During this pandemic, we strive to take care of our community. If you have the opportunity to support us with a subscription or a gift subscription for someone else, we appreciate your support.
By Wendy Nugent, Harvey County Now
NEWTON – Three lives were entwined years apart in a tragic accident scene – a little girl who was killed, a paralyzed woman, and a man tending to a metal cross.
Taylour Jantz loved playing soccer, playing with her sister and reading.
Just weeks before her eighth birthday, she was killed in a car accident on March 11, 2001 on East First and East Lake Road in rural Harvey County.
“We will always cherish Taylor’s life and all these happy days,” read the little girl’s Internet storage page. “We will miss her smile, her voice, her song and all of her winning ways.”
Shortly after the wreckage, Nurse Traci Gronau from Newton Medical Center drove onto the scene and stayed to comfort another little girl involved in the accident, Taylor’s sister.
In a twist of fate, Gronau was left paralyzed after an accident on July 22, 2020 in the exact same spot and exactly the same type of accident – someone driving east over the hill on East First when Gronau was pulling straight off East Lake Road go west first. Their vehicle came to rest in the same ditch as Taylor’s father’s vehicle.
People involved in these accidents and their loved ones believe this intersection is dangerous and they want to see something to correct it. Jim McGuire of Hesston, who looks after the area where the cross for Taylour is near the intersection and who knew Taylour, pointed out the line of trees on the northeast corner of that intersection that blocks the sight of vehicles, departing from East Lake Road. Gronau said there is also a hill for East First drivers heading west, which can cause a delay in response time if a vehicle is driving on the same lane on First.
“When the accident happened, I looked over and the semi was right there,” said Gronau. “I knew I was going to get hurt. I just turned my head and he pulled me on the cross. “
She said she was not afraid during the accident and started her training as a nurse.
“I’m a nurse and I’ve assessed myself,” she said. “I knew my neck was injured and that I was paralyzed. I don’t know – maybe she was a little guardian angel. “
Gronau felt protected by the little girl.
“Where it cuts through the spine, an inch higher and I would not have made it,” said Gronau.
She said a row of trees and hills don’t give people time to react when another vehicle jumps over the hill.
“You can’t always see very far there and then there is this row of trees,” she said. “For me, the accident was more my fault, but I don’t think there is enough reaction time to react.”
Gronau said people told her it didn’t look like the truck had braked, but she thinks the driver didn’t have time.
Due to the accident, Gronau is paralyzed from the chest line down.
“I can move both arms, but not always. I can grab things, ”she said, adding that her right arm works better than her left arm as she can only lift her left arm.
“I can’t do anything alone,” she said. “I need help.”
Gronau was on her way to work at Newton Medical Center from East Lake Park, where she and her husband lived, when they retired to the lake, although Gronau was still working.
In another twist of fate, when McGuire was tending the cross area, he found Gronau’s RN badge and key on the cross.
“I’m sure when they brought me from the car onto the stretcher, it probably fell off there,” said Gronau of her badge.
During the 2001 accident in which Gronau stopped, she said she was the second person on site. A man she knew from high school, now retired Newton Fire / EMS chief Mark Willis, was doing CPR on the girl who had died.
“The father was in the ditch and cried,” said Gronau. “I stopped for the little girl [who didn’t pass away]. ”
Mark’s wife, Cathy, was there too, taking care of the girl, but she had to go back and be with her own children who were on site in her vehicle.
Gronau said she went to high school with the Willises and the surviving sister kept trying to give her sister her hair clip.
“I just sat with her a little,” said Gronau.
McGuire began taking care of the accident marking cross about five years ago, he said.
He picks up garbage and mows.
“While I was mowing out there on July 25th, I found a key ring, her keys to Newton Medical Center, and her badge in the grass,” said McGuire.
When he got home he searched the internet and found a Go Fund Me page for Gronau. He then contacted the person in charge of the Go Fund Me page and that person stopped by McGuire the following Monday and gave her the keys and badge so she could take it to Gronau.
Originally, the accident marking cross was made of wood, but Hesston Welding made a white metal cross and didn’t want to bill for it, McGuire said.
“It was almost ready to fall,” said McGuire over the old wooden cross.
McGuire said he knew Taylour and her sister because his wife babysat them early in the morning while they lived in Burns.
“They were nice kids,” he said. “You all got along well.”
With the cross out there and the weeds growing up, McGuire decided to take care of the little area as he knew Taylour.
“The mom and the people really appreciate that,” said McGuire, adding that he will exchange the flowers and have them cleaned for Memorial Day.
In a way, it’s therapy for him.
“For me personally, pushing the mower back and forth is therapeutic,” he said, adding that drivers wave at him and some people stop and ask if it is a relative of his.
A man asked him why he was mowing in the middle of nowhere, so he told him.
In 2019 McGuire was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, but two years earlier he had started to go stiff. He said imbalance was part of the disease and now it’s harder for him to walk in the ditch. It would be nice if someone else could take care of it, he said.
In addition to therapy, McGuire also finds out other things in the country, such as auto parts.
“There were brake lights, taillights, just parts of cars that were left over from a hit,” he said. “I’m amazed at all the trash under the grass there.”
For security reasons, McGuire would like the Evergreen line to be removed.
“That’s one reason I mow in the corner just so people can see,” he said. “I’m doing it in honor of the little girl and the parents.”