Road in Lynnwood sign tells teen’s sad story

  • Sun May 2nd, 2010 11:00pm
  • News

By Katya Yefimova Herald Writer

LYNNWOOD — Please don’t drink and drive. In memory of Janelle Louise Cooper.

Coleen Cooper hopes people will get the message on this roadside sign along 164th Street SW. Her daughter Janelle was 16 when she was hit and killed by a drunk driver as she walked along the sidewalk on May 23, 2008.

Another girl, Janelle’s 16-year-old friend, was injured in the crash.

The driver, Micah Pelton, was sentenced last year to six years in prison.

Of course, that doesn’t bring Janelle back to her family and friends.

Almost 100 of them gathered Sunday afternoon to unveil and dedicate the sign and to honor Janelle. They brought flowers and a bunch of purple and white balloons and celebrated Janelle’s memory with the energy drink Full Throttle. It was her favorite.

Seeing so many friends show up to remember her two years later was a testament to how much Janelle was loved, said Pat Quaney, the girl’s grandmother.

It’s been hard to think back to the crash, but she’s tried to get past that, Quaney said. Instead, she thinks about the good times and the cherished memories. Janelle would have wanted that: Her family taught her to be strong and she took it to heart, Quaney said.

Janelle was there for her friends no matter what, said Corey Luu, 16, of Mountlake Terrace.

“I looked up to her for everything,” Corey said. “She showed me the way … that every day is new.”

Rianna Erny, 17, of Lynnwood, knew Janelle for years. She described her as “our angel,” the rock that held everyone together.

“Janelle really could have changed the world,” Rianna said.

Even though she is gone, Coleen Cooper believes her daughter’s story can bring a change to our community: Make people think twice before getting behind the wheel drunk.

Driving drunk is the leading cause of traffic deaths in the state. In Snohomish County last year, more than a third of all traffic deaths involved alcohol, according to the Washington State Traffic Safety Commission.

Snohomish County Sheriff John Lovick has talked to too many grieving families and attended too many roadside memorials that sprang up throughout the county.

“This is a tragic reminder of the dangers of drunk driving,” he said on Sunday.

Katya Yefimova: 425-339-3452, kyefimova@heraldnet.com.