She would have been 47 years old in late April.

Instead of celebrating with her, her family was mourning her.

She was driving her Volkswagen south on Litchfield Road on Sept. 14 when she was struck by a car that ran a red light, police said.

Margie Yaw of Surprise, a recently divorced mom with two sons, died in the crash. 

Her life had revolved around her boys, her family, her friends. 

Six months afterward, the family’s pain remains as the case continues through the court system.

Her brother, Bill James Yaw, said he doesn’t think peace ever will come.

‘She would have helped him, if he asked’

Keith Joseph Johnson,18, told officers he was speeding in his pickup westbound on Peoria Avenue when he “timed it,” running a red light and hitting her car, according to court documents.

At the scene, Johnson told investigators he awoke depressed that day and ran the light with the intent of causing an accident.

“I did this on purpose; it’s my fault,” he told police, according to court documents.

According to her parents, Margie worked with troubled people every day.

In September, Rose and Bill Yaw Sr. sat at their daughter’s kitchen table in Surprise, hours after they picked up the urn of her ashes.

Margie had worked at the Peoria branch of the DES in the Division of Developmental Disabilities Program as a project specialist and early-intervention program coordinator. 

“She would have helped him, if he asked,” Rose said.

Margie was just beginning a new life, in a new house.

She was outgoing, smart, caring, giving and kind, with a special gift of helping others, her parents said.

She was fun and she was strong.

She loved crafting, dolphins, sea shells and dreamed of living by the ocean in Oregon.

“She had plans and goals, before that guy took her life,” her brother said.

Margie’s divorce was final about a month before the crash. A graduate of Arizona State University, she was looking forward to a promotion at work while developing her new life.

Margie and her girlfriends and had fun plans that weekend, her mother said. Instead, they attended her funeral. Money from her parents for new bedsheets, a symbolic gift, was left on her nightstand unspent.

A mother above all else

Above all, Margie was a woman who lived for her children’s happiness and to help others, family members said.

Her two boys, ages 15 and 6 (now 7), were her whole life, family members said.

Sister-in-law Irma Yaw said the idea of being separated from her kids was impossible for Margie to consider.

Margie’s day started and ended in a daily routine centered on her children. She woke up at 6 a.m. and then took the boys to school before she headed to work.

Rose watched her youngest grandson grieve his mother’s death.

“Grandma, my mom’s not dead,”  he told her.

Rose said she “looked at him and said, ‘No she’s in heaven with God,’ because that’s all I could say.”

She said as time goes on, “I hope they don’t forget her.” Bill Sr. added, “Well that’s my job,” promising he would help his grandsons remember.

A memorial is set up for Margie at her parents’ house. The Yaws will make sure the boys, who now live with their father, know their mom won’t be forgotten, Bill James said.

“I try to keep in mind her spirit is still around,” he said.

Her mother said, “The worst part is not being able to call her, and now I can’t do that anymore.” 

Gathering the pieces

The family was recently able to sell Margie’s home, but stress and grief continue to create ripple effects.

“They’re still having a hard time,” Irma said.

Both parents have been in car accidents since Margie’s death.

Bill hasn’t been sleeping well since he lost his daughter, but when he does sleep, he said, “I talk to her.”

“I couldn’t have asked for a better daughter, but now she’s with God,” he said.

“I can’t put my brain around it. I’ll never understand it.”

Bill James has taken on more duties for his parents; Margie was the one they always called for help, her family said.

Rose and Bill said they received multitudes of cards. Irma created a Go Fund Me, raising about $4,300 to pay expenses.

And this past Christmas, Margie’s youngest son received gifts from a local school class. 

“It made him feel like someone is cheering for him,” Bill James said.

Although the boys live with their father, Margie’s side of the family tries to see them as much as they can.

Her ashes are safe, split into two urns so that one day the boys each can have a physical remembrance of their mother. 

Case continues in the courts

Keith Joseph Johnson is on house arrest and recently was granted permission to attend church services.

His next court appearance is May 18, with a trial pending.

The Yaws say they hope a conviction or a guilty plea will mean he serves some time behind bars.

Even if he offers a heartfelt apology, Bill James said, it won’t change anything for the family.

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