WICKENBURG, Ariz. - A Chandler mother, teacher and coach was killed in a tragic accident along U.S. 93. She and her boyfriend were headed out of town when they collided with a semi tractor-trailer near Wickenburg on Friday.
Her family and friends came together Sunday night to honor this extraordinary woman.
Shirley Denning's joy in life was her family and the students she worked with at Hamilton High School.
"Just seeing her on campus and her smile,” said Lindsay Taylor.
Holding back tears, she shared what she's going to miss most about Shirley Denning, a devoted mother of two and Hamilton High School coach and teacher.
"It's just a shock you know," said Taylor.
Denning's boyfriend, Alex, was also killed in the crash. It happened when they were on their way to Las Vegas to watch Shirley's son and daughter play in basketball tournaments.
"The magnitude of what happened and how it's going to affect everybody and the kids, it's devastating, you know? We're just trying to process it," she said.
Taylor has grown to know Shirley over the past few years, coaching Shirley's daughter in basketball at Hamilton. Her niece is also in her class.
Denning's light was her children.
"She was at every basketball game, made sure they had everything that they needed, so that they can be living their dreams,” said Taylor.
But she also got joy working at Hamilton High, where she worked in the special education department for 10 years, building the unified program - the unified sports.
"It allows the special needs kids to still be active and integrates the regular class population to coach them,” she said.
Denning had a special motto.
"Play unified, live unified and so just bringing awareness and tolerance to that department," said Taylor.
Taylor wants Denning to be remembered for having a big heart.
"She was always the one fundraising and helping everybody out, and so now that's how you see the village of people contacting the family, how can we help."
Donations already pouring in on a YouCaring page set up for her family.
"This is a great time to show her we love her and her great kids,” she said.
As for the crash, it remains under investigation.
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