BAY CITY - Thomas Battle can't help himself.

Battle will be talking to Zahria Battle, but he'll picture her mother.

"She has a lot of her attributes," Thomas said of his daughter. "Sometimes, when we get into it, I think, 'Here we go again.'"

Candace Brown experiences the same feeling when she visits with her niece.

"Sometimes, I'll be with my aunt," Zahria said. "She's like, 'Oh my God, you're acting like Teresa right now.'"

Zahria doesn't mind being compared to her mother - she's proud of it.

Teri Richardson lived a full life, despite having it cut short in April of 2012 at the age 53 after a valiant seven-year battle with colon cancer.

"She was caring, and she was really funny," Zahria said. "She didn't mind telling you what was on her mind. She was very straight forward."

The 16-year-old Zahria is much the same.

She is a junior at Bay City High School, makes good grades, is an active member at her church and takes part in several school organizations, while participating in volleyball, cross-country, basketball, track and field and powerlifting.

Zahria is also a varsity cheerleader, which cements the connection with her mother.

Richardson was a Dallas Cowboys' Cheerleader from 1978 to 1983.

She appeared in the "Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders" movie and "The 36 Most Beautiful Girls in Texas" television special.

She took part in USO shows around the world, while becoming the group's second-longest tenured member.

"She told me she had a really good time with it," Zahria said. "She got to go on the USO tours and be on television in shows like "The Love Boat."

Zahria was born after Richardson moved to Bay City, but has benefited from her mother's advice.

"She told me, 'You need to be more confident,' and I'm like, 'OK,'" Zahria said. "Like when I was in cheer tryouts and messed up. Some girls said, 'You messed up, but you don't even look like you messed up because you did it so good.' That is the kind of stuff my mom would say."

Richardson wouldn't allow Zahria to travel to a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders reunion because her daughter had school.

But Zahria has twice been to a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders camp and stays with Rhonda Cumby Dawson, who was a member of the squad with Richardson.

After her most recent camp, Zahria returned to Arlington and cheered at halftime of the Cowboys preseason game against the Denver Broncos at AT&T Stadium.

"It was fun. We got to be around the cheerleaders and stuff," Zahria said. "I went back to do the halftime and I met Kelli (Finglass, Dallas Cowboys cheerleader director) and she knew my mom."

Richardson, who majored in dance at the University of North Texas in Denton, became the first black female disc jockey at one of Dallas' most popular radio stations when she left the cheerleaders after the 1983 season.

She worked in radio in Dallas and San Antonio before becoming a nursing assistant in Bay City in 1996.

Zahria hopes to follow in her mother's footsteps by attending Prairie View A&M and becoming a member of the Black Foxes dance team.

She plans to try out for the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders and wants to become a registered nurse.

Zahria is sorry Richardson didn't get the opportunity to see her and brother, Zachary Battle, a freshman at Bay City, grow up.

But even in her final days, Richardson's spirit remained undaunted.

"It was hard for me to see her like that," Zahria said. "But it wasn't really hard because she told my brother and me not to cry. She was like, 'Don't cry, it's going to be OK.'"

Zahria is bearing out Richardson's words, and not a day goes by she doesn't think of her mother.

"People tell me I act like her," Zahria said. "She was an inspiration to me. She was really funny and she was a very confident person. All my friends loved her a lot."

Mike Forman is a sports writer for the Victoria Advocate. Contact him at 361-580-6588 or mforman@vicad.com.

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