Crash victim, 91, recalled as 'gift we all had'
CHAMPAIGN — A Champaign woman who died from injuries sustained in a traffic accident in Champaign earlier this month is being remembered as a woman of strong faith devoted to her family, her church and her community.
Champaign County Coroner Duane Northrup said Virginia Skelton, 91, died at 1:35 a.m. Wednesday at Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana, where she had been since an accident the afternoon of March 3 at the intersection of Staley Road and Kirby Avenue.
Her daughter, Anne Weber, 70, of Champaign, was also seriously injured in the collision but is expected to be released from Carle Saturday.
Both women were passengers in a Buick Regal driven by Anne Weber's husband, Wayne G. Weber, 78, near the intersection of Kirby Avenue and Staley Road about 4:25 p.m. that Sunday.
Champaign police spokeswoman Rene Dunn said a witness reported that Wayne Weber was driving north on Staley Road when he apparently ran through a red light and hit a Dodge Ram pickup truck driven by Christopher Haugen, 17, of Champaign.
Weber was ticketed for disobeying a traffic control signal but has since pleaded guilty to a lesser non-moving petty offense of having unsafe equipment. He paid a $150 fine, and the ticket for disobeying a traffic signal was dismissed.
"It's a standard resolution of traffic offenses depending on a person's traffic history and the circumstances of an individual offense," said State's Attorney Julia Rietz. "From what we knew, this was not a serious accident. If there had been (information to suggest otherwise) that would not have been the resolution until we had more information."
Dunn said Haugen received abrasions in the collision and refused medical treatment while Mrs. Skelton and Anne Weber were taken to Carle by ambulance. Both vehicles were towed from the scene.
Mrs. Skelton's other daughter, Peggie Simon of St. Charles, Mo., said the Webers had just taken Mrs. Skelton for a drive in the country and were on their way back to her home at Bickford Assisted Living Care of Champaign on Staley Road.
Simon said the drive was her sister's idea, knowing how much their mother liked to get out.
"Mom would ask every day," she said, adding that their mother was "so excited" to get out that afternoon.
"They took a very long drive. We have a farm. They went by there and out into the country around Rantoul. They took a very slow, leisurely drive, then stopped in Rantoul at the Dairy Queen for a chocolate shake," said Simon, adding that her mother "loved chocolate."
"We believe that God is always in control," said Simon, adding that the family was grateful to Wayne and Anne Weber that their mother's last vibrant moments were spent on things she loved most.
A mother of five, grandmother to 16, and great-grandmother to 23, Mrs. Skelton was in pretty good shape. Simon said a doctor had recently told her she would likely live to 100, a notion she didn't exactly embrace.
"Since the day my father passed away, she wanted to be with him. She was ready," said Simon.
Virginia Skelton was married to the late William "Bill" Skelton, who ran pharmacies in town. When he was alive and working, she worked in the gift and cosmetics section of the store that Bill Skelton built in the 800 block of West Springfield Avenue, Champaign.
Simon said after her father's death in 1990, her mother channeled her grief by visiting folks in nursing homes. A devout Catholic — she grew up as a member of Holy Cross parish and later became a founding member of St. Matthew's parish — she became an extraordinary minister, delivering communion to those who couldn't get to church.
In 2006, she won the Marquette Award from the Catholic Diocese of Peoria which recognizes work done by Catholics for their parishes.
"I was with her when she opened the envelope saying she was getting the award from the diocese," said Simon, the fourth of five Skelton children. "Her comment was, 'I don't deserve this.' I told her, 'You're an example of what Christ has called us to be.'"
Simon said her mother was also a "prayer warrior" for her parish. Mrs. Skelton's late brother, the Rev. Gene Kane, was a Catholic priest. Her sister, Mary Helen Kane, is a nun. She was also preceded in death by another brother, Donald Kane.
Besides ministering to shut-ins, Simon said, her mother liked to garden and travel and was an excellent cook and baker, known for her homemade chicken and noodles, peanut brittle and cookies.
"She would leave (peanut brittle) in the store for people to take, and whenever anyone needed anything, she was bringing them food. She had a freezer of tins of different cookies and a cookie jar out on the counter for anyone who walked in," Simon said.
Wayne Weber called his in-laws "lovely people, salt of the earth," adding that he was close friends with the Skeltons for many years before he married their daughter 22 years ago. His late father-in-law was "the matchmaker" who fixed Weber up with his daughter.
Anne Weber sustained fractures in her neck, spine and chest in the accident but is expected to make a full recovery with intensive therapy. She celebrated her 70th birthday the day her mother passed. But Simon said it will not be cause for sadness for her sister.
"She's going to remember on her birthday what a gift we all had," Simon said.