Never Forgetting the Victims & Their Families


Donald Stearns
Age 74

Before my husband Donald Stearns (74 years of age) left to drive my youngest daughter to a meeting on February 1st, 2002, he told me that he wouldn’t be long and that he would be right back.  Little did I know those were the last words I would ever hear him speak to me. 

On his way back, he was broad sided by a drunk driver going way over the legal speed limit.  My husband’s car spun into a brick wall near a house.  Meanwhile I was in my home just eight houses away from where Don was, worrying because he should have been back by now.  Soon after, a neighbor from down the street ran and told me that my husband had been in a car accident.  When I got to the street corner I saw a huge crowd, and soon recognized my husband’s red Honda Civic.  I went up to the car and I took Don’s hand and told him “If you hear me Don, squeeze my hand, squeeze my hand Donald,” but he never did.  I went with my husband into the ambulance, and for a while I thought he was going to be ok.  Donald was taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Paterson, NJ where he fought to live for 12 days.  On February 13th, 2002 his long hard struggle to live was over.  My beloved Donald passed away.  On the days after Don’s death it gave me great assurance when grandson Jimmy would tell me: “Don’t worry Nanny, I know Pop-pop is watching over us and is close to all of us.”

During our 42nd wedding anniversary in 1994 we went to Hawaii and we had such a good time together, we promised each other we would go back for our 50th Anniversary.  We couldn’t go on our trip, because a drunk driver got in the way.  Our marriage, just short of 50 years, was ended.  He was the greatest husband a woman could ever have.  He would do anything in the world for me.  We went on walks together, talked together, worked on our garden, went on vacations, cruises, and rides in the car.  Don loved to visit with our daughters Jackie in Passaic, and Patti along with my son-in-law John, in Johnson City, NY.  One of Don’s many loves in his life were his two grandchildren, Eileen and Jimmy.  The things the kids miss the most are the talks they would have with their Pop-pop and the walks they would go on with him.  Although there are so many great memories we have of Don,
there are so many things he missed.  Don was looking forward to seeing his granddaughter graduate from high school, and eventually college and see his grandson perform in a singing group.  Don was meant to see all these wonderful things, and it is unfair that someone got in the way of it.

The hardest thing I ever had to do in life was to watch helplessly as my husband died.  The 2nd hardest thing I ever had to do was to face the person who killed him.  The drunk driver who killed my husband pleaded guilty to assault by auto, and DWI.  If the police had investigated more thoroughly, the charges may have been greater.  The drunk driver got 3 years of prison, but can get out as early as 9 months.  I was very bitter about the sentence he received, and feel it is a very little punishment for all the pain he put my family through. 

My life will never be complete again now that Don is gone.  Although life goes on, a great part of my self is gone.  A big void will always be in all of our lives.  END DWI has been a lot of help.  The group meetings are a great help, and the Candlelight Vigil was very meaningful to me.  My daughters, grandchildren, and son-in-law have been lifesavers through the past couple years and I am forever thankful to them.  Although Don is no longer with me, he will always be in my heart.  It is good to know that although Don has passed away, he is still so close to home. 

Submitted by Joan Stearns with some help of her grandson Jimmy Moynihan