Stacey Stoner, a 2002 graduate of Northwestern High School in Springfield, was a beloved teacher at Graham Elementary School.
The two communities came together for Friday night football and paid tribute to the 29-year-old mother and wife, who died in a crash on her way to work Wednesday morning.
Rosemary Carstensen said Stacey was a good mom, good wife, and "a great daughter-in-law."
"It's really hard to lose her," Carstensen said. "It hasn't set in yet and I don't know if it ever will. We just need her."
Hundreds gathered for a pre-game tribute and launched balloons in Stacey's memory.
"It's about really remembering her and what she's done not only for this community but for Graham's community," said Jeff Hobby. " "It's really more than a football game, Put all those things aside and it's about friendships and relationships that you've built with people."
Children also ran out onto the field to remember "Miss Stacey."
Parents of her students said they're too young to understand what happened to their teacher.
Stacey, a mother of a 4-year-old boy and 2-year-old girl, lost control of her vehicle and struck a tree on Middle Urbana Road. Her husband, Josh Stoner, arrived at the scene after getting a call from the school that morning and learned his wife hadn't shown up for work.
As the last of the balloons were launched Friday night, many were in tears.
Family members were humbled by the large turnout.
"When I look around, it just means a lot that a lot of people knew her, knew what she stood for and knew what she really tried to give to a lot of people. She gave a lot of love to everybody," Carstensen said.