Carole Nordella was a "quietly strong" wife, mother and friend whose life centered on what was best for her three children, close friends say.
So it was not surprising when, three years ago, Nordella and her husband, Valencia physician Jeffrey Nordella, uprooted their life in Santa Clarita for a new one in Ventura County.
Ventura County had a reputation as a haven for families, and that was uppermost in her friend's mind, said Diane Johnson, who had known Carole Nordella since high school.
The 10-acre spread that the Nordellas built in an upscale community secured by a locked gate had just the privacy and security they were looking for, friends said.
That's why it was so unthinkable that gunman Toby Whelchel was able to enter the home early Tuesday and beat the 48-year-old woman in front of two of her children. Carole Nordella later died from her injuries.
Police say Whelchel hiked down a ridgeline from Wildwood Regional Park and picked the Nordella home at random.
Carole Nordella home-schooled her two younger children, and the family staged frequent softball games for neighbors and church friends on the Little League field she and her husband had built at the back of their property.
Though busy with her children, Nordella also found time for friends, said Jill Hall of Oak Park, another longtime friend. When Nordella and four of her closest friends turned 40 in the same year, her husband took them all on a boating trip with their families, Hall said.
The five women always celebrated their birthdays together, Hall said. Tall and attractive but never flashy, Nordella was the most spiritual of the group, deeply devoted to her Christian faith, friends said.
"She was really, truly the rock of us," Hall said.
Nordella grew up in the San Fernando Valley, graduating from James Monroe High School in North Hills. She obtained her nursing degree and got a job tending to the smallest and most ill infants at UCLA Medical Center.
Jeffrey Nordella got his medical degree at UCLA and then opened his own urgent-care clinic in Valencia. After 17 years, the business was doing so well that he hired a partner last year and began to cut back on his hours so that he could spend more time at home, said clinic manager Arlene Dylla.
"They're a good family," Dylla said. "They love their kids, always do what's best for them."
Nordella's family and friends weren't alone Wednesday in trying to deal with their loss.
Jan Heyne, 50, an executive assistant at Amgen, and her husband Tim, 51, a rock band manager, were shot as they returned a boat to their friend Steve Mazin on Monday afternoon. Mazin, the apparent target, and Jan Heyne died.
"Mom was awesome," said Jeffrey Heyne, 23. "I've never met anyone who worked as hard as she did and was still so involved with her family and her church. She had the energy to do all that, and still put on a smile and touch people."
The couple's three children recalled Wednesday the lessons of their parents' 26-year marriage.
"We were just so fortunate to be a very loving family and to express how much we love each other," Jeffrey Heyne said. "My dad told my mom how much he loved her every day.
"And my dad said he had just the most amazing weekend with mom at Big Bear just before this. So he has that to remember."
Tim Heyne, who remains hospitalized in serious condition, said he would speak at a memorial for his wife after he is released in about a week. But he sent a message through his son.
"Dad said time's short and he wants everybody not to take it for granted," Jeffrey Heyne said. "Everybody should tell their family they love them every day."
Times staff writer Daryl Kelley contributed to this report.