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Publish Date: 4/13/2005

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Mikaela Hares, 7, takes a moment at the memorial for R.C. McConnell, 13, who was killed Sunday morning in a Minnesota car accident. The memorial was part of a candlelight service held Tuesday in The Quail Crossing neighborhood where R.C. lived. Times-Call/Jason P. Smith

Immeasurable loss
Vigil held for Longmont teen killed in Minn. crash


LONGMONT — Thirteen votive candles, each symbolizing a year in the young life of R.C. McConnell, lay at the foot of a simple wooden cross.

Two bronze-colored initials were affixed to its center, honoring the quiet, yet fun-loving boy who died Sunday in a car crash in Minnesota.

Dozens of mourners, most of them children with their parents, gathered in the front yard of the McConnell home in The Quail Crossing neighborhood to remember R.C., who was a new student at Longmont Academy.

The vigil also was a public display of support for his mother, Mary, and his sister Victoria, who both were injured in the one-vehicle accident that also killed the driver, Ann Ford Nelson.

Victoria, 17, was released from a hospital Tuesday, while Mary McConnell is scheduled for a second ankle surgery today, said neighbor Dave Daley, who spoke with Mary McConnell’s husband, Jim, at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

Daley’s wife, Terri, said she considered the McConnells part of her family. Their son Kyle, 12, was a friend to R.C.

“The neighborhood is only about 3 1/2 years old,” Terri Daley said. “We all moved in at the same time, and none of us had family in Colorado. We would spend holidays together and summer nights out on the back patio.”

“My fear is now nothing will be the same,” she said. “This is devastating.”

Dave Daley said Jim McConnell and the couple’s oldest daughter, Sally, flew to St. Paul on Tuesday morning. Jim McConnell’s brother and sister-in-law, who were in Longmont visiting this week, drove to meet him there, he said.

The three McConnells were vacationing on the East Coast when last weekend’s snowstorm left them stranded in St. Paul. Nelson, who was Mary McConnell’s college roommate, was a prominent businesswoman in St. Paul.

Jared Mehrle, a youth pastor at LifeBridge Christian Church, saw the newspaper story about the fatal accident and said he then realized he had met Victoria at a track meet two weeks ago.

Mehrle, who came to the vigil Tuesday night, said parents in this close-knit neighborhood could help their children by listening.

“It’s difficult, and we can explain it to them, but we need to allow them to talk through it,” he said.

Children, from toddlers to teenagers, brought prayers, poetry and flowers to the vigil.

An e-mail address was established so friends and family could share stories about R.C., said LaVada Taylor, whose daughter is a cheerleader at Skyline High School with Victoria.

Dave Daley said funeral arrangements for R.C. remained unclear, but the family planned to stay in St. Paul while Mary McConnell recovered from her injuries.

An account has been established for the McConnell family at the Broomfield and Longmont locations of Supper Solutions, a company that makes prepared meals, and neighbors are working on a fund for a memorial in a nearby park.

Melanie M. Sidwell can be reached at 303-684-5274, or by e-mail at msidwell@times-call.com.


Alcohol likely factor in wreck

ST. PAUL — A St. Paul civic leader and bank executive was legally drunk when she lost control of her car, killing herself and 13-year-old R.C. McConnell, according to preliminary autopsy results released Tuesday.

Ann Ford Nelson, 53, had a blood-alcohol level of .187, according to the Ramsey County Medical Examiner’s office.

The legal limit in Minnesota is .10 but will go down to .08 this summer.

Nelson was a Wells Fargo bank vice president and was known for becoming the first female president of the St. Paul Jaycees in 1983, helping that group open doors to women.

She was driving her Toyota Avalon on Mississippi River Boulevard on Sunday night when she hit a curb and the car rolled on its side. Witnesses estimated she was driving more than 60 mph in a 25 mph zone.

Nelson’s former college roommate, Mary McConnell, was visiting from Colorado with two of her children. R.C. died shortly after the crash. His mother and 17-year-old sister, Victoria, sustained injuries in the crash.

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