A Life Remembered: Retired Hoopeston teacher recalled for faith, dedication

A Life Remembered: Retired Hoopeston teacher recalled for faith, dedication

HOOPESTON — Hoopeston-area residents are remembering a beloved retired Maple Grade School teacher for her dedication to teaching, love of music and deep faith in God.

"Denise was an amazing teacher," Maple Principal Suzi Root said of Denise L. Ried. "She was very compassionate and cared deeply for her students."

"She was committed to mentoring students at risk and touched many lives as a result of her compassion," said Dawn Ferguson, a middle school music teacher.

"Denise was truly an inspiration to her friends and family in all areas of her life," added former colleague Margo Legan. "She served God faithfully and uplifted others by showing God's love to them and always giving encouraging words. She tried to see the best in each situation and each person she met."

Mrs. Ried, 59, of Wellington, was one of two people who died as a result of an accident on Illinois 1, between Hoopeston and Rossville, on Wednesday evening.

According to an Illinois State Police report, Warren W. Harms, 52, of Hoopeston was driving north in a Ford Ranger pickup truck, when he attempted to pass a vehicle. The truck hit a Chrysler minivan, driven by Mrs. Ried.

Mr. Harms died at the scene, according to Vermilion County Coroner Jane McFadden.

Mrs. Ried was flown by helicopter to Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana, where she succumbed to her injuries later that evening, according to Champaign County Coroner Duane Northrup.

State police and the coroners' offices are still investigating.

Mrs. Ried began working in the Hoopeston school district as a paraprofessional in 1992. She taught kindergarten from 1998 until her retirement in 2015.

Root worked alongside Mrs. Ried as a kindergarten teacher for 10 years.

"She spent many hours before and after school preparing lessons and activities for her students," Root said. "She also had a passion for music and was involved in the Hoopeston Area Music Boosters and played the piano at school concerts."

Mrs. Ried shared her love of music with students on a daily basis, colleagues recalled.

"You could hear songs coming from her classroom throughout the day, along with her beautiful voice," fellow kindergarten teacher Tonna Hofer said. "On Fridays, she would make sure each child left her class with a 'Friday hug.'"

"She would teach many concepts through her songs," added Sara Troxel, a multi-grade teacher.

"I also remember her love of reading. Her classroom was full of books she read to her students," Troxel said, adding they both enjoyed reading and discussing historical fiction.

When Ferguson started teaching in the district, she and Mrs. Ried directed "The Wizard of Oz" together. Her colleague also accompanied her fifth- and sixth-grade chorus over the years, "most recently, last year."

"The students loved having her accompany us, and they would ask about her when she wasn't able to be at rehearsal," Ferguson said.

"She was such an inspiration and comforting influence in my life," she said. "I love her strong commitment to Jesus and the many hours we could talk about our faith."

Mrs. Ried served as the Rossville Church of Christ's worship leader for many years, said senior minister Kevin Purdy.

"She loved to praise God with her music," he said. "She was dedicated and faithful in serving the Lord and living her faith.

"More than likely, she was on her way to our Wednesday night Bible study when she was in the accident," Purdy said, adding "this terrible accident has left a giant, gaping hole within our church family, and it is very hard to imagine what our Sunday services will look like without her leading us in song. She led from a humble and genuine heart, consistently doing her best to direct all attention toward the Lord."

Purdy and other friends also called Mrs. Ried an incredible mother and grandmother, who beamed with joy and pride everytime she talked about them. They added that their hearts go out to her family.

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