Friends and relatives of Donna Chen watched Sunday afternoon as the Sarasota County Fire Department cleaned up the scene of , ready to place flowers to remember her.
Chen’s nephew Mitchell MacPhail 18, held the bouquet ready to start the roadside memorial across from . MacPhail told Patch that it’s shocking to know that his aunt passed away so suddenly.
“She loved to take care of people,” he said.
(To find out what happened to Chen's dog Barney, read )
Chen's routine was to jog down that stretch of Midnight Pass Road, which she was doing right before Blake Talman, struck her Saturday afternoon, according to police, who say the 22-year-old Bradenton man was intoxicated while driving.
“I think the whole family is awaiting his trial to see what happens to him,” MacPhail said. “We hope he gets what he deserves.”
Talman is charged with DUI manslaughter, numerous property damage charges and leaving the scene of another accident just prior to hitting Chen with his car, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. Talman drove away, after striking Chen and did not stop until his vehicle hit another car, investigators said.
Chen leaves behind many friends. A 30-year Sarasota resident, she had deep ties in the community. Chen was a registered nurse and had worked at Venice Memorial Hospital, MacPhail said. Her husband, Wellington, is a recently retired physician.
She kept her license although she had stopped actively practicing, MacPhail said. Her focus was family life.
She maintained an active, healthy lifestyle. She lovingly raised her children, William, Tiffany and Andrew Chen, MacPhail said.
William is studying at Duke University, while Tiffany attends Pine View School — a gifted and talented school — and was also recently accepted to Duke, MacPhail said.
"I think the main focus wasn't the name of the school or the prestige with it. For her, it was what fit her kids," he said, "It's what they both ended up liking and she made sure they were happy with what they were choosing."
MacPhail is close to the Chens as his cousins; they all grew up in Sarasota. The families would go downtown to watch Tiffany perform a ballet recital, or just get together for some quality family time, he said.
MacPhail would take trips with her to Utah to ski, to New York and other destinations to shop and for him to “be lazy.”
"At the last minute she had offered to fly me out to Salt Lake City, which I imagine couldn't be cheap," he said.
Another woman, who declined to give her name, stood with MacPhail remembering Chen.
“She was the most thoughtful, caring person around,” she said.
“She always told her children to be careful,” she added.
Chen loved her family as well as her animals and dogs, the woman said.
Chen was apparently walking her dog Barney, and was later found by a kayaker fishing, when the dog swam up to him. The kayaker shot this YouTube video of him fishing and caught the moment Barney came to him (see video above).
According to a newsletter from June 2010, Chen and her husband Dr. Wellington Chen were members of the club and had lived on Siesta Key for 15 years and in Sarasota for 30 years.
Wellington Chen was the former emergency medicine director of Venice Hospital and Doctors Hospital of Sarasota and is retired from actively practicing medicine.
The family takes comfort she wasn't alone at the time of her death, MacPhail said.
"One of her New Years resolutions was to start going to church more, and she started going with my grandparents," he said. "She really liked it."
This article has been updated and information about the priest was removed after a witness contacted Patch about the incident. The witness wishes to remain anonymous.