Jed Imlay works to keep up the garden his mother loved but says it's not the same without her.

Imlay's mother, Valerie Imlay, used to spend hours gardening and volunteering in their community until an Aug. 22, 2008, plane crash took her life and those of nine others flying back home to Cedar City from Moab.

"We had a family reunion recently, and it was horrible without her here," said Imlay, 27. "Mom was definitely the backbone in our family. Women are better than men. It's just true."

Imlay was in Salt Lake visiting his girlfriend's family when his father, Mark Imlay, called in hysterics about the accident. The young man raced home to his family, who were all devastated by the tragedy.

The plane crashed shortly after taking off from Canyonlands Field Airport northwest of Moab, killing the pilot and nine employees from Red Canyon Aesthetics and Medical Spa dermatology clinic. Those killed were pilot David White; Dr. Lansing Ellsworth, the clinic director; David Goddard, a medical assistant; Mandy Johnson; Marcie Tillery; Valerie Imlay; Keith Shumway; Dallin Ellsworth; Camie Vigil; and Cecilee Goddard.

The group had flown out to Moab that Friday to provide cancer screening and treatment to local residents.

Two families, the Goddards and Ellsworths, lost two family members each. Father and son Lansing and Dallin Ellsworth died. The Goddards lost David and his eldest daughter, Cecilee. A year after the crash, family members and friends of the victims say their lost loved ones were the "best of the best."

Lansing Ellsworth's widow, who is now LynAnn Imlay, 47, said it helped when patients of her late husband or friends of her son would tell her stories she had never heard — giving her another piece of their lives, even after death.

"One that I didn't know about my son was that once, at a high-school dance, he led a group of kids to leave the dance for a few minutes. It apparently wasn't a good song, so they went outside 'til it was over," she said. "He was a leader like that and had pretty high standards, and like the Pied Piper, took them outside."

He was following in the footsteps of his father to become a doctor, finishing pre-medical requirements at Southern Utah University while working at the clinic. He left behind his wife, Kamber Ellsworth, and unborn son Porter, now 10½ months old.

"He is a happy, loving baby," LynAnn Imlay said. "It's such a blessing. Even though Dallin had all those years of school ahead of them, he thought they should start their family."

She said she and her late husband were close to the Imlays for nine years before the accident, ever since they moved from Tucson, Ariz. She married Mark Imlay in May.

Bret Whittier, president of the Cedar North Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, knew the Imlays and the family of Lansing and Dallin Ellsworth and remembers Dr. Lansing Ellsworth's strong support for missionaries in the LDS Church.

"He had been invited that Tuesday prior to the accident to give a talk at the priesthood leadership meeting about missionary work on Sunday," Whittier said. "I couldn't think of anyone more qualified. He was always a huge help to the missionary effort but always wanted to be anonymous."

Many of the crash victims left behind loved ones and friends.

The Goddard family had traveled to several states before settling in Utah. David Goddard left behind his ex-wife, Ann, with whom he had three children, including Cecilee.

His younger daughter, Chelsea, said last year in an interview that her dad loved cooking, gardening, bicycling and a biodiesel truck that he made the fuel for himself. Cecilee Goddard, who left behind her daughter, Zoe, 3, loved hiking, art and the pools at Zion National Park.

Mandy Johnson, 20, was a communications major at SUU. Her brother, Met Johnson, said last year that she had recently become engaged to her boyfriend.

The clinic goes on, led by Ellsworth's business partner, dermatologist Rand Colbert, but he says it's not the same without their nine co-workers.

"I lost nine of my best friends in one minute," Colbert said. "Everybody got along really well. Dr. Ellsworth was a great leader and example to everybody. They all looked up to him quite a bit."

The community banded together, and a few people worked to erect a monument to the crash victims in Moab. Others are having a plaque made with the victims' faces and stories, LynAnn Imlay said. They plan to place the plaque on the clinic.

"When you take out of the community 10 of your people, you don't replace them overnight," said Cedar City Mayor Gerald Sherratt. "These things continue to be felt years later."

Jed Imlay said he will continue to feel the effects of losing his mom, as will his 7-year-old son, Gavin.

"Mom helped me raise him," Imlay said. "He struggled a lot when she died. She was practically a mother to him. She loved him more than anything."

A year later, investigators still are searching for the cause of crash.

According to the National Transportation Safety Board, it may take another six months to a year before a factual report is issued.

An independent review commissioned by the company that owned the plane ruled out pilot error.

Contributing: Associated Press

e-mail: lgroves@desnews.com