DECEPTIVE DROP-OFF IN ROAD CLAIMS CUT BANK WOMAN
by Keila Szpaller, Great Falls Tribune staff writer
Julie Laverdure celebrated her one-year wedding anniversary the day before she died. The Cut Bank woman loved children, old folks and animals. She loved her husband, Richie Laverdure. “She married a really good boy,” said her father, Bryan Kimmet. The two did everything together, he said. They were together Monday afternoon in an accident that killed Julie. “That little girl is going to be missed,” said Kimmet. “She was just a ray of sunshine.”
Monday afternoon around 4:30 PM, the couple’s pickup rolled off a rim [cliff] west of Ethridge, said Toole County Coroner Dan Whitted. They had been hunting. They rolled the pickup end over end at a point where the road appears to continue through a field. Instead, though, it drops off. There, near Longcake Road, the landscape creates an optical illusion that deceived Rick Laverdure, who was driving, Whitted said. The truck fell 160 feet. Julie Laverdure, 21, died at the scene. She was not wearing a seat belt, according to the coroner. A helicopter flew Rick Laverdure to Benefis Heathcare. He was released Tuesday.
“It was just a tragic accident,” Whitted said, adding that alcohol was not involved.
Tuesday over the phone Kimmet talked about the couple. He said his daughter was a beautiful, blue-eyed princess. He said Richie is just like a son. The Laverdures were high school sweethearts who married a year ago. Richie was good to Julie. She’d wanted a pet pig since she was 2 or 3 years old. About two months ago, he got her two piggies. Kimmet said. He said Julie touched a lot of people’s lives. “She’s going to be missed by everybody that she’s ever touched,” he said.
While he called her his princess, he said his daughter wasn’t afraid to work. She and her husband fixed fences together. “She worked on the farm with the rest of the family for years,” Kimmet said.
And she was just weeks away from being a full-fledged teacher. Julie was student teaching in Shelby and would have completed her teaching degree from Rocky Mountain College in Billings in December, he said. A couple of weeks ago, she brought some first-graders to her parents’ farm to see big machinery. “The kids wanted to go into an empty grain bin and holler,” Kimmet said. He said that she made those kids laugh, but her affection was not limited to children. “She loved young and old,” he said.
When she left Cut Bank to go to school, she couldn’t wait to get back. She missed the people and she missed her relatives. “We’re a tight family,” Kimmet said. Julie Laverdure leaves her mother, Cindy Kimmet, two siblings and many other relatives.
Kimmet said he carries no blame against his son-in-law. Everything Richie Laverdure had he built and earned himself, Kimmet said. The crash was an accident, he said, though he doesn’t believe that Richie will see it that way.
“That poor kid,” he said.
When someone dies, everyone wants to speak well of them, but the pain and praise in the case of Julie Kimmet is not at all exaggerated. I was her English teacher for a few months several years ago, and -- believe me -- she was what her father says and more. Graceful, strong, intelligent, and energetic, she was so alive that her memory glows. She was beautiful in body and spirit, and so very vulnerable.
I clearly remember a conversation we had. I had assigned the class to write about their childhoods (which in high school they all felt they had left far behind) and was a little taken aback by the number who had nothing to remember but daycare. Julie was eloquent about her family and their ranch and how much she loved them. We talked about her yearning to marry as soon as possible and whether she ought to wait a little and how one knew it was true love anyway. She had no doubt about that last.
What persuaded me that she knew was that she told about being a colicky baby, the kind of crying baby who cannot be comforted and no one knows why, so that the crying wears on adults and sometimes makes them crazy. She said that her dad would come in after a long day of hard work and take her to his strong chest and walk with her until she was asleep, then sleep in his reclining chair with himself as her cradle. Their relationship continued to be like that, though he was never overprotective, never prevented her from risking and growing. She said Richie was just like that.
Young women like Julie don’t just happen. They are the product of strong families, just as her father says, and she would have passed on that ability to be loving, embracing, but not confining. She was part of something bigger than herself that is torn with pain now but capable of healing and inspiring others. Jenny and Jace have their own versions of the same qualities.
It pleases me to think of her as sleeping on God’s bosom until she’s ready for the next adventure. Tell those first graders that God is her cradle and she still gets to have pet piggies. Tell them that risk is a part of reaching out and that death is only a transformation for those who are really alive.