After Fatal Motorcycle Accident, Widow Slowly Heals

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March 2 started out like any other day.

Teri Peterson, a medical biller, worked in her home office submitting insurance claims while her husband, Larry, tinkered with his remote-controlled model airplanes.

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Teri Peterson and Peggy Broten

As president of the Rim Country Flyers, Larry was supposed to take GPS coordinates to a Star Valley airfield.

"It's such a nice day," he said to Teri. "Let's hop on the bike and take a quick ride."

At first Teri hesitated. Work was going well and she didn't want to break her stride.

"I got upstairs and I thought, ‘That's stupid.' I need a break and he needs a break," Teri said.

Teri and Larry suited up for the ride -- jeans, leather boots, gloves, jackets and helmets.

The couple hopped on Larry's Harley-Davidson Softail Deuce and took the back way.

They headed north through their neighborhood, the Golden Frontier subdivision, connecting with Manzanita Drive to St. Phillips Street toward Highway 260.

There, the Petersons pulled into the Giant service station to gas up.

"I didn't even get off the bike," Teri said. "He finished and we pulled onto the highway."

That's where Teri's memory ends and it's the last time she sees her husband alive.

Two-tenths of a mile later, as the Petersons headed east, 84-year-old Rosalind Jeannette reportedly pulled out from the Payson Day Spa.

Larry attempted a skid to avoid a collision, but it was too late. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

"(The police) told me he didn't suffer," she said.

Teri sustained serious injuries -- a broken jaw, a shattered femur and a saucer-sized laceration on the back of her right leg, just above the ankle, so severe that it turned the skin black. Doctors grafted the wound with a sliver of skin from her right thigh.

As emergency personnel worked at the scene to stabilize Teri, a wisp of clarity fluttered into her consciousness.

"Where's Larry?" she muttered. He's going to Payson, a voice replied.

‘Good,' thought Teri, ‘he's OK.' And she returned to darkness.

Her swollen eyes opened to the glare of the trauma room lights. Teri's doctor, her cousins and her Aunt Peggy Broten surrounded her.

Again she asked, "Where's Larry?"

"From what I remember, they all shook their heads," Teri said.

When Teri and Larry met 12 years ago, he was playing drums in a band called Hashknife at a steakhouse-saloon in Gisela.

"He had a moustache," Teri said. "I never noticed him until he shaved off his moustache."

They fell in love -- a love that grew stronger with time -- and married.

"We had so much in common it was unbelievable," said Teri. "We would finish each other's sentences."

Since the accident, Teri's Aunt Peggy Broten hasn't left her niece's side. Larry's tender, caring nature touched her, she said, especially the way he adored his wife.

Larry, 55, and Teri, 48, plotted a long, leisurely retirement. They bought a motor home and the Harley. They planned a two-month-long road trip to the Midwest. They talked about driving to Yosemite and they looked forward to renewing their vows on a cruise.

"We liked the same music, we loved the outdoors, we loved to camp. If we had stuff to do around home, we just stayed here together," Teri said.

In the weeks following the accident, Teri, still confined to a wheelchair, sits in the red-brick home she shared with her husband, waiting for reality to sink in.

"We never left the house without a bear hug and a kiss," she said. "I'm still expecting him to walk in. I don't really like life now. I'm still having a difficult time dealing with everything."

And the physical wounds are slow to heal, too.

"I wake up every morning and I feel like I've been beat up," Teri said.

Discoloration from the impact darkens her left eye. The soreness from a plate in her jaw, which was wired shut for a month and a half, keeps her on a soft diet, and the hardware attached to her shattered femur limits her mobility. But it's getting better.

Through the loss of her husband's life, Teri learned just how much Larry, through his involvement in the community, affected others.

"Everybody's just been wonderful," Teri said through tears. "It took me weeks to come up with the right words to thank my family, friends and the community. Everybody was there."

Kelly's in Star Valley will hold a fund-raiser to benefit Teri and Larry's two children, Amber and Chris, at 3 p.m. Saturday, April 29.

"I've known Larry for years," said owner, Kelly Sterling. "I wanted to do something for the family."

Fund-raiser to benefit Teri Peterson and Larry Peterson's two children, Amber and Chris

When: 3 p.m. April 29

Where: Kelly's Bar, next to Circle K in Star Valley.

Call: (928) 474-0111

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