Kendall & Sharon Hight, Wayne, Betty & Tammy Monroe
I thought it unbearable when our son was seriously injured by a drunk driver. Then I met Charles and Lou Zella Pruden who lost both of their sons to a drunk driver. Then I met Fern Broyles who lost five of her loved ones in one senseless drunken crash. This is her story.
Fern and her husband Jim were returning from Church Services on Saturday evening, March 19, 1983 when they saw the fire truck leaving town. Later at home while watching the 10:00 PM news, they heard about a crash on Highway 43 that had killed five in one family.
Immediately Fern sensed that is was her kids, and she attempted to call her daughter Sharon. Fern's grandson Curtis answered and said that everything was ok and that he would have his mother call when they came in. (Curtis however had also heard the TVs. report and had started praying.) She then attempted to call her son, Wayne Monroe Fern's grandson Doug answered and said that he would have his dad call when they arrived.
In a few minutes, Fern's telephone rang. It was St. John'sHospital wanting signed permission to treat Paula Monroe. "The trip to the hospital seemed like a million miles," Fern remembers.
Fern's daughter Sharon Hight and Fern's granddaughter Tammy Monroe had been taken to FreemanHospital. Sharon died around noon on Sunday, and Tammy died around 5:00 Monday morning. Sharon's husband Kendall Hight driver of a 1978 AMC Station Wagon, Fern's son Wayne Monroe and his wife Berry Monroe were killed upon impact. Fern's granddaughter Paula Monroe was the only survivor. It was the highest death toll for a collision in the history of JasperCounty.
The Kansas City Times reported, "A 1975 Chevrolet pickup being driven north at an estimated 60 mph crossed the center line and hit a southbound 1978 AMC Station Wagon head-on. The Station Wagon was going about 55 mph. On impact, the truck and the car virtually exploded.
Kendall Hight was Contract Manager at Eagle Picher and his wife Sharon was a secretary at the junior high school. They were both very active members of the NazareneChurch. Kendall was a Sunday School Superintendent, Sharon was a song leader, and they both were Sunday school teachers. They had three children: LeAnn 23, Lynette 21, and Curtis 18.
LeAnn is married and the announcement of Lynette's engagement appeared in the same paper that announced the death of her mother and father. Curtis was soon to graduate from CarlJunctionHigh School. The local school dedicated a trophy case in memory of Kendall and Sharon.
Kendall's parents in their 80's live in Carl Junction. Kendall also had a brother in Tulsa and one in Carthage. Sharon Hight and Wayne Monroe were brother and sister and the only children of Fern Broyles.
Wayne and Betty Monroe were both employed at Motorola and both were very active in the MethodistChurch where Wayne served on the board and Betty sang in the choir. Wayne had been described in his high school annual as being "A quite man who offended none."
They had 2 sons, Doug and Todd. Doug graduated from high school that spring. The sons remained home the night of the crash. Two daughters Tammy 13 and Paula 11 had gone with their parents. Tammy had been in the front seat between Kendall and Wayne, Paula had been asleep in the back seat with Sharon and Betty.
Betty was one of 17 children and most her kinfolks lived in Iowa. They came to Carl Junction to attend the funeral and the town opened up their homes and hearts to all the people involved in this tragedy.
Betty if by some premonition had written letters to her kids telling them the kind of life she wanted them to live in case anything ever happened to her. The letters had been written about a month before the collision.
Tammy 13 was a student at the junior high where her Aunt Sharon was a secretary. The Joplin Globe reported that about 1,500 people filled the gymnasium for a public memorial service. A resident of the community noted that there was standing room only at the memorial service.
The Drunk Driver
The two occupants of the other vehicle were from Oklahoma and according to the Kansas City Times were illegally selling paddlefish eggs taken from fish they had caught in NeoshoRiver above GrandLake. The Oklahoma Conservation Department had been trying to nail Mr. Townsend for selling such eggs for two years. Both men were killed.
The Families Go On
There is a tragic irony in this story. Two hard-working, church-going, highly-respected families returning from a family gathering in Liberal, Missouri doing nothing wrong and doing no harm to anyone else. A drunk driver involved in illegal activities had to meet these two families head-on at a combined speed of over 100mph. The Missouri Highway Patrol estimated the family vehicle at 50 to 55 mph and the drunk was driving in excess of 80mph.
Mrs. Broyles states if drunk drivers only knew the heartache they bring on us. There is emptyness there at all times and especially at birthdays and holidays. You never get over missing loved ones.
In spite of the grief and heartache her religious values have been strengthened and the grandchildren continue to be active in their churches. This is a time when your church really means a lot.
Mrs. Broyles also states, one message that I feel is real important-people with minor children need to make a will. It's so important.
LeAnn spoke of her mom, dad, aunt and uncle. They were fine Christian people. Knowing they're in Heaven together is what's making it possible for us to go on.