When Warren Rodriguez met Aeriel Pferdehirt in 2009, he was a cook and she was a server at a Florida pancake restaurant.

He was smitten. She was not. That was, until he tricked her with an innocent game of hangman at work one day.

Rodriguez drew out three spaces, followed by another three, then four.

Over the course of her shift, Pferdehirt guessed the entire alphabet before Rodriguez let on that the right answer was her phone number.

“She thought that was fantastic,” he said. The encounter was a glimpse into her playful personality and an opening that would blossom into a loving family when the couple married a year later.

Aeriel Rodriguez’s family gathered Tuesday to mourn the 24-year-old mother of two, who died Sunday after being hit by a pickup on the Maine Turnpike in Portland.

Rodriguez was hit after she pulled her car over because of a flat tire, police said. The driver of the pickup truck, Michael Hawk, 42, of Lewiston, was not injured.

Police said Rodriguez was in the travel lane trying to flag down help when she was hit, but they cannot say why she ventured so far into the roadway, and why she didn’t use her cell phone, which was in the car, to call for help.

Police said Tuesday they had no new information about the accident and the case remains under investigation.

Warren Rodriguez said he does not know where his wife was coming from or why she would have ventured into the roadway. However, he said her cell phone battery was dead, so she couldn’t call for assistance.

Warren Rodriguez is a petty officer 3rd class, a machinist’s mate assigned to the USS Miami, which was being overhauled at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard before a fire on board ultimately led it to be decommissioned.

Rodriguez joined the Navy in 2010, and after a brief deployment in Groton, Conn., he was sent to Maine.

Aeriel Rodriguez joined him there and embraced her new home.

“She loved Maine. She wanted to stay up here,” Warren Rodriguez said. “She loved the seasons, the weather changes. She loved the smell.”

Aeriel was an excellent wife and a stay-at-home mom who loved being a mother to their girls, Kylie, 8 and Charley, 1, her husband said.

“They would do all kinds of things together, play softball, do gymnastics in the front yard, go on long walks,” he said. Aeriel Rodriguez, who enjoyed boating and riding four-wheelers, was especially fond of horseback riding and started their daughter Kylie with riding lessons when she was just 2 years old, he said.

Aeriel also was a very good cook, especially of Spanish food, which she made as a nod to her husband’s heritage.

She was funny and not bashful, he said.

“She had a very big personality. That was what was so attractive about her other than her beauty,” he said.

“She really cared about her friends, about her family,” he said. “She put everybody else first and put herself in the back seat.”

Rodriguez said early Tuesday that the family had not yet made funeral arrangements but that a memorial service would be held in Florida.

David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @Mainehenchman

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