Helen Reeder (right) in 1944 with her husband, Charles Reeder. (Family photo)

Helen Reeder (right) in 1944 with her husband, Charles Reeder. (Family photo)

Two lives cut short: Families grieve after Marysville crash

Helen Reeder, 97, was sleeping when a car crashed into her bedroom. A man, 25, died Friday at a hospital.

MARYSVILLE — A fatal crash in Marysville last weekend has left two sets of families grieving.

A 25-year-old man, who died Friday, had potentially decades of life ahead of him. And while Helen Reeder was 97, family members thought they would have at least a few more years to spend with her.

She was relatively healthy, still fairly independent, and discussions were just starting about how to get her more help.

Reeder lived a long life, but for her family it was cut short when a 1971 Chevrolet Impala crashed through the bedroom of her Marysville apartment, killing her in her sleep.

Marysville police say the driver was possibly impaired and driving erratically on Aug. 29 when he allegedly struck the 25-year-old man who was riding a bicycle and then sped into Reeder’s apartment bedroom around 2 a.m. in the 8400 block of 55th Avenue. The Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office determined Reeder died from multiple blunt force injuries. She had six children, 21 grandkids and 31 great grandkids.

The bicyclist lived in the same apartment complex. He was taken to Providence Regional Medical Center with life-threatening injuries. He had a leg amputated and possibly had a broken neck, according to court papers. He also needed surgery for internal bleeding. He succumbed to his injuries Friday morning. His identity and the cause and manner of his death will be released by the medical examiner’s office.

Helen Reeder a couple of weeks ago, on her 97th birthday. (Family photo)

Helen Reeder a couple of weeks ago, on her 97th birthday. (Family photo)

Reeder’s daughter, who also lived at the apartment, happened to be sleeping in the living room and was uninjured. Had she been in her bedroom, Reeder’s grandson said, she might have died, as well.

The suspect, a 42-year-old Marysville man, was booked into the Snohomish County Jail for investigation of vehicular homicide and vehicular assault. He remained there Friday on $1 million bail. Police are awaiting test results to determine whether he was driving under the influence.

“It’s still hard to really get the reality of it, that something like that would happen,” said Reeder’s grandson, Chris Reeder. “I don’t know how to react to it that a car would just completely plow through a house like that. Everyone’s still feeling blindsided by it, still in shock.”

Chris Reeder said he and his family were in the process of collecting her life stories, of which there are many.

Born in Colorado in 1923, Helen Reeder lived a long life. In a tribute on Facebook, Chris Reeder said it was hard to comprehend how much the world has changed during her lifetime. She lived through the Great Depression, World War II, the Civil Rights movement, the space race and the Cold War.

“Talking to her is like talking to a train traveler, so many memories, so many stories — so free with them, willing to share them with anyone willing to listen,” Chris Reeder said.

Much of her life was spent on a Mennonite farm in Idaho before she moved to Lynnwood in the 1960s with her husband and children. They apparently brought some livestock with them to the Seattle suburbs, though people couldn’t agree on whether they were horses or cows, her grandson said.

Helen Reeder had a habit of taking on new creative endeavors, such as playing piano or making dolls with her niece. When Chris Reeder was young, she learned pottery, and they made a chess set together.

“We chose the pieces and painted them and glazed them and fired them together,” Chris Reeder wrote. “Somewhere along the way, years ago, I lost that chess set in some move or another, but I’ve never forgotten those afternoons I got to spend with my Grandma.”

And when Chris Reeder was 23 and working on a stage musical based on “Beowulf,” an Old English epic poem, his grandmother took up the task of reading it herself. Her review, according to Chris Reeder: “It was good. I enjoyed it, but it was a little too bloody for me.”

In 2015, Helen Reeder’s husband passed away. She was then 91, and for the first time in her life she lived on her own. For the first time, she didn’t have to take care of anyone.

Chris Reeder said he gave his daughter the same middle name as his grandmother’s, Elizabeth. He said he wants to teach his daughter the same life lessons Helen Reeder taught.

“She was just the light that held us all together … always willing to listen, always willing to laugh,” Chris Reeder said.

He added: “She taught us what it was to be a family.”

Zachariah Bryan: 425-339-3431; zbryan@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @zachariahtb.

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