Don't drink and drive: Drunk driving ended my grandmother's life and ruined another

Have you ever gotten behind the wheel drunk? I have not. On the very rare occasion that I have anything to drink, I don’t drive. Period. But not everyone feels this way and over the weekend, a ChicagoNow blogger was hit by a drunk driver and is very seriously injured. Another blogger suggested that we all write a piece telling how drunk driving impacts us. You can read his post here.

grand re 5My post about drunk driving begins with my Grandmother, Katherine Gorman Girard. She was one of 7 children, the only girl to marry. She is standing in the back row. The Gormans don’t appear to be a very happy clan but they were!

My great Aunts, Aunt Marie and Margie helped to raise their sister’s family. They did not have children of their own but they lovedgrand re 3 my mother and her siblings with a mother’s love.

Here they are with my Mother and two of her brothers. As there were eventually two more, my Grandmother welcomed the help and my Aunts welcomed the love.

In this picture they’ve taken their niece and nephew to the Zoo, in St. Louis!

The Gormans were a close, Irish Catholic family. My mother was a second mother to her own siblings, most of all her sister, Katherine Ann who was ten years younger than she was.

All the Gormans stayed in Alton except my Mother who moved to the Chicago area. But we would go grand re 2back to visit often.

Here’s a picture of my Mom, my Aunt and my Grandmother. Not a very flattering picture but the Gormans weren’t tall or vain.

There aren’t a lot of pictures of me with my Grandmother, people just didn’t take as many as we do now. But in the summer of 1953 my Mom and Dad Grand re 1brought me back to visit Alton as we moved from New York to Chicago.

In this picture, my Grandmother is 56. By today’s standards, she looks a lot older but she acted young. She was a great walker, cook and seamstress. She made matching outfits for my sister Jane and me.

For the Christmas of 1958, she made me a red corduroy robe with a sash. I worked and worked on learning how to tie that sash!

By spring, I was close to mastering it. The day I learned, we got a phone call that my Grandmother had been hit by a drunk driver.

She was walking to Holy Week mass with her sister in law, Catherine Girard. We called that Aunt, Sis. My Grandmother was thrown up in the air and landed on the car which hit her. She died instantly of a broken neck.

My Aunt Sis lived 10 years in various nursing homes, unable to walk or use the bathroom. She went blind.

The man who killed her spent one night in jail, to sleep it off. He was released the next day. He was not held accountable in 1959 because he had been drunk.

My Grandfather was heartsick and my Aunt Katherine Ann and her husband moved back to her childhood home to take care of him. He died of a stroke a couple of years later but we all felt he died of a broken heart.

grand re 4My mother got one of her Mother’s quilts and she passed it on to me in 1983.  My Grandmother’s sisters and she used to quilt together, this was one of the quilts they made for my Mother’s trousseau.

We had some other of my Grandmother’s quilts in our home and they were prized possessions. My Aunts gave me my first quilting lesson when I was ten and staying with them.  They did this as they continued to teach and love their sister’s grandchildren as they had loved her children. That seed was planted and 20 years later, it sprouted when I began to quilt.

Our family was devastated by what happened to my Grandmother and Aunt. They missed out on wonderful experiences they should have had and we missed out on sharing them with them.

But the man who spent only one night in jail, his life was ruined also. Years later, a woman approached my aunt where she was working. Haltingly, she introduced herself as the daughter of the man who had killed my Aunt’s mother.

She apologized and told how her family was so ashamed and sad that this had happened. She said her father never recovered, cried with remorse and guilt. He drank heavily to try to blot out the vision of my Grandmother hitting his windshield. The drunk driver that killed my Grandmother ruined his own life that night.

He could never forgive himself nor come forward to try to make amends. He drank himself to death in the early 60’s. His daughter was coming forth to try to let our family know how very sorry they all were.

My Aunt and this woman cried together for what both of them had lost when a man made the choice to drink and drive.

Now you understand why I never drive even after one drink. I know the pain that drinking can cause to everyone. This post is entitled “Don’t drink and drive: Drunk driving ended my grandmother’s life and ruined another” but there were many lives impacted that night.

If we could all agree to not Drink and Drive that would make me Sew happy!

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I wrote another time about a quilt of my Grandmother’s. You can read it here. 

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    Kathy Mathews

    My passions are quilting and sewing. Add to that French, Spanish, books, swimming, travels, new restaurants, yoga and chocolate and you have me. All of these are best shared with family and friends. Except for chocolate, don't touch my chocolate. You can email me at

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