LACOOCHEE (FOX 13) - A Pasco County community is rallying around the family of a woman who lost her life in a rodeo accident.
February 20, 28-year-old Lara Dewees was competing in at a rodeo in Hattiesburg, Mississippi when she was thrown from her horse. Though she fought hard, Dewees passed away Sunday from her injuries.
"We never ever figured this type of tragedy would happen to her on a horse," said her uncle Spunk Sasser.
Lara grew up in the saddle. She is described as a vivacious, "yes ma'am, no ma'am" southern girl. She knew horses and practiced her way into the professional barrel racing arena.
"She wanted to win and she was a crowd pleaser," Sasser said. "She always had a smile on her face. Always."
Outside the arena, she was a teacher of middle and high school social studies with Hernando e-School. She was also cancer survivor and a mother to an 18-month-old boy. Lara had just gotten engaged when life took such an unexpected turn.
"She's done more in her lifetime than most people do in a lifetime. Everybody loved her," family friend Cherry Morris said.
Dewees loved to sing. She even tried out for American Idol. Recordings of Dewees singing are now hymns of comfort to so many who are hurting.
"Her voice was impeccable," family friend Charmayne Johnson Pike said. "There's not enough words in the day to say what she brought to the world and the community and to the rodeo sport."
At Spunk Sasser Rodeo Arena in Lacoochee, the very first place Lara rode a horse, they're trying to rebuild.
"Her legacy will live on right here for many many years," Sasser said.
Volunteers are pouring mulch and repairing the old, worn down grandstand.
"I think there will be 500-600 people here. That's how much she touched people's hearts," Sasser said.
This arena is where Lara rode her first horse. If you look closely at the dirt, you'll find hoof prints made from the last time she rode here. Now, it's where those who loved her will say goodbye.
"She was a believer so I know 100% she is up there riding for the Lord," Pike said.
Lara Dewees' funeral will be held at Spunk Sasser Rodeo Arena Sunday at 4 p.m. Her barrel racing friends will be bringing their horses to follow Lara in a grand entry around the arena. Everyone is being asked to wear purple in her honor.