Calhoun: Wake-Up Call

Remembering Sandy Widener, John Parr and Chase Parr

The reminder for the memorial site at came in at 5:01 this morning. I did not need it: Not a day goes by that I do not think about Sandy Widener, John Parr and Chase Parr, the three members of a much-loved Colorado family who died in a horrific car wreck three years ago today.

And of Katy Parr, the daughter who survived.

I think about Sandy, the spitfire I met my first day at Cornell University, every time I'm wrestling with a particularly sticky editing problem at Westword, the paper that three friends from Cornell founded the year after we graduated. Sandy was a smart, tough reporter -- but the pecularities of people she met along the way always tickled her. And I can hear her laughing as I try to extricate myself from the latest tangle.

Sandy met John Parr, an aide to then-Governor Dick Lamm, while reporting one of her stories. I think about John every time I reflect on the incredibly wacky campaign season we've just gone through -- and the one coming up. John was smart, too, with an incredible knack for common-sense thinking and plain speaking. And with every new political development, I can hear his wise and witty counsel.

Chase was their first child, a shining star at East High School who was a sophomore at Wesleyan -- the alma mater of our next governor -- when she died. Had she lived, she would have been just the age her mother was when we all moved to Colorado to start the paper; it's beyond imagining to think what Chase might have gone on to do.

And Katy, the survivor, is now a student at the University of Colorado, building a life in which so many of the familiar landmarks are gone. She's a tiny girl, but with a heart and spirit big enough to carry on for all of them.

No, I didn't need this reminder of the third anniversary of their deaths. I think about them every day, just as we do all the people who've meant so much to us, who've helped make us. And I'm thankful for the time we had -- and the memories we still have.

Sandy Widener's work for Westword predates our web site -- but you can read my initial column about her life and death here.

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun