Tragedy tears at family friends


It was 20 years ago that I first became friends with Dorothy, a woman who joked that since she was twice my age she could give me twice as much advice as friends my own age.
We were both working at a newspaper and I was happily expecting my first child.
She so wisely told me that the arrival of that baby would change my life in more ways than I could even begin to anticipate. Dorothy also told me it would be worth every bit of discomfort, pain and struggle to bring this new little one in to the world.
She was right on all counts.
A treasure. Dorothy was wise and wonderful, and I treasured her friendship. Over the years, I was always so happy to see Dorothy.
She could brighten the dreariest day, always full of cheer and brimming with a new story or two. I told her she was so much more exciting than friends my own age.
Just a couple of years back, she took a cross-country train trip, all by herself, just to say that she had done it. Her beautiful eyes sparkled as she told me about the trip. She was an adventurous soul, and I have always loved that about her.
A trip. When I bought my bright yellow VW beetle, Dorothy laughingly said, “That little car just suits you, because I have always said that you are like a little ray of sunshine!”
I promised her a trip in that sunny car, and we made plans to do just that as soon as she returned from her latest adventure.
“Guess where I am going?” she asked with glee just a few short weeks ago. “I am going to South Africa! Me! In South Africa! Can you imagine?”
Dorothy was invited to join her daughter, Colleen, on this trip to visit Colleen’s son, Jerame, who has been working in Africa, developing a golf course. Dorothy was so excited to get to see her grandson and his family, while being given a tour of the beautiful country.
“I’ll bring you pictures!” she promised.
A tragedy. A day of touring in the mountains Oct. 3 ended when the jeep in which Dorothy and her family were riding experienced mechanical trouble and went off the side of the road, rolling five times before hitting a pole.
Dorothy, Colleen, Jerame and his wife, Rita, along with their daughter Corey, were taken by ambulance to a hospital. Jerame and Rita’s other daughter, Madison, 9, was placed in a Red Cross helicopter due to the severity of her injuries.
Minutes after the helicopter lifted off, it crashed into a mountain and burst into flames. Madison, the pilot and two crew members died on impact.
Madison’s family remained unaware of the helicopter accident as they were en route to the hospital by ambulance.
Dorothy was taken in to surgery to repair her badly injured shoulder. In the days following, Dorothy remained hospitalized, but was recovering from her injuries.
Then on Sunday, Oct. 9, Dorothy suffered a massive heart attack and died.
It has seemed impossible to grasp this tragedy. Words fall so short in trying to convey sympathy to Dorothy’s family, reeling from grief in such extreme measure.
Earth has lost two sweet souls, but heaven is surely rejoicing.


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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, and three grandchildren.