The "dance moms" at Kim Hall's School of Dance lost one of their best this week with the death of Shelley Ann Grimes, the Brandon woman who died instantly after being struck by a hit-and-run driver in the median on Providence Road.
"The thing that I always remember has to do with competition nights, when we would all get a little silly after long hours," said the studio's owner, Kim Hall Perez, in an interview Monday night, Oct. 7. "Whenever Shelly laughed, her eyes would twinkle, she would get so silly. And she never had a harsh word to say to anybody. Ever. She was always so diplomatic and just so even-tempered and mild-mannered. She was one of our biggest cheerleaders and she just twinkled."
Grimes, 59, lost her life Saturday, Oct. 5, shortly after 11 p.m., when, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, she was walking west across Providence Road within the crosswalk at Providence Ridge Boulevard.
“She was struck in the median-through lane by an unknown Chrysler 300 vehicle, occupied by at least three people,” public information officer Debbie Carter said in a news release. “The vehicle did not stop, fleeing the scene south of Providence Road.”
"She was taking her little dog for a walk, the same little path she's gone on about 20 million times," Perez said. "She was at this huge median when this car, no brake marks, no skid marks, just ran off the road and plowed right into her."
According to Perez, Grimes was killed instantly and her dog walked home. Later, with the dog "sitting at the front door," the deputy who found Grimes' cell phone at the scene walked up to the front door to tell Dennis Grimes "his wife was just killed."
Perez added that she learned of the tragedy in a series of text messages she received from Grimes' daughter, Ashley, 28, who had been a student at Kim Hall's School of Dance since about age 5.
"She was one of those kids who latched on to dance like it was the best-flavor lollipop she ever had," Perez said. "She couldn't spend enough time in the studio and her mom was always so, so supportive."
On breaks home from college, Ashley Grimes would come back to the studio to teach or to choreograph a competition dance, Perez said. On trips home from Los Angeles, where the Point Park University graduate now lives, with a degree in dance, the same holds true.
And on those childhood nights when dance classes were under way and wrapping up, Perez said Shelley Grimes would sit with Perez' daughter, Laura, in the visiting room, keeping up-to-date on what was going on in the young girl's life.
"She would sit with my little girl and they would talk to each other about the important things in life while I was teaching the last class of the night," Perez said. "And the next day Shelley would always remember whatever Laura had been talking about. I was out there being the dance teacher for her pre-teen, teenage daughter and she was out there being the mom to my little girl."
In text messages that fateful night, Ashley Grimes, from her home in Los Angeles, relayed to Perez two somber messages: "My mom died" and "I'm having a hard time."
"The messages were sent 3:57 a.m. and 3:58 a.m. and at 4:02 a.m. my eyes popped open," Perez said. "I grabbed my phone and I didn't know why."
Soon, she learned of the tragic death and was in conversation with Ashley Grimes, a woman who, through the world of dance, has become a part of Perez' extended family. So, too, Ashley's father and her older brother, Jason.
"Every mom wants to know that if something happens to her there will be another woman who will be there for her kids," Perez said. "And I'll be there for Ashley and her family, no matter what."
Perez on Facebook posted word of Thursday's arrangements at Stowers Funeral Home, at 401 West Brandon Boulevard, and for a celebration of life remembrance to follow at Kim Hall's School of Dance, at 501 West Robertson Street.
"Shelley's favorite color was pink, so we will be decorating with pink flowers and Swarovski Crystal AB 'Bling,' " Perez wrote.
Burial will be at Hillsboro Memorial Gardens, at 2323 West Brandon Blvd.
"Our dancers may have one less audience member on earth," Perez said in her Facebook post, "but rest assured, we have gained a truly devoted dance angel cheering very loudly from heaven."