Who: Kelly Devine-Alunni’s family and friends knew they could turn to the fun-loving, caring 48-year-old whenever they needed a shoulder to lean on, a sounding board, encouragement or advice. Her contagious smile and laugh, plus her magnetic personality, made her a much-loved “life of the party,” said her sister, Colleen Saint.

A native of Carteret, New Jersey, Devine-Alunni moved to Northeast Pennsylvania as a kid and graduated from Western Wayne High School. After the death of her parents, John and Linda Devine, she took over as family matriarch, serving as a rock for her sisters and keeping extended family close. She went on to attend Penn State University and ran a catering business, and although life wasn’t always easy — she and her husband, Joe Alunni, also dealt with the loss of their son, John Adam — she remained active in the community, Devine-Alunni volunteered at VFW Post 6520 in Jefferson Twp., helped at a recent free Lions Club dinner, and often baked and decorated cakes for friends’ parties.

Although she had health complications, which included a heart attack and several procedures last year, caring for her son, Joseph Alunni Jr., who has special needs, remained her passion. Devine-Alunni was a strong advocate for him and other children with similar challenges, and she volunteered with the Pennsylvania Right to Education Task Force.

The late Kelly Ann Devine-Alunni

What: As a caretaker for her son, Devine-Alunni didn’t get a lot of chances for taking a vacation, but in October, she set out on a birthday getaway to Florida to visit family and friends. On the way, however, she was involved in a crash with an 18-wheeler that Saint said caused Devine-Alunni’s van to explode.

Why: Alunni’s family has struggled since her death. She leaves behind a stepdaughter, Alicia Kilmer and husband, Mark; grandchildren, Madison, Ethan and Lexi; another sister, Darlene Devine Mills; plus more extended family. While her son is mostly non-verbal, he knew his mother and continues to cry out for her, Saint said. He often wakes overnight and looks for her around the house, unable to understand why she is not there. His parents were a team when it came to his 24/7 care, but now Joseph Sr. must be a single parent while struggling financially as he deals with coronavirus-related layoffs from his job as a University of Scranton chef.

“Kelly meant so much to so many,” Saint said, “and we all are struggling with this tremendous loss.” Donations will help cover the expenses of bringing Alunni’s remains back home and to help her family make it through this tough time.

How: People can donate to Alunni’s family at the GoFundMe page, “Kelly Devine-Alunni Memorial Fund,” or by mailing contributions to Joe Alunni at 810 Cortez Road, Jefferson Twp., PA 18436.

In her own words: “The support shown to Kelly’s family has been absolutely heartfelt. Joe and Kelly didn’t have a significant savings, and Joe struggled to gain the funds to even get Kelly home. The funds received not only provide the ability to get Kelly’s remains home, it will help to get her ashes laid to rest with her son John Adam. Joe is also so appreciative for the donations that will help him continue as he is laid off, and struggling to even think of how he will continue to pay for health insurance, and maintaining the home that he and Kelly had shared. Joe and the family are so very appreciative of all donations, and cannot express our gratitude enough for those that have shown so much love, care and support.” — Colleen Saint, sister