From the outside it seemed like Kelly Denis-Pierce was living the perfect life. The Turlock native had a loving marriage, a successful career as a financial analysis, a happy young son and on Feb. 19, 2006, she gave birth to a healthy baby girl. It looked like nothing could stop the life track of the 31-year-old, which is why it came as such a devastating blow when she died just two days after giving birth.
A diagnosis of anemia given earlier in her pregnancy proved to be incorrect. Less than 24 hours after giving birth, Denis-Pierce was diagnosed with acute leukemia and less than a day later she had passed away.
“It was heart wrenching. How could it have happened so fast?” said Francie Denis, Denis-Pierce’s mother.
Within a week of her daughter’s death Denis had an idea for a memorial that would not only pay tribute to her daughter, but keep her a part of the community she had grown up in and loved. Denis established the Kelly Denis-Pierce Memorial Scholarship, which has now been a part of Turlock’s educational community for the last nine years.
“It’s been a great way to celebrate her life and interests and to make sure the community never forgets her,” Denis said.
Denis-Pierce was born in Turlock in 1974. She attended Cunningham Elementary, Sacred Heart and Turlock High School. In high school she was a cheerleader and a member of the junior varsity basketball team. It was also during high school that her interest in the business world began to take shape. She served as secretary, vice president and then two terms as president for the California Future Business Leaders of America chapter. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in business administration and went to work as a finance manager for a Turlock car dealership.
She was ambitious and continued her education, eventually earning her certification to become a financial advisor and an independent insurance agent. She opened her own Farmer’s Insurance branch office around the time she became pregnant with her second child.
The scholarship in Denis-Pierce’s name is given to students who show that same business drive that she possessed. Originally the scholarship of $500 was given to a Turlock High student, but in the years has grown to include a Pitman student as well.
The money for the scholarships are raised each year at a fundraiser. This year’s event will be a Mardi Gras party on Nov. 14 at the Denair Community Center. For more information about the event visit www.facebook.com/groups/232712753453939/.