Amanda Ceaberry Lee Ross was a warm and vivacious woman — someone who liked animals, soccer, Ernest Hemingway, and keeping up with friends from her 1998 graduating class at Sayre School, friends say.
Ross was born Oct. 10, 1979, in Fleming County and moved with her family to Lexington in the mid 1980s when her late father, Terrell Ross, founded the investment banking firm of Ross, Sinclaire & Associates.
State Rep. Bob Damron, a Nicholasville Democrat who works at the firm Ross's father founded, said Ross "had a good mathematical mind and a good business mind."
Tom Grunwald, Sayre's director of alumni affairs, remembered Ross as a good student who liked Ernest Hemingway, also a favorite author of Grunwald's. He gave her a copy of Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms.
Clayton Chambliss, the Sayre School headmaster, said the school was receiving calls from all over the nation about Ross because she had been so well-liked among her classmates.
"She was cheerful and peppy and lots of fun, a very integral part of that class," Chambliss said.
Ross's Sayre yearbook entry her senior year included this message to her parents, Terrell and Diana Ross: "Thank you for your support and love," she wrote. "You are the best and I will never take you for granted. I am on my way now and I hope I get there."
After Ross graduated from Boston University in 2002 with a degree in business administration and finance, she went to work for her father's company.
Ross was married for less than a year to Brady Clevenger of Lexington. The two divorced in early 2008.
Clevenger said Ross's family is "a great group of people that I had a brief but great experience with. I'm very sad to hear the news, especially for them."
Ross had dated Steve Nunn before her marriage. After her divorce, she began seeing Nunn again, said political consultant Dale Emmons, a close family friend who said he counseled Ross.
"She seemed to be real happy," Emmons said. "She was elated when she got engaged."
But her relationship with Nunn would prove to be rocky, leading to allegations of domestic violence.
Ross worked for the Kentucky Department of Insurance as director of financial standards and examination. She was appointed to that job in February 2008.
Ronda Sloan, public information officer for the insurance department, said she and her colleagues are "all very devastated by this tragic news. ... Amanda was a treasured part of the Department of Insurance family, an extremely bright and talented woman."
Ross was excited that she recently was elected to the board of the Lexington Humane Society, her friends say.
She would have started her term in December, said Madison Carey, director of development for the organization.
"She was definitely an animal lover. She was very excited about the mission and about trying to make a difference in the community," Carey said.
On Thursday afternoon, Ross stopped by Voce hair salon in Lexington to pick up a gift certificate for a Humane Society event.
"She was all happy, bubbly, full of fun," said Jeff Minor, the salon's receptionist.
Voce owner Mickey Binion described Ross as "beautiful, smart, fun, very intelligent. If I had to name the shakers and movers in this town, she would be right up there. She made things happen."
Jim Deckard, the attorney who represented Ross in the domestic violence case in Fayette County, called Ross "a sweet and beautiful person, full of life and amazing promise."
Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear issued a statement Friday calling Ross's death "an indescribable tragedy."
"A young life lost so soon is always heartbreaking," Beshear said.
Reporter Beverly Fortune contributed to this story.