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Death taking its toll on W.Va. 9

November 16, 2003|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

One of the numerous photographs of Terry Lee Walker Jr. taped to his parents' refrigerator stood out from the rest. Taken less than a week before Terry died in a head-on collision on W.Va. 9 last summer, the picture was smaller than many others. It showed Terry cooly leaning against the side of a building, his head slightly turned away, his characteristic smile absent.

As she looked at the picture, Terry's mother, Margaret, also momentarily lost her characteristic smile. Then she moved on, pointing out a picture of Terry, jubilant in his high school cap and gown. Terry jumping into a quarry. Terry with a young, pretty girl - one of many attracted to the handsome young man whose wire-framed glasses gave him a slightly studious look.

Terry Walker, 17, is one of those who have died along the stretch of W.Va. 9 that connects Martinsburg to Charles Town.

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According to statistics compiled by the West Virginia Division of Highways, 11 people died on the road from Sept. 1, 2000, to Aug. 31, 2003. A 12th person - Nancy M. Dockeney, 56, of Martinsburg - died Nov. 4, after the statistics were compiled.

Two of the people were pedestrians hit by cars. Some were involved in single-car crashes. Others, like Terry, were involved in head-on collisions. One man was riding a motorcycle that ran off the road. Another who died was 8 years old.

While none of the wrecks' specific circumstances were the same, all share one common thread. Grief.

Margaret Walker, 44, was watching television in her Kearneysville home when police called July 10, 2002. We need to stop by to talk to you about your son, she recalled them saying.

"My first thought was, 'That boy has gotten himself in trouble,'" she said. She remembers turning to her husband, Terry Walker Sr., and telling him he had to deal with whatever had happened.

"Once they got here, it was just an absolute nightmare," she said of the visit by deputies from the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department.

Others who have had relatives killed along W.Va. 9 said they avoid the road if at all possible. For Margaret Walker, that is not an option. She has to drive on it to get to Stonebridge Golf Course, where she handles payroll, and to visit her grandfather, who is being cared for at a nursing home along the two-lane road.

"It's one of those roads. ... You can't avoid it," she said.

The day of the wreck, Terry had picked up a friend in Martinsburg, Carleton Omar Ibn Abdul-Wali (Wilcox), 20. A basketball was found in the back of the Jeep and Walker said she believes the young men were on their way to Charles Town to play.

Wilcox was thrown from the Jeep and pronounced dead at the scene. Terry's body was trapped in the wreckage for hours.

Police told Terry's family that he was not speeding, that he had done nothing wrong. He simply had nowhere to go, no way to avoid the collision on the bridge, which does not have a shoulder.

Terry was the kind of person who could make anyone feel at ease, Margaret Walker said. Had he followed in the footsteps of his father, a man he greatly admired and loved, he would have excelled in sales, she said.

"He was just a cool kid," she said. "He never met a stranger."

At Jefferson High School, Terry had played soccer and was a member of the track team. He was taking a summer course at Shepherd College and would have been a full-time student last fall.

She said she hopes a new road will be a safer road, and that her son's life will prove not to have been lost in vain.

"I just don't understand what's taking them so long, whoever's in charge," Walker said of the planned new road. "I think we've spent more money talking about it. That's what it seems like."

It's a busy road that is "getting more and more dangerous over time," Walker said.

"If this saves one person's life it's worth all the while," she said. "On behalf of those that have died, let's get it done."

A mother lost: July 4, 1999

At 27, Tina Kidwiler was the proud mother of a 2-year-old daughter and fiercely in love with her husband, those who knew her said. She worked for a local company, but was shy and not sure whether others really liked her.

If she could have seen all of the people who turned out for her funeral, Tina's fears would have been eliminated. Friends and family members lined up outside of the funeral home to pay their respects, said her mother-in-law, Donna Kidwiler.

Photographs in Kidwiler's office show Tina Kidwiler in her wedding dress, posing with a bouquet of flowers next to her husband. In another, a candid photograph taken not long before her death, Kidwiler is smiling as her husband holds their daughter.

The head-on collision happened on the Fourth of July in 1999 when the Kidwilers' Dodge Shadow was hit by a GMC Jimmy. The driver of the Jimmy crossed the center line in a sharp curve in the road near Blue Ridge Elementary.

Several others have been killed in the same area, including Samantha Brooke Alden, who also left behind a young daughter.

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