Always full of life, Ashley 'Cocoa' Kees dies suddenly
By Jim Turner

Posted on April 29, 2019 9:04 PM


A bright light suddenly went dark in Russellville Monday.

Young wife, mother, civic leader and sports queen Ashley ‘Cocoa’ Collier is gone from our midst.

Monday morning, Cocoa texted her employers, Sue and Dr. Dewey Wood, that she felt worse than she did last week and that her husband Reggie was taking her to the emergency room. At 4 p.m. the Woods learned that she had coded in the Intensive Care Unit of Greenview Hospital in Bowling Green. About 20 minutes, later she was officially deceased.

She was in her mid-30s and was as full of life as anyone you could ever know just a couple of weeks ago.

Pneumonia, bronchitis and septic caused by infection getting into her bloodstream are believed to have been the cause of death.

Mrs. Collier is survived by her husband Reggie, children Amiyah and Spencer, and sisters Shannon and Brittany. She was the daughter of the late James ‘Slick’ Kees and his wife, the late Sheila Epley Kees.

Her daughter Amiyah—one of the best female eighth grade athletes in the state—was on the home softball mound pitching against the top-ranked softball team in the state, undefeated Warren East. She had struck out the first two Lady Raiders when an uncle came on to the field and took her off. Her mother had just died.

Cocoa’s niece and Amiyah’s cousin—Brittany’s daughter Jaylah Kees—is also an eighth grader in a starring role on the 14-6 Lady Panther team. There was an attempt to continue the game, but it was too emotional a time to continue.

RHS Softball Coach Ryan Davenport said, “It's like losing a family member. Love you, Cocoa! Thank you for being such a great friend! #NoBodyBetter Prayers for my brother Reggie, my girl A'miyah and my buddy Spencer. Cocoa was such a devoted mother! Brittany Kees, I love you, sister, and, Shannon, I love you, too. Heartbroken! Please pray for our softball family as well. We are all devastated. Please pray for our community! I would like to say a big thank you to Warren East for being as classy and compassionate as one could be.”

Cocoa came from an athletic family. Here’s RHS sports historian Greg Owens’ summary: “Her father, the late James "Slick" Kees, was a star football player for the Panthers in the late 60's. Her uncles, Bobby, Alvin, Timmy and the late Ronnie "Red" Kees, were all Panther athletes. Her husband Reggie was a member of our 1987 State Runner-up Football Team. Her daughter Amiyah was a starter on our Lady Panther basketball team and is one of the top 8th grade softball players in the state.”

Ashley Kees was a rugged basketball player herself. Her RHS coach Jeff Stamps remembers: “Cocoa had a heart of gold. She was on the last RHS girls basketball team that won the district in 1999. She played as hard as any player boy or girl that I coached.

In addition to working with her own children’s sports and academics, she coached youth sports and then became a Russellville Middle School girls basketball coach, She was also a leader in the Stevenson Elementary School PTO.

Cocoa has worked in caring for older patients most of her adult life. Soon after her death, people were sending messages about how good she was to their parents while working at nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and home healthcare.

In what were to be her final years, she would work as a private heathcare provider in people’s homes, although she would be sure to get home and to sporting events whenever her children were there. She spent many of the late pastor/historian Ed Coffman’s final years going to his home to do whatever chores and healthcare needs were on the agenda that day, He depended on her deeply, both as a caregiver and as a companion.

Her last job has been coming to the Woods’ home most days, Dr. Wood’s mobility has slowed him down, but her out-going personality and willingness to help made things better meant a great deal to the retired physician and retired school teacher.

Sue Wood says, “She was a ray of sunshine walking through the door each day. Dewey has lost his best buddy. I have never seen him bond with anyone like he immediately did with Cocoa. She was our family. She has not felt well for last week or two but blamed it on allergies and pollen. She missed last Thursday but came Friday. She texted this morning that she felt worse and Reggie was taking her to ER.”

Only a few hours later she was gone,

Here are some of the messages people wrote on her Facebook page soon after her death:

Kendra Coe Cole: You were one of a kind. Beautiful, confident, sassy, talented, loving, considerate, goofy, & hilarious. You would call me out & still be one of my favorite people. My heart is broken that you’re gone so soon. I know you were your babies’ biggest fan & they will be able to hear you cheering them on from heaven, loud & clear I’m sure. Such an amazing Christian, mom, daughter, sister, friend, teammate, role model.

Beverly York: To say "you never know when" has never rung more true! You were one of the best, most faithful Panther fans I know. Your heart was so big for everyone around you.

Coach Steven McGee: You were a class act and always treated me like family even though I was not a Russellville Panther until recently. Noah loves you and basketball games will never be the same without you there jumping up and down getting after the refs!

Laura Richardson:I’ve never met anyone more dedicated to their children and their husband than you. You never ever sugar coated a thing. You always spoke the truest words. One of the most remarkable women I’ve ever met in my life. 

Chris McGinnis: You were a remarkable woman full of love for life and people. My prayers are with the family and our community. You graciously looked after my Nana and Tiffany’s Nanny as if they were your own. I’ll never forget your kindness and compassion.

Haley Jayne Browning: Heart of Gold is exactly what she had.... from the love of taking care of her children and family, to taking care of the elderly...... she was a stranger to no one. Ashley Kees Collier (Cocoa) you will be dearly missed by so many. You have no idea just how many lives you touched including mine. I couldn’t have asked for a better teammate on the softball field growing up and making so many memories. The impact you have made on so many young athletes is truly amazing. Everyone of us should strive to be just like you.... always smiling that contagious smile, having a kind word to say to someone, pep talks and encouraging words.

Coach Chris Moses: At Russellville Middle School, we came in together and changed the culture. I knew my girl was gonna set the tone every time we had a doubleheader! Two things for sure: we were gonna win, and at least one of us was getting a tech Your passion for the kids aReggie Collier, I’m praying for you and the kids. You are a true man of God, and I know you all will pull through this. Love you and everything you two stood for.



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