By Ray Linker
Observer Staff Writer
"She was a pretty amazing person. She was really sincere and could light up a room with her smile. She was outgoing and friendly to everyone."
That's the way La Grande High School principal Doug Potter described Retha Shirley. Shirley was one of four contract firefighters killed in a Colorado van accident Friday night en route to the Hayman Fire.
Retha's mother, Linda Shirley, said this morning that she is "still numb."
"I just keep telling myself it's not true," she said. "There are not going to be any good times around here for a long time."
A service for Retha is tentatively scheduled for Saturday at the Elks Lodge on North Street (Highway 82) in Enterprise, but no time has been set, said Linda Shirley.
The family moved to La Grande from Joseph in 1994.
Retha has two brothers, Chase, who will be 12 Friday, and Jessie, 25, who is married and a student at Eastern Oregon University.
"Retha had a very special friend, Tyson Schoenmoser, who has been with her for three years," said her mother. He is a student at OIT in Klamath Falls.
Shirley, a 2001 graduate of La Grande High School, had been a member of varsity soccer, freshman and junior varsity basketball teams, and she ran on the track team in her first two years.
She had earned the 2001 Boise Cascade Corp. Log Yard/Road Crew scholarship and was in her first year of the pre-nursing program at Oregon Institute of Technology in Klamath Falls.
Her father, Larry, has worked for Boise for 29 years. Her mother, Linda, has worked for Valley Realty in Island City for six years.
Retha had never lived in Baker City, as earlier news reports stated, Linda Shirley said.
La Grande High School track coach Larry Nice recalled Retha as "a very competitive kid, a kid you enjoyed being around. She ran track in her freshman and sophomore years "and was a very good distance runner.
"She would have had a good career, but she had to quit. She had shin splints and stomach problems and doctors advised her not to compete any more."