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For family, healing is a work in progress

August 19, 2000

For family, healing is a work in progress



By MARLO BARNHART / Staff Writer


Man killed in road roller accident.

The Aug. 21, 1995, newspaper headline was stark.

The story was filled with details of the accident that claimed the life of Keith Shives, a Washington County Roads Department employee.

What the story didn't say was that on Aug. 21, 1995, Megan and Mark Shives lost their dad.

It was also the day Irene Shives said goodbye to her husband of 24 years.

Healing is still a work in progress for the family members left behind.

"I was at my desk at the Washington County Administration Building at 7:30 a.m. when they came and told me there'd been an accident," said Irene, who married Theodore Rosenberry three years ago. She's worked for the county for 21 years.

Accompanied by friend and co-worker Fran Smith, Rosenberry said she rushed to Washington County Hospital and immediately began gathering her family around her.

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Her son, Mark, was to go fishing that day, she said. As it turned out, he drove right by the accident scene on U.S. 40 at Licking Creek.

Megan Shives was home sleeping. Her grandmother was asked to get her up and to the hospital.

"We had to wait such a long time at the hospital," Rosenberry said. "I knew that wasn't good."

The road roller Keith Shives was operating had gone out of control, plunged down an embankment and overturned, pinning the 46-year-old man underneath.

He died of internal injuries later that day.

As the reality began to take hold, Rosenberry said, she found herself in the hospital chapel.

"I never thought, why me?" Rosenberry said. "I just remember asking God for the strength to help my children."

Mark was 21, poised on the brink of a new life at Florida International University in Miami.

"In fact, we were getting ready to go down to Florida on Wednesday and Dad died on Monday," Mark said.

He and his dad had worked long and hard to secure a scholarship to the university, and the date Mark was to report was non-negotiable.

"I had to make Mark go to college ... right after the funeral," Rosenberry said.

Mark excelled in school, mainly because he knew it was his father's dream.

"I've finished school now and I've been working as a scout for the Seattle Mariners baseball team," Mark said at the family's Indian Springs home recently.

Soon he will be headed back to FIU where he has signed on as assistant baseball coach while he works on his master's degree in sports administration.

Megan is 22 and a senior at Towson University. She wants to get into cancer research.

Tears crept into Megan's eyes as she listened uncomfortably to her mother recounting the events of her father's death.

Rosenberry reached over and patted her daughter's arm.

"It's tough to see your children suffer," Rosenberry said. "It was my job to make it right for them then and now."

And through all that, Rosenberry was reeling under her own burden.

"Lots of days, I didn't want to get out of bed in the morning," she said. "But I did. ... I had to."

The family stayed in the family home through the winter of 1995 but moved soon after. Megan's friends at Clear Spring High School and the family's church, Park Head United Methodist, lent support wherever they could.

Rosenberry encountered her future husband at a wedding and said yes when he asked her out to dinner.

"I've known him all my life and I really enjoyed his company," she said.

Mark has been dealing with some bitterness about the accident for the past five years. But he's making his peace as the time passes.

The family filed a lawsuit in 1996 against several employees of the Washington County Roads Department over safety questions that arose about the road roller Keith Shives was operating.

A settlement was reached in 1998, according to Washington County Circuit Court records. Terms were sealed.

"There is a safety coordinator now for Washington County, and I believe that is a positive offshoot," Rosenberry said.

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