June 20 felt like any other day for Dena Hamlin, according to her close friend of more than 15 years and The Colony head softball coach Deana Coleman.
After rain forced the final day of a weeklong club softball tournament in Plano to be cancelled for her youngest daughter, The Colony alum and Texas Tech-bound Jacee, her family went out to eat with Coleman’s family, visited Dena’s mother-in-law and watched a comedy show on television.
“It was a wonderful day, just an awesome day,” said Coleman, whose youngest daughter, Jayda, the 2020 Gatorade National Softball Player of the Year, played in the same tournament. “If (Dena) ever felt bad, she would tell them. It was nothing. They were laughing, they were joking.”
At 11:31 p.m., Dena posted on Facebook, “Happy Father’s Day Ty [Dena’s husband]! Love the way you love and take care of our girls!” Deana said Ty put his phone down 14 minutes later, and he and Dena proceed to go to sleep.
The next morning, Dena’s alarm went off, but she never woke up, having passed away in her sleep.
The Colemans immediately drove over to the Hamlins’ house after learning of their friend’s death. They watched as Dena was being taken out of the home by a funeral home. She was 57 years old.
“It’s not what you are ever expecting,” Deana said. “It was just so hard.”
Having always been there for the Coleman family, especially taking care of Jayda when her father, Cedric, was in a coma for one month in 2009, Deana knew she had to repay the Hamlin family for all of the support that Dena gave them over the years.
The night of Dena’s passing, Deana sent a group text message to all 37 players on The Colony softball team, encouraging them to write words of support on a card or a piece of paper.
All 37 players turned in their notes at 5:30 p.m. June 22 while Dena waited in the parking lot adjacent to Tommy Briggs Stadium – and every single Lady Cougar went above and beyond with their support.
“Every single one of them said, ‘What about gift cards? What can we do?’ I was like, ‘Food, gift cards,’” Deana said. “That way they don’t have to stress and Jacee and her dad and her family can read all of the cards at their pace. We put it in a big bag. Jacee starts balling when she saw it.”
By that time, Twitter followers showed their support for Dena.
“A very special someone was taken from me today,” said Jayda, who has been friends with Jacee since they were 3 years old. “Dena Hamlin was not my mom by blood but my mom by heart. She loved me like I was one of her own. God may she Rest In Peace. I will forever love and cherish you. You will always be my mommy in my heart. I love you.”
Asani Charles, the mother of The Colony alum and Iowa State sophomore pitcher Karlie Charles tweeted, “Dena is the gold standard softball mom and because of that we’ve lost a sister and our daughters a mother. Pray for (Jacee), Taylor, Jayda and #playforDena.”
The hashtag “#playforDena” is typed on every post by Jacee’s club team, Impact Gold National 18U Middlebrook.
Two weeks ago at the Top Club National Championships in Choctaw, Oklahoma, in Jacee’s first at-bat since her mother’s death, the umpire called for time and her teammates then walked to home plate and greeted her with a group hug.
“They said, ‘We’re here for you,’” Deana said.
Impact Gold players will continue to wear purple ribbons in their hair throughout the season in honor of Dena. Purple was Dena’s favorite color, Deana said.
Assuming The Colony will play softball next spring, the Lady Cougars will wear jerseys with the hashtag “playforDena”.
“What I’m hoping if we have a normal season, to have that on uniform,” Deana said. “Any shirt that we buy, any playoff shirts, practice shirts will have that on there.”
Furthermore, a purple metal chair where Dena usually sat will be bolted in place at The Colony’s softball stadium in her honor.
A GoFundMe page, “Love for Dena Memorial Fund”, has been set up, and as of June 30, $10,700 of the $15,000 goal has been raised.
A celebration of Dena’s life has been set for 7:30 p.m. July 10 at Stewart’s Peninsula Golf Course in The Colony.