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Friends, family remember those lost in duck boat tragedy

On Friday night, hundreds of people gathered to pay their respects to the 17 victims lost in the duck boat tragedy.

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Zoe Brown
BRANSON, MO — On Friday night, hundreds of people gathered to pay their respects to the 17 victims lost in the duck boat tragedy.

For the loved ones of those 17 lives lost, they are struggling to cope with the sudden loss. They're missing their family and friends.

On Saturday morning, two sons who lost their mother came to pick up her vehicle to drive it back to Illinois.

They said they believe Leslie Dennison saved her granddaughter's life before losing her own when the Ride the Ducks boat sank.

"My niece basically was telling my brother that my mother had picked up my niece to hand to somebody," Brian Dennison said. "When she turned around, grandma was gone."

That same morning, William Asher and Rosemarie Hamann's friends gathered mementos, messages, and flowers left on the couple's vehicle to take them back home to St. Louis.

Their friends, who rushed to Branson from St. Louis, describe the couple as inseparable. They call them Bill and Rose.

"They never had any ill words for anyone," their friend Christie Herpers said. "Their life was full."

Bill loved to DJ and Rose loved to dance.

They dedicated their free time to raising funds to benefit veterans and their families. They were members of the SSgt. Ron Bozikis Memorial Organization.

"She loved her veterans," said Russell McKay, another friend. "I'm going to miss her so bad. I love her dearly. We talked every day. We never hung up without saying, 'I love you.' She was a wonderful person."

The couple had come to Branson to celebrate Rose's birthday.

"She and Bill; they were a pair," said Staff Sergeant Ron Bozikis. "I was totally devastated. I've cried as much as I could cry. I going to miss her so much. She was my right hand."

"We are losing great people, but you have to go positive," Herpers said. "They are together. We'll miss them."

The friends said they are lost without them and are still in disbelief that they died while on vacation.

They then said one last prayer near their friends' vehicle before heading home.

"We have great memories, is what counts," Herpers said. "Tell everyone that's what counts because you don't know when the next tragedy hits."

"Take a moment and hang on to your loved ones," she said.

The mayor of Branson said that, now, the community is preparing to celebrate and honor the victims.

"It's been a roller coaster of emotions over the past few days," said Mayor Karen Best. "Anytime you lose a life, it's always heartbreaking, heart-wrenching."

"We are a very close community and we meet no strangers," she said. "Can you come to Branson, you are a part of our family. So when these lives were lost, we lost part of our family. We had not met some of them, but they were still part of our family."

"We are usually a community of smiles, but we've been a community of tears and grieving," she said. "We've tried to stand by the families and provide them with as many hugs, tears, as many comforts as we can."

The mayor also said that, during this tragic time, they are learning about heroism and kindness.

"One of the counselors that was working with the young man that survived, when he got to city hall his socks were soaking wet," she said. "So, the counselor took his socks, took them into the restroom and dried them for him."

"For that young man, that was everything to him that night," she said. "You're cold and you're wet. It's hard to think of anything else other than taking care of some basic means. It's the small things."

The mayor commended all of the first responders and bystanders who jumped into action to try to help.

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