A beloved school secretary.
The lively and loving adoptive daughter of a longtime Rim Country family.
A sporty teenager.
Three Lives with deep roots in the community came to a tragic intersection on the two-lane road between Payson and Pine on Friday – which sparked grief on social media. Georgia Burnside and Tish and Aden Morris died in a multiple vehicle crash on State Route 87 north of the East Verde Estates junction around 8:30 p.m. on Friday, April 16.
Further information on the details of the accident can be found on page 11.
“Three people died last night on this road between Payson and Pine and the town is down,” said Kathy Norton Coassolo Lovetro, who oversees a Facebook community page. “They were local citizens of our cute town, and now they’re dead. Where do I go with that, damn it, I don’t know. I just feel so bad for the families and friends who are suffering and for the fact that lives can end instantly and lives can change. “
Stories about the three from friends and family provide a glimpse into the heartfelt loss.
Apparently they were all connected to Georgia Burnside.
For a decade, her parents called her about the absence of their children from school and all students at her desk when Burnside served as the secretary and janitor at Payson High School.
“She has worked for PUSD for many years and has deeply touched the lives of many employees, families, parents and students. She was and will forever be a woman with a kind, sincere, warm, humorous heart who is missed by many, “said Linda Gibson, Superintendent of PUSD.
“She was the kind of employee you wanted anywhere,” said Barbara Underwood, a school board member for more than a decade. “She always made people feel special. You felt special. The students really felt that. “
Leah Johnson, a PUSD teacher and close friend of Burnside, echoed Underwood’s views.
“Georgia was the kind of soul that reached everyone. I don’t know how she did it, but she really touched every life she came in contact with. Nobody could know Georgia without feeling loved and cared for. She enjoyed her life to the full, ”she said.
But it was the students Burnside had a special relationship with, said Lindsey Wala, a 2017 PHS graduate.
“I had a conversation once about how nice she is to students and she told me that she always wanted to be on the students’ side because at that age she knew that it always felt like the adults were and the world against us, “she told Wala.
Davin Lozano, a 2015 PHS graduate, credits Burnside for graduating from high school despite oversleeping too often.
“You would always look at me like that and act surprised,” Lozano wrote on his Facebook page. “Instead of being angry or disappointed, you were always just worried.”
After hearing his apology, Burnside sent Lozano to his first math class with a note saying that a flat tire was making him late.
“I’m sure David Meidinger knew it was a lot of crap. Which child gets 47 flat tires? “Said Lozano.
Ilyas Sekendari credited Burnside for believing in him.
“During my school days, she had a little chat with us children. She was like our mother at school. Many of us have referred to her as Mama Burnside, ”he said. “She has always encouraged us to do the best we can. In difficult times, she was the cheerleader in the background. “
And their support didn’t end when a student left school. Sekendari remembers seeing her in town after graduating.
“She would stop in her tracks and make sure we had what we needed,” he said.
If she saw a difficult post on social media, she would send a message that “hoped things would get better”.
Burnside left the district after their only child, Nikko, graduated in 2018. She then ran a cleaning company.
Heather Stage’s mother hired her to help.
“They saw them as a family,” said Stage. “The last time I saw her she was cleaning my mother’s house and I brought my mother a birthday cake and asked her if she wanted a piece … she said no, that she was trying to lose weight. She was perfect. I wish she’d taken a slice. “
Tish Morris was a respiratory therapist who worked with COVID patients for the past year. She adored her 15 year old son Aden and the newfound love of her life along with her extended family who have been present in Rim Country for 50 years.
Her brother Todd Hamblen is a longtime Pine resident and the manager of Chapman Auto. As the parent of PHS graduates, he knew Burnside.
“My son and daughter have ties with Georgia. It’s devastating, ”he said as he sat at his brother-in-law’s home in Queen Creek.
Hamblen called Tish “the rock star” of the family.
“She’s been my sister since that first day,” said Hamblen.
Tish joined Hamblen’s family at the age of 12. His father, a retired judge “who was very much committed to foster care and adoption”, accepted them into the “large, mixed, mixed family”.
She was kind and devoted and always ready to help, but her life began challengingly when she found a single mother and raised her son Aden alone, he said.
Five years ago she met Tony Morris at a field race in Queen Creek. Aden loved field racing, and Tony loved it too. So he hit it off with Tish and Aden immediately.
“She was a little naughty to say the least. That was what attracted me to her, ”he said. “She was all about her boy.”
Hamblen said Aden was a rising football star as a quarterback for Queen Creek High School and a “damn good racing driver.”
Tish and Aden were on their way from Queen Creek to Pine to spend the weekend with Hamblen’s father Clayton “Bud” Hamblen as their brother and husband were both out of town for a weekend racing.
During Tish’s single mom years, Bud took on the roles of dad and grandfather, making sure they had what they needed.
Tish loved the outdoors, Tony said, and set off for Rim Country as often as she could.
“Tish and Aden were part of Pine even though they lived down there,” said Todd.
Tony spoke of Tish’s golden heart. She showed up to happily help whenever she found out that someone was in need – whether to prepare a meal or put the hay on the table.
Tony said she loved her family, the beach, the wilderness and the racetrack.
As a respiratory therapist, she helped people suffering from COVID.
“She never stopped,” said Tony. “My heart hurt like never before … my other half is gone.”
“Our deepest condolences go to the Burnside and Morris families who lost their loved ones in the terrible accident here in Payson last night,” said the Back to Basics staff on their Facebook page. “Hold your babies a little closer tonight, call your parents, friends, and loved ones to tell them they are on your mind. Tomorrow is never promised, so love for today. “