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story.lead_photo.caption Margaret Romph is seen in her cheerleading uniform during a Jefferson City High School homecoming game. Photo by Eric Gragg
Gallery: Margaret Romph

A Jefferson City girl who inspired her family, a city and people all over the world died Monday.

Margaret Romph was 15.

In 2009, Romph suffered injuries in a car wreck that left her paralyzed from the neck down. She died Monday at Women's and Children's Hospital in Columbia following treatment for pneumonia and infection.

"I'm still in a state of shock because we almost lost her in December," said Sherline Romph, Margaret's mom. "It happened so quickly. We're not ready to lose her, but as our kids and friends keep reminding us, we got 10 more years than we thought we would because she was dead at the scene. So we need to be thankful for that."

The accident occurred on Heritage Highway, and Margaret sustained severe head trauma, two broken femurs and a broken neck.

She spent many months recovering from her injuries, and after she came home to Jefferson City, she became the inspiration for many to persevere through their own personal struggles.

In 2016, Margaret's best friend, Olivia Hennon, started a charity to provide hospitalized children with homemade boxes containing donated items. "Little Box of Sunshine" continues to help children, and Sherline plans to stay active with the group as she serves on the board of directors.

"If people want to make donations to honor Margaret, we want it to go to Little Box of Sunshine," Sherline said. To find out more about the charity, visit littleboxofsunshine.weebly.com.

"As far as what I'm going to be doing, I have no idea," Sherline said. "Everyone is going to be going on with their lives. I'm not. My life was taking care of Margaret 24 hours a day, seven days a week. She was my job, she was my life, she was my world. Ten years ago, I became Margaret's mom, Margaret's advocate, Margaret's caregiver, Margaret's everything."

Sherline hopes Margaret's example of putting up a fight in the face of overwhelming odds will continue to resonate with people. The Jefferson City Council honored Margaret's memory at its meeting Monday night, and residents in the Romphs' neighborhood have decorated mailboxes with purple bows. Purple was Margaret's favorite color.

As she goes through this time, Sherline remembers Margaret loving and enjoying many of the same things girls her age do.

"She loved to bake, especially cupcakes," Sherline said. "She loved Build-A Bears and was so organized. Anyone who knew Margaret could read everything through her facial expressions, through her eyes and her smile. Her smile was amazing."

Sherline added: "Oh my gosh, did she love boys. The kid said, 'Mom I just want a boyfriend,' and I don't think the kid realized she had more boyfriends than anyone in the world."

Eric Romph, Margaret's dad, said: "This started 10 years ago, and the community support was unbelievable back then, and it's continued. A lot of people say, 'Why would you want to live in a small town.' Well, the love this community shows is just absolutely incredible.

"I started working at the Missouri Highway Patrol in 2000, and when the accident first happened, they came together and treated us like family. We just want to say thank you to everybody. We're not known as Eric and Sherline, we're known as Margaret's mom and dad, and that's OK."

Visitation for Margaret will take place 2-8 p.m. Friday at First Baptist Church at the corner of Monroe Street and East Capitol Avenue. A celebration of her life will take place at 2 p.m. Saturday at the church.

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