Hannah Rae Luna MacDonald, who was considered by all who knew her to be a bright star, was called home to heaven unexpectedly on Thursday, March 23, 2023. She was 22 years old. Hannah, the only child of Nancy Luna MacDonald and Brady MacDonald, graduated last year from Cornell University and had been working in New York, where she passed peacefully in her sleep after a typical evening of working out at the gym and heading off to bed after making herself dinner.
Hannah had a passion for cooking and restaurant planning and pursued it with great gusto — competing on an award-winning team in the Culinary Arts & Hospitality Conservatory at the Orange County School of the Arts, where she won the state championship in 2017 before graduating in 2018.
She went on to graduate last year from Cornell University’s renowned School of Hotel Administration, known by proud Hotelies such as Hannah simply as The Hotel School.
Upon graduation, she moved to New York, where she lived for eight glorious months pursuing a career in food service planning. She was so proud to be working as a project coordinator for Jacobs Doland Beer, the largest restaurant design firm in the United States.
During her time in New York, one of the biggest foodie capitals of the world, Hannah also attended dozens of Broadway shows and soaked up all the excitement that New York had to offer. She would often tell her parents, “I’m living my best life.”
Everyone knew Hannah had a big heart, but what no one could possibly have known is that her heart, which was filled to overflowing with love for all who crossed her path, would give out while she was dreaming.
Nancy put it this way, “The poetic version of that is something we already knew — she’s got a BIG, BIG heart. Perhaps too big for her body to sustain all the electrifying love she had to give to all she encountered.”
Her warmth, wisdom, playfulness and zest for life made a mark on all of us. She lived life to the fullest, chased her dreams, and those dreams were coming true. Her wonderful journey ended much too soon — and we are left only to imagine the happiness, adventures, success and friendships that awaited her.
As we grieve with the MacDonald and Luna families — and try to come to terms with the loss of the beloved Hannah — we are calling all who loved her to help with the myriad short- and long-term expenses involved with bringing Hannah home to Orange.
Nancy and Brady have made the difficult journey to New York and are taking their time on their final pilgrimage back to California — stopping along the way to visit all the places that were meaningful to Hannah.
Thanks to your incredible generosity, we've exceeded our goal of raising $75,000 to pay the remaining balances on Hannah’s apartment in New York, to pay off her student loans at Cornell, to cover her final end-of-life expenses, as well as those that will allow us to celebrate her life and keep her legacy alive.
Nancy and Brady also hope to establish an endowed scholarship in Hannah's name for students in the School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University. Endowed scholarships are permanently invested to provide earnings that support future students in perpetuity.
The scholarship will support students like Hannah — students who are passionate about the program, students who came to Cornell from out of state and students who relied on scholarships and other forms of financial assistance to pay for college. In this way, the name Hannah MacDonald will live on, providing scholarship support for generations to come.
Friends and neighbors in what Nancy calls their Palmyra Village have been lighting candles on their porches in Hannah’s honor. Other friends from throughout Southern California, across the nation and around the world have followed suit and are lighting candles for Hannah as far away as Canada, Italy, Austria and Germany.
Hannah was always a fan of Peter Pan and the second star to the right will always remind us of her. She will continue to shine brightly in our hearts and, as Nancy has said, she’s everyone’s angel now.
Thank you for your generosity as well as your prayers, which continue to bring the family great comfort. Masses in Orange County and in Northern California have been celebrated this week in Hannah’s honor and we ask that you keep the entire family in your prayers.