EVERETT — Jan Schemenauer had been married for five months.
Her husband was riding as a passenger when a car driven by a drunk driver T-boned him in May 1979. The man was driving 70 to 75 miles per hour in a 35 zone.
Schmenauer’s husband was killed on impact, she said. The other driver sped away.
“It’s a wound that never really closes,” she said.
Since 2001, loved ones of Snohomish County victims of drunk driving have been able to go to Everett’s McCollum Park where a brick wall memorial was erected. It started with 45 names. With dedications every few years since then, it had grown to more than 140 names, said Schemenauer, who retired last year from her position as the county’s DUI victim panel coordinator. She now volunteers on the effort.
But the wall, once nestled in a serene grove where loved ones of victims could grieve, had become rundown. Vandalism, garbage and inaccessible trails to the memorial made the current location untenable. And new names had to be added to the backside of the wall, a less than ideal spot.
So last winter, the county removed it.
Next month, the refurbished wall will be placed at the northeast corner of the county government campus at 3000 Rockefeller Ave. in Everett. It will be dedicated in an Aug. 20 ceremony, said Snohomish County DUI & Target Zero Task Force manager Stacey McShane. This is the same day a major statewide DUI patrol begins.
Families of victims of DUI crashes testified in front of the Snohomish County Council in 2019 to call for the wall to be moved to the county government campus.
“It’s really important for the public to see the impacts of DUI and what happens and see these names on this wall,” McShane said. “People that walk by, that visit it or happen on it, are going to see tiles on there of children, of mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers, and hopefully maybe connect with that and use that information to make better choices themselves.”
McShane is also no stranger to the impact impaired driving can have. In 2010, her husband’s cousin, Nicholas Hodgins, was killed by a drunk driver just a few days shy of his high school graduation on Interstate 5. He hoped to study sound production at the Seattle Art Institute, an obituary said.
“It impacts everything,” McShane said. “The ripple effect through our family has been huge. Nothing’s the same.”
The wall’s organizers will eventually be accepting new applicants to add names to the wall. To be included in the memorial, victims must meet a certain criteria. They have to have been a Snohomish County resident. They couldn’t have been the impaired driver, but could have been a passenger in that car. The drunk driver has to have been convicted of a DUI charge.
The county sheriff’s office made 260 DUI arrests in 2020, according to a report released by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs this month. Everett police made 182 DUI arrests.
As relocation of the wall nears, McShane is working to let members of the victims’ families know of the new location. It has been a challenge, she said, as they do not have current addresses and contact information for relatives of those whose names are on the memorial. She hopes word will spread fast enough so they can come visit, and maybe attend the dedication.
Schemenauer wants the wall’s prominent new location to bring renewed attention to the lives of those it honors.
“I hope that it will serve as a daily reminder for those who go to the county to do whatever business they’re doing there that these were residents whose lives were taken from them by a careless, irresponsible choice,” she said. “I hope that they would pause and honor those people.”
This story has been revised to clarify the criteria for being included on the DUI memorial.
Jake Goldstein-Street: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @GoldsteinStreet.