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PHOENIX It's been a tough time for an Apache Junction woman who lost her three children and her ex-husband in a pre-Thanksgiving plane crash last year in the Superstition Mountains.

Karen Perry tells Phoenix TV station KTVK that November "has been a very emotional month" and "it's been a difficult year." But she said it also has "taught me a greater appreciation for everything in my life."

Perry's children 9-year-old Morgan, 8-year-old Logan and 6-year-old Luke were killed in the Nov. 23 crash along with her former husband, Shawn Perry.

Two other men aboard the plane also died in the crash in the rugged mountains 40 miles east of downtown Phoenix.

Authorities said the plane hit a cliff less than five minutes after taking off from Mesa's Falcon Field.

Shawn Perry, 39, and his three children were seated in the back of the plane. He lived in Safford in southeastern Arizona and owned a small aviation business there.

He had flown to the Phoenix suburb of Mesa with another pilot who co-owned the company and a company mechanic to pick up the children on the night before Thanksgiving. The plane was headed back to Safford when it crashed.

Investigators said the twin-engine aircraft was traveling about 200 mph when it slammed into a sheer cliff in the mile-high Superstition Mountains an hour after sundown. The plane exploded in flames, split apart and scattered burning debris.

In the days after the crash, Karen Perry said she received condolences from all over the world including India, Australia and Italy.

Friends and acquaintances describe her as a selfless woman who had to endure many struggles.

Morgan Perry had been diagnosed with epilepsy and faced multiple brain surgeries while Luke Perry had autism. Both attended Laurens Institute for Education or L.I.F.E., a school for mentally disabled children.

The school in Apache Junction now has "Perry's Corner" filled with the boys' pictures and "Perry's Library" packed with books as the siblings loved reading.

Karen Perry said Luke enjoyed his picture books.

"If he were watching us right now, I know he would be opening every single one of those books," she said.

Margaret Travillion, a co-owner of L.I.F.E., said she "walks through these halls and we're able to know in a small way the kids are here with us."

That sits fine with Karen Perry, who said it means a lot to her that the memory of her children lives on.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

Associated Press,

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