Fall River, Mass.
When she joined friends to see one of her favorite bands at The Station nightclub in West Warwick last week, 29-year-old Donna Mitchell was about to receive two very big surprises. The first, a marriage proposal from her boyfriend, Robert Feeney, wouldn't have come as a total shock. The two had shopped for engagement rings, and Mitchell, who lived in Fall River, was planning a medieval-themed wedding, said Shelly Coulombe, her co-worker at the Holiday Inn in Warwick.
But Mitchell knew nothing about what her boss, James Petrone, planned to tell her. The morning of the fire, Petrone received a phone call from the director of revenues at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Warwick -- now the site of the American Red Cross victims' family assistance center -- who said the hotel wanted to promote Mitchell, who worked as a reservations supervisor.
"It was going to be a very significant promotion for her," said Petrone, general manager of the Holiday Inn. He said Mitchell was hired last August after working five years at the Best Western hotel in Fall River.
"Donna was the consummate hospitality professional -- kind, generous, and always willing to do anything to help. I can't really even describe the impact of her being gone," Petrone said.
Mitchell loved her job, but it was her daughters, 11-year-old Brooklynn and 8-year-old Joslynn Belanger, who came first, Coulombe said. A photograph of the girls sat in front of her work station.
A diehard Bruins fan, Mitchell took her daughters to a hockey game at the Fleet Center last month with Feeney, her boyfriend. The couple loved music and went to the Great White concert with several of Mitchell's friends. Feeney remains in critical condition at Rhode Island Hospital.