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TOLEDO, OH (Toledo News Now) -
Each year the Northwest Ohio Komen Race for the Cure is named in memory of someone who's lost her battle with breast cancer.
This year the race is in memory of a woman who spent her life making others feel beautiful: Denise Soto.
For years, Denise Soto was the go-to girl for the latest in hairstyles and grooming. Her expertise was recognized by industry experts across the country. But she also earned a reputation for generosity.
"She was a mom, a wife, a sister, an aunt. She was a dear friend, but she was also aware of the needs of the community where she lived," said her husband Charlie Soto.
Denise used her business, Salon Soto, to help raise awareness and money for a variety of causes. When she opened the Salon Professional Academy in 2005, she built community involvement into the curriculum.
When Denise was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009, she used it as a teaching moment for her students:
"She said, ‘I've been diagnosed with breast cancer and I'm on this journey now, and I want you to take this journey with me because I want you to use this as a life lesson and educate yourself'," said Charlie.
Denise shared her journey openly, including her mastectomy surgery, and the pain of losing her hair during chemotherapy.
Charlie remembers the day it happened.
"She was brushing her hair and her hair was falling out. I went in there and held her and she started crying, and I said we knew this was going to happen, let me do this for you, so I cut her hair and shaved her head for her that night," he said.
Denise made every minute count, educating her students, and spending time with her husband, their four grown kids and their 8 year old daughter, Grace.
After the holidays however, in early 2011, doctors told Charlie it was time to say goodbye to his wife of 29 years.
"I think up until that moment I thought ‘there's still a miracle that could happen' and I remember having to sit down with Grace and tell her."
Surrounded by her loved ones, Denise Soto slipped away on January 15th, 2011.
"Grace is 10 years old...and she's going to have to live the rest of her life without her mother's love. I ask Denise every day to help me get through that and be a good father and raise Grace," said Charlie.
Because she helped so many during her lifetime, the 2013 Northwest Ohio Komen Race for the Cure is named in memory of Denise Soto. Her family, friends and students are proud to walk her walk and carry on her legacy at the 20th anniversary race:
Before she died, Denise had this to say about sharing your support for others: "All the love and nurturing that people are giving you, it means a lot. That support really helps you keep the fight up yourself and help you to heal and help you to walk through it."