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The short email read: "Hello. If there are more photos of this accident, please send them to me. This was my husband, Ronald Williams." Signed, Kate Williams.
At 6:25 a.m. on Jan. 11, a fatal crash at mile marker 112 on the eastbound lane of Interstate 30 took the life of an unidentified man.
The Arkansas State Police classified the accident report as fatality #14 of 2013. In the report under the heading "What happened?" the report notes "V-1 veered off the right side of Interstate 30 traveling through the median and across the south frontage road. V-1 traveled through a fence and struck a tree." This newspaper printed what little information was available at the time, along with a photograph of the scene.
The email from Kate was received five days after the accident. In the time between the wreck and first contact from her, inquiries had been received by the newspaper from people seeking to know more than mere statistics about the man among them who had died under tragic circumstances.
The Williams family, 782 miles away, in Mooresville, N.C., was dealing with unanswered questions also. Kate said, "My husband was working out of town. That's why it feels unresolved to us as well. We know so little of what happened."
Email correspondence between Benton and Mooresville continued. The story of Ron and Kate emerged.
"Ron was a civil service worker for more than 30 years," Kate said. "He began that career working at the Naval Weapons Station in Newport News, and when he retired he had been working at the Bureau of Printing and Engraving in (Washington) D.C. as an engineer for seven years.
"We both lived in the Maryland suburbs and were introduced by friends," Kate continued. "I am from Virginia, originally.
"We married in 1987 and we have two children, 17-year-old Max and 26-year-old Julie. Julie graduated from the University of North Carolina at Asheville and still lives and works there. Max is a high school senior hoping to attend college. He is a musician. Ron also had two grown children, Christina and Earl, from an earlier marriage," Kate said. "I worked as a sales broker for many years, and had been forced to retire with some back and knee problems a few years ago."
Kate added that she and her husband were looking forward to retirement. "We moved to North Carolina and Ron hoped to retire and play golf. But the economy forced him to start a second career. He discovered the drive-away business, and he drove around the country delivering all sorts of vehicles, from semi (trucks) to motor homes. At the time of the accident he was driving through Arkansas, on his way east, delivering his last truck of the week, and then he would have come home."
Kate recalls the last contact she had with Ron. "We last spoke Thursday night, having spoken on the phone a number of times during the day, like we did every day he was away. He said he would call me in the morning."
The accident occurred the following morning.
"At noon, two police officers knocked on my door." she said. "There was a black cat trying to come in with them. It was strange (because) Ron was allergic to cats. I just shooed it away. The officers then stood in my foyer and told me my husband had been in a fatal accident. I had to call the Arkansas police and then the coroner. I was told it was most likely a heart attack, as there was no sign he had tried to brake. He had no heart problems that we knew of, but his father had died of a heart attack many years ago. We'll never know what really happened though."
Her family continues to struggle with an explanation for what happened. "I don't know what questions I have exactly," Kate said. "I have not accepted the reality of Ron being gone. I tried to imagine what the circumstances were that caused his death. I used Google Earth to look at the area of Route 30 he was on, just to see if I could understand where his truck traveled to and ended up. If I see it, maybe I can accept it."
A person working near the accident site said a Virginia Tech baseball cap had been found and placed on a fence post. Kate confirmed the cap belonged to her husband. It was his way of showing support for his daughter's alma mater, she said.
Kate reflected on her life with Ron and her future. "Even though he often worked away from home, we had a good life, with good family times and many celebrations. We just had a lovely Christmas and were talking about plans to get our son into college, move to a smaller house and live off his pension. Our third act, so to speak. Now, we have to find a way to do that without him."