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TWU softball standout Burns dies at age 23

Profile image for By Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe / Staff Writer
By Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe / Staff Writer

Texas Woman’s University graduate and former softball standout Abby Burns died Monday after a long battle with acute myeloid leukemia. She was 23.

Burns was diagnosed with the disease in January 2011 and received a bone marrow transplant in July 2011. After additional chemotherapy, her cancer went into remission.

According to TWU officials, Burns later developed a complication from the transplant, known as graft-versus-host disease.

She was admitted to Medical City Dallas Hospital in January with infection, high fever and pneumonia. She was hospitalized over the next several months, fighting the disease, until her death Monday evening.

The softball team, the TWU athletic department and Burns’ many friends at TWU, including the parents of some friends, rallied around Burns after the diagnosis and stayed by her side throughout her illness and treatment.

TWU athletic director Chalese Connors said the team was on the bus coming back from a game in San Antonio last weekend when they got word that Burns was headed back to the hospital with another infection.

“After they got to Denton, they turned around and by late Saturday, they were all in her room,” Connors said.

“There were stories and tales and lots of laughter. They were praying over her. They were holding her hand and just letting her know that they were in the room. It was beautiful.”

TWU will honor Burns at the start of its softball game with Tarleton State University at 6 p.m. today. The team will introduce her in the starting lineup one final time and then retire her No. 19 jersey, officials said.

The softball standout played two years at Grayson County College before transferring to TWU in 2009. She started 37 games and appeared in 44 games during the 2010 season for the Pioneers. As a pitcher, Burns went 7-7 with a 3.06 ERA and 45 strikeouts. She also batted .327 with four home runs, five doubles and 25 RBIs.

That year, the team racked up 39 wins and advanced to the Lone Star Conference tournament for the first time since 2007 and the NCAA South Central Regional Tournament for the third time in school history.

While battling her illness, Burns completed her degree, a bachelor of science in kinesiology, and graduated from TWU in May 2012.

Burns is survived by her father, Kevin Burns, and her mother, Sharon Wallace, both of Denison; her sisters, Ashley Cooper, of Austin, and Alexia Ellis and Ayssa Thompson, both of Denison; her paternal grandmother, Alice Burns, of Denison, and grandfather, Joe Burns, of Ennis; and her maternal grandparents, Earl and Cathy Howard, of Denison.

Funeral services will be held at 2 p.m. Thursday at Parkside Baptist Church in Denison with Dr. Chet Haney officiating.

Interment will follow in Fairview Cemetery in Denison.

No time has been set for family visitation, but condolences may be registered online at

Funeral arrangements are being handled by Fisher Funeral Home in Denison.

PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881 and via Twitter at @phwolfeDRC.