My letter is addressed to Officer John Whetten. I share his pain at having lost a child to a senseless accident. My son, Rick McDonald, died on April 6, 2005 on Highway 87, just outside of Payson. Whetten may have been one of the first on the accident scene. I don't think I could handle his job. It takes someone with a lot of dedication, even more now that he has suffered a similar loss. Whetten has my respect and admiration.
I have a son, Michael, who still lives in the Payson/Pine area. He maintains Rick's memorial site along with other family members. I am sorry if our memorial site offends anyone. It is our "place" to pay our respects. This is where Rick left this world. Our family did not have the privilege of spreading his remains and we have no other place to show our respect for Rick. I will visit often.
To Mrs. Cohen, I'm sorry that you consider roadside memorial markers "gaudy." I hope you never have to share the pain that many others have. This site is comforting to my family. My son's 12-year-old daughter, Rikki McDonald, just traveled from Tennessee to pay her respects to her father. I don't think you would have made the statements that you did, had you taken the time to learn a little more about the families who erect these memorials. I think Officer Whetten explained it well in his response to your letter in the Roundup. I guess it's hard to know how someone feels until you "walk in their shoes." I hope your family never has to suffer a loss in this manner.
It hard enough to lose a child, no less lose them to a automobile accident and not be able to say goodbye. I hope you understand how many of us feel and why we erect these "roadside memorials."
Bill (Mac) McDonald, Gatlinburg, Tenn.