Helen Yancey

Death 2004
Burial Unknown
Memorial ID 184112648 · View Source
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[Henry County, Georgia]

The victims: In a split-second a life can be lost
Staff Mar 21, 2004
By Kathy Jefcoats

Helen Yancey always encouraged her daughter in law to "go to the traffic light at Lovejoy," when driving on Ga. Highway 81 rather than risk crossing U.S. Highway 19/41 in Henry County.

That's why it puzzles her family that Yancey went against her own advice last Oct. 9.

"There are always wrecks there, always major accidents," said Connie Yancey. "She'd never cross the intersection there. We couldn't figure out why she crossed there that day."

Her decision turned out to be fatal.

Helen Yancey pulled out halfway and waited for an 18-wheeler to pass. Once it did, she pulled fully out onto the highway ?n into the path of a dump truck.

"She couldn't see the dump truck because of the angle of the intersection," she said. "The truck was in her blind spot and she couldn't see it."

In the blink of an eye, Helen Yancey became a statistic, a casualty of the highway. She was alone in her car that day but not for long. And that's something Connie Yancey and her family are grateful for.

On that morning, Ken Sherman, a member of Connie Yancey's family church, First Baptist Church in Hampton n Helen was a member at First Baptist Church in Jonesboro n came upon the accident.

"He never stops at accidents but he did this time, without knowing that he knew the driver," said Connie Yancey. "He put his hands through the window and held her. He didn't know if she could hear him or not but he began praying out loud in case she could, to let her know she wasn't alone."

When rescuers arrived to remove her from the car for treatment, Sherman saw she was wearing a familiar bracelet.

"My father-in-law made custom jewelry and had made this gold bracelet that had ?Helen' on it," she said. "When Ken saw the bracelet he knew she was my mother-in-law."

Sherman called Connie and told her she needed to get to Grady Hospital in Atlanta.

"I called him back and said, ?I need to know what is going on,'" said Connie. "He said that he didn't think she was alive."

The family went to Atlanta prepared to find Helen dead. Instead, she was in a coma and on life support. She suffered a severe head injury and died two days later. In the aftermath, Connie Yancey said she found much to be grateful for. For example, the Henry County police officer who worked the wreck drove to Grady to check on the family. Sherman's presence at the scene was a godsend, she believes.

"The Lord put someone from our Sunday school class there," she said. "You can see God's hand all through this thing. She was a Christian at the point of impact and we know she went to Heaven."

At 73, Helen Yancey had raised two children, son Tim and daughter Lee Yancey Flynn, with her husband, Walter "Bud" Yancey. The children grew up, married and produced three grandchildren n Elliott and Emily Yancey, and Yancey Flynn. The kids called her Memama, her husband, Grandbuddy.

"She led a very productive life," Connie said. "She was a faithful choir member and was very active in her church. She loved people dearly."

Helen Yancey grew up in the Mt. Zion community and lived there until the last four years of her life when she and Walter moved to Clayton County. After 48 years of marriage, Walter died unexpectedly of a stroke two years ago.

"Their 50th anniversary would have been in December," said Connie Yancey. "She was really dreading facing that without him. He was her lifetime companion and she loved him dearly. I believe God took her home so she didn't have to face that without him."

For that reason, Connie said, the family is "very much as peace with what happened."

Connie Yancey said her prayers are with the trucker involved in the crash. He was not injured but is reportedly suffering from the loss.

"We don't blame him at all," she said. "It was not his fault, there is nothing he could have done. I feel sorry for him. I have not talked to him but I talked to his wife and he's not handling it well."

Although she is at peace with the loss of her mother-in-law, Connie said she misses her very presence.

"She was like a mother to me," she said. "I hope I'm the kind of mother-in-law that she was to me. She had a quiet, steady presence, always there. She had a tremendous prayer life." At this memory, Connie finally gives way to her emotions. "She prayed for us and our children every day," she continued, crying. "I miss that. It is a huge gap in our lives to know she's not there to pray for us every day."

Tim Yancey agreed with his wife.

"Her prayer life," he said. "That's something that we just knew was there, no matter what." He also said that he misses the things that only "Mom" can do n her home cooking, being at her home for special occasions like holidays and birthdays, being able to pick up the phone and hear her voice, the way she would always apologize for calling him at work.

Not long after Helen's accident, a young man was killed in the same intersection. Connie said there needs to be a light there to prevent future accidents and the possibility of more lost lives. She was happy to learn recently that the state Department of Transportation has plans to install a traffic light, possibly within a year.

"We are in favor of a light there," she said. "Although in a lot of respects, it comes too late for our family."


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