‘One bad choice’ blamed in death of 4 friends in fatal wreck

MARYSVILLE — Hilda Woods was the person who always brought food to work to celebrate birthdays, the arrival of newborns and other special occasions.

Her specialty was salsa, and the Clearview woman, 62, collected empty jars on top of her refrigerator to fill and share.

Now, her secret recipe will never be known. Her family is treasuring the last few jars of the spicy sauce she made with love.

Woods and her husband, Tom, 58, were killed Sunday on Highway 9 in Marysville in what appears to be the deadliest drunken-driving crash in Snohomish County history.

Their neighbors and close friends, Melissa Agerup, 48, and her husband, Brad Agerup, 54, also died in the crash.

“Four very special people are gone because of one bad choice,” said Susie Woods, 37, the middle child of the Woods’ three daughters.

Hilda Woods was a retired administrator with the Lake Washington School District, where she worked for more than 20 years. Tom Woods worked for Altech Corp., a New Jersey-based electrical component wholesaling business*.

Brad Agerup was a beloved teacher at Mariner High School and Melissa Agerup spent more than a decade in the ophthalmology department at The Everett Clinic.

“Her professionalism, efficiency and love for her work will be missed,” said Rebecca Hamlett, a co-worker. “But it’s the Melissa that we all love so much that has left an enormous void in this family.”

A Snohomish man, Matthew C. McDonald, 27, remained jailed on $1 million bail Tuesday for investigation of four counts of vehicular homicide.

McDonald allegedly told police he drank eight beers before getting behind the wheel.

The couples who died met about nine years ago when the Woodses moved in across the street from the Agerup family. They quickly became close friends and shared in each other’s lives.

Brad Agerup was a Cougar. Tom Woods was a Husky. The two men loved to watch sports together, said Dave Nakanishi, a brother-in-law to the Woodses.

The Woodses baby-sat for the Agerups’ two girls. As the girls, Sarah and Katie Agerup, now in their late teens, grew up, they took turns watching the Woodses’ grandchildren.

The couples often visited casinos together where Hilda Woods loved to play the penny slots, her children said.

On Sunday, the two couples were returning home from making arrangements for Brad Agerup’s upcoming birthday at a casino when they were killed, Nakanishi said.

Debbie Howell, 39, the elder of the Woodses’ three daughters, became concerned when her parents were late. Hilda Woods was scheduled to baby-sit her granddaughter, Trinity, 8.

“They adored their grandchildren,” said Susie Woods, whose daughter Sophia, 7, also will spend Christmas mourning her grandparents.

Hilda Woods had the gift of gab, her daughter said. She made friends so easily, commuters on a bus Hilda Woods rode years ago threw her a baby shower on the bus.

“She was somebody who really cared about other people,” said Kathryn Reith, who had worked with Hilda Woods at the Lake Washington School District.

Tom Woods often travelled on business and would leave behind yellow Post-It notes to his wife. She saved all the notes and recently collected them in a red scrap book as an anniversary gift.

The couple was married for more than three decades.

They met in a bar in El Paso, Texas. Hilda Woods threw a spit ball at her would-be husband. Tom Woods saved the wad of paper all these years.

He proposed almost overnight. It was her two little girls that swept Tom Woods off his feet, Susie Woods said.

He raised them as his own children, she said.

“It was a very, very powerful thing for a man to do,” she said.

After Sunday’s crash, relatives found a closet full of Christmas presents Hilda Woods already had purchased. The surviving family plans to gather for Christmas at the Woodses’ Clearview home.

“They were really good people,” said Cynthia East, 27, the youngest Woods daughter. “The instant you met them, you would have loved them.”

Reporter Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3437, jholtz@heraldnet.com.

Memorials planned

A memorial service to Tom and Hilda Woods is planned for 1 p.m., Tuesday, at Washington Cathedral, 12300 Woodinville-Remond Road, Redmond. Donations can be made in the couple’s memory to the Prostate Cancer Foundation at www.prostatecancerfoundation.org, or to the Progressive Animal Welfare Society at www.paws.org.

Memorials for the Agerups still are being planned.

Some students at Mariner High School have planned a candlelight vigil Thursday from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. The location and other details had not been confirmed.

* Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly described the business for which Tom Woods worked.

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