharmaceutical company based there.
In a statement to The Washington Post, the company described Mirutenko as a "bright and passionate rising star."
"She was always willing to help on any project across the company and had an incredibly strong work ethic," Nektar Vice President Jennifer Ruddock said. "Many throughout Nektar, and outside the company, valued her positive energy, insight and sheer enthusiasm for life."
Tatiana was a role model to her younger sister, Roma, who described her as a companion for adventures and explorations, trying new restaurants and practicing volleyball.
"She always went out of her way to make me feel special," Roma said. "She was so selfless."
Her mother, Natalie Mirutenko, said Tatiana was an inspiration who lived with "passion and fire in her heart."
She will be remembered during a visitation from 4 to 9 p.m. Friday at Muzyka Funeral Home, 2157 W. Chicago Ave., Chicago, with a Panacyhda prayer service at 7 p.m. in the chapel.
Her funeral is scheduled for 10 a.m. at St. Andrew Ukrainian Orthodox Church at 300 E. Army Trail Road in Bloomingdale, with interment immediately following at the church's cemetery.
Church board President John Jaresko described Tatiana as "talented" and "a really bright light" and said the St. Andrew Ukrainian community joins her family in sorrow.
"She was always smiling and happy," Jaresko said. "Just a really intelligent girl from a really, really good family."
• Daily Herald staff writer Bob Smith and Daily Herald news services contributed to this report.