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When life changes ... when life ends

Wyanet family remembers and urges others to become aware

WYANET — Twenty years after their son was killed in a vehicle crash, Bob and Sandy Jeffery of Wyanet are retelling their son’s story to raise awareness of the dangers of drinking and driving and also of the importance of organ donations.

The Jefferys’ son, Robert, was killed on Dec. 17, 1993, when he lost control of his vehicle on an early foggy morning about 10 miles southwest of Peoria. Robert, the driver and sole occupant of his vehicle, had a blood alcohol content of 0.21, nearly three times the legal limit, at the time of the crash. He was apparently thrown from the vehicle and killed instantly.

At the time of their son’s death, the Jefferys felt the tavern serving their son should have been held accountable, but that did not happen.

His son did have two friends with him at the tavern, who wanted to drive him home, but Robert demanded his keys, and they gave him the keys, Jeffery said. His son was supposed to be headed home, but he apparently took a wrong turn, Bob said.

Today, the Jefferys want people to know that people who go out drinking need to have a designated driver and to allow that designated driver to do his/her job. As far as the organ donations, they know that’s what their son would have wanted, Jeffery said.

Because it was unclear just when the crash happened, doctors decided they could not take Robert’s kidneys or other internal organs, but they could use his corneas, some skin and some of the bone from his lower legs, Jeffery said.

Robert was 22 years old when he died. He left behind his wife and two small sons, as well as his parents and sister, Heidi.

Looking back at that time, Jeffery said it is a parent’s worst nightmare to get that phone call in the middle of the night, in the early morning hours, at any time of the day. He, his wife and daughter made it through those days and months with the help of their family and friends, and their faith, Jeffery said.

How has their son’s death has changed them, Sandy Jeffery said Robert’s death has brought her and her husband closer together, and also closer to their daughter. They want to be with their daughter as much as they can, she said.

Also, they have learned the little things don’t matter so much any more, Bob said.

“Some people say they get closure in time, but I don’t think you ever do,” Jeffery said. “I know our grieving has certainly diminished through the years, and we just think of the happy times now; but still I don’t know if you ever get closure in something like that.”

Starting on the 10th anniversary of their son’s death, the Jefferys have gone to the crash site each year to place a wreath on one of the trees there.

And also in memory and honor of their son, the Jefferys said they just want people to cherish their times together as a family; to make sure there is a designated driver when people have been drinking; and to remember the importance of organ donations.

Comment on this story at www.bcrnews.com.

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