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Jenice Armstrong: A celebration of Sabina

"I'm a soldier in the world But we'll leave it all someday What's the use in trying to hide

"I'm a soldier in the world

But we'll leave it all someday

What's the use in trying to hide

Where we came from anyway . . .

- "Future Primitive" by Papercuts

SABINA ROSE O'DONNELL, the popular waitress slain last week in Northern Liberties, had posted these song lyrics on her MySpace page. Not to sound morbid, but in the aftermath of her brutal murder after a night of hanging out with friends, they sound heart-wrenchingly prescient.

We are born to this world

Out on loan from the beyond

When it's time to return

You won't be looking in the mirror . . ."

Those lucky enough to have known the fun-loving, long-legged beauty with a penchant for fishnet stockings, are still reeling as authorities search for the murderer, who left O'Donnell's naked body in an empty lot on Orianna Street near the apartment building where she lived at 4th and Girard.

Just as O'Donnell touched people in life, her death has moved people as well. Friends and acquaintances have been holding parties in her honor, taking up collections at bars such as the Kung Fu Necktie, and there's a Facebook effort to get the lot where Sabina was found late Wednesday morning turned into a community rose garden in her memory. Tomorrow, O'Donnell's former boss, Tommy Updegrove, will help organize a memorial service for her rather than "a boring old funeral service. She would have hated it. This is what she would have loved. Expect beauty, music, laughs, tears and a lot of love."

O'Donnell's friends and family plan to gather at 3 p.m. on a neighborhood spot that O'Donnell loved, Liberty Lands on 3rd Street between Brown and Poplar.

"Sabina was an otherworldly, magical little sprite," Updegrove, who's known as Up, wrote in an e-mail. "She and my girlfriend would take our dog to Liberty Lands, the gorgeous park in Northern Liberties, and spend hours playing in the nature there that Sabina loved so much. They would play with ladybugs and pick up ants and put them somewhere else.

"Sabina used to be really upset when she saw the changes at Liberty Lands last year. I kept telling my girl to tell her that they were improving the park and building a stage and making it even prettier, but she was worried they were building condos there. It was her little conspiracy theory. When she saw how incredible it looked after, with the new trees and grass and stage, she was delighted. I feel like it's fate that the changes were made in time for her memorial."

Organizers will serve some of her favorite dishes, such as the vegetarian chicken wings from El Camino, and champagne, which O'Donnell favored because she thought it was classier than beer.

"She was an absolute sweetheart," said Owen Kamihara, who owns El Camino and Bar Ferdinand, which are across the street from PYT, the upscale burger joint at the Piazza at Schmidts, in Northern Liberties, where O'Donnell worked. "It's a tragedy that I don't want to let fade from the public eye. The investigation into the people who did this is ongoing, but I fear that the full-court press is fading."

Other restaurants from the neighborhood and elsewhere around the city have agreed to donate to the memorial service, which will be an informal affair and open to the public.

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