- Associated Press - Friday, April 28, 2017

PHOENIX (AP) - The mother of the two university students who died in an April wrong-way crash has accepted her older daughter’s diploma.

Cathy Hocking wore her Karli Richardson’s graduation cap and her younger sister’s academic medal when she accepted Richardson’s diploma from Grand Canyon University Thursday. The sisters from North Carolina died two weeks ago in a wrong-way crash on a Phoenix freeway.

Richardson, 20, was set to receive a bachelor’s degree in communication and had plans to pursue grad school. Her younger sister, Kelsey, was a junior at Western Carolina University. She wanted to go to medical school.

“Karli just had a heart and Kelsey was right there with her and they loved people,” Hocking said. “They both wanted to do nonprofit work.”

Richardson left her graduation cap decorated with a picture of Dory from “Finding Nemo” and the words “already forgot everything.”

During the graduation ceremony, GCU president and CEO Brian Muller called her one of the best students that has ever attended the university. Her mother made GCU’s hand sign and waved her daughter’s diploma as she walked across the stage. The audience gave her a standing ovation.

“I’m excited. I’m sad … Karli should be jumping up and down, walking across that stage and, next year, Kelsey should be,” Hocking said. “I am happy that I can represent them. … I was overwhelmed with pride.”

Hocking and her husband arrived in Phoenix on Wednesday and had a chance to visit the sisters’ crash site. They died instantly and without pain, Hocking said.

“Kelsey had never gone (to the Grand Canyon) and Karli wanted to be the big sister to take her there and share that experience,” she said. “They see much more than the Grand Canyon now; they see the world. I wish I could see them, but I know they see me.”

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Information from: The Arizona Republic, https://www.azcentral.com

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