Bill and Jana Rowe stand in the front yard of their home Wednesday in Craig. The Rowes keep two signs in the yard, one reading "In Memory of Shelley Rowe," and another reading "Don't Drink and Drive," the second of which was recently stolen. In the foreground is a memorial dedicated to Bill's daughter, who was killed by a drunken driver in 1996.

Photo by Hans Hallgren

Bill and Jana Rowe stand in the front yard of their home Wednesday in Craig. The Rowes keep two signs in the yard, one reading "In Memory of Shelley Rowe," and another reading "Don't Drink and Drive," the second of which was recently stolen. In the foreground is a memorial dedicated to Bill's daughter, who was killed by a drunken driver in 1996.

Disappearance of a memorial

Craig resident seeks return of 'Don't Drink and Drive' sign

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— When he went to bed on the night of June 6, Craig resident Bill Rowe disregarded barking coming from outside, from his dog, Shiloh. The next morning, he discovered what the Labrador/husky mixed breed had been trying to tell him.

Leaning against the front of the house, 807 W. Sixth St., was a blue and white sign reading, "In Memory of Shelley Rowe." However, a second sign had stood there the night before, with the printed message, "Don't Drink and Drive."

A search of the area around his house led Rowe to conclude that the sign had been stolen.

"I had the other sign propped up against it, and the 'Don't Drink and Drive' one was bigger, so it couldn't have been blown away by the wind that easily," he said. "Shiloh only barks at people that he doesn't recognize, so he must have seen somebody take it."

The sign's sentimental value is high for Rowe because of the story behind it.

In November 1996, his daughter, Shelley - whom the second sign commemorates - was killed by a drunken driver at 17.

Shelley, who was living with Rowe's ex-wife in Pueblo at the time, was riding with her boyfriend on Colorado Highway 78 when they collided with the intoxicated driver.

Shelley took the brunt of the impact and was on life support for several days before her family chose to end her suffering.

"I could feel her essence before they turned the machines off, and I knew she was already in a better place," Rowe said. "Her death was hard to deal with for a long time. It really did a number on my faith."

Pueblo residents supported the family heavily.

"People were living in sleeping bags up and down the halls at the hospital while she was there," Rowe said. "The church was filled to capacity at her funeral, and people were even lined up outside."

Pueblo residents continually laid flowers at the base of the signs erected at the accident site by Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

"Those signs were really important to me," Rowe said. "When they got taken down by the Highway Department, I paid $35 to keep them, because they would've just been thrown away. I just kept them out of sight for a while, but this Memorial Day, we stuck the 'Don't Drink and Drive' sign in the lilac bush in our front yard, and put the memorial one under it. People really responded to them."

About a week after Memorial Day, Rowe and his wife, Jana, moved the signs back closer to the house.

"I think it's disappointing and sad that somebody would take it," Jana said. "I hope whoever has it realizes how disrespectful it was to do that."

Rowe is more relieved that the memorial sign was left untouched.

"I was upset that the other one was taken, but at least they didn't take the one with Shelley's name on it," he said. "I think that shows that whoever took it just didn't know how important they both were to me. If it was some teenager who put it in his room, maybe it's actually doing him some good. I don't know what somebody might get from it, and I don't need to know. I don't mind as much if they're at least getting something out of it, but I hope they didn't just throw it in a Dumpster."

Rowe has already reported his loss to the police and does not intend to press charges on anyone who returns his property.

"If you happen to see a big blue sign that says 'Don't Drink and Drive' in reflective white letters, then it's probably mine, and I'd really like to have it back," he said.

Comments

wanna_say 5 years, 10 months ago

I can't (nor can anyone) judge how another person memoralizes the loss of a loved one. Mr. "tuff_guy", is your suggestion/ question truly given with respect?

Seems to me, these signs are not just one way Rowe remembers his daughter but also an important reminder of how devastating and detrimental it is to Drive Drunk (or under the influence of other substances).

In my opinion the best way to honor a lost life is to live with honor in the here and now. Any built memorial, no matter how "permanent and stable" can be destroyed, degraded, or stolen.

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