Former women’s track and field athlete dies crash

Ashley Williamson

Penny Sue DeHann will be remembered as someone who always had a smile on her face.

“Penny was a great person. She was always energetic, and was the kind of person that had a smile on her face that put everyone else in a good mood,” said former teammate Marnie Williams, Mount Pleasant resident.

“She was always smiling, very friendly and very genuine. She had a big heart. If you were down, she’d try and bring you up,” she said.

DeHann, 28, was killed Saturday morning in a car accident at the intersection of Cleveland Street and 68th Avenue in Coopersville, according to the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department. DeHann graduated from CMU in 1996.

Sheriff’s Sgt. Steve Kempker said she was alone in the car, and that witnesses told police DeHaan pulled out in front of a westbound semi-tractor trailer after stopping at a stop sign on Cleveland Street.

The truck driver, Ronald Edward Grill, 45, of Spring Lake, was not injured. DeHaan died at the scene of the crash, but was wearing a safety belt.

Keela Yount, former CMU women’s track and field coach, said DeHann was involved with track and field throughout her career at CMU.

“(She had a) bubbly, bright, light-up-the-room personality,” said Yount, Mount Pleasant resident.

DeHann always was willing to go the extra mile for another teammate, she said.

“She was a dedicated athlete, not always scoring points, but was always there. She never missed a practice, never missed a meet. She always gave 100 percent.”

Yount said DeHann was a team cheerleader at CMU.

“It’s ironic she was a cheerleading coach in high school,” she said. “It is a huge loss for the track family.”

Heather Peddie, former teammate and roommate at CMU said DeHann enjoyed her university years.

“She was always energetic, full of life. Her time at Central was very valuable to her, she has a whole scrapbook on her years at CMU,” she said.

Peddie said DeHann was continuously smiling.

“A quote that I found in her scrapbook said ‘To dream of the person you want to be is to waste the person you are,’ and she followed that quote throughout her career,” she said.

DeHann’s life at Central was centered around her track and field career, and the friends she made.

“She was one of the first people there and the last one to leave,” Peddie said.

After graduation, DeHann taught at Byron Center High School for two years before she began teaching at Hudsonville High School. She was married to Brian DeHaan.

“She really cared about the students she was teaching, and learned so much of that at the teaching school at Central,” Peddie said.

DeHann taught at Hudsonville for three years. She was the sophomore class adviser, junior varsity cheerleading coach and a volunteer track coach, said school Principal Robert Ranson.

“She was a wonderful person, one of those people who comes in every day with a smile on her face. Kids tended to gravitate to her. She had become one of the favorites,” he said.

Ranson said the first thing he thought of when DeHann came to mind was her disposition.

“She always came in with an upbeat attitude,” he said.

Hudsonville High School was planning a dance Saturday, and DeHann was one of the sponsors, Ranson said.

“It’s been a struggle. It was a difficult night,” he said.

A crisis team of district staff members will assist the 1,380 students and high school staff today, assisted by Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services and local clergy, Ranson said.

The Grand Rapids Press contributed to this article.


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