Judge Warren Urbom and his wife had no idea how the widow of the man he’d hit with his car would react to seeing them at her door Saturday, the day after the accident.
Would she be angry? Hate him? Forgive him?
By COLLEEN KENNEY | Lincoln Journal Star
After a night of no sleep, Judge Warren Urbom phoned the home of a woman he didn’t know, a new widow.
Her son answered.
Can we come over? the judge asked. We want to bring our condolences. And I need to speak to Mrs. McEntarffer.
Yes, the son said, you can come over.
This happened Saturday, the day after the U.S. District judge turned his car into Fred McEntarffer, who was riding his motorcycle downtown and who died a few hours later.
The judge’s wife is telling this story now to a newspaper reporter who called, because her husband can’t. It’s too hard for him, she says, the worst thing that’s happened in his 80 years.
“Warren told them, ‘My wife will drive me over.’”
Joyce Urbom says they had no idea how Mrs. McEntarffer would feel, seeing them at her door. Anger? Hate?
They had trouble finding the place because it was in an area of southwest Lincoln they didn’t know, Joyce says.
They saw people outside a home in the Harbour West Mobile Home Park. She stopped the car. Warren rolled down his window. One of the men standing there called out to him:
This is the place. You’ve found the place. She’s waiting inside.
The young man introduced himself as Jon McNeel, a son-in-law. He hugged the judge.
“He said, ‘I want you to know there are no hard feelings here.’”
They walked to the mobile home, still wondering how Mrs. McEntarffer would feel.
They knew many people were angry.
The night before, maybe 11 p.m., the phone rang at the Urboms’ home on Ridgeview Drive. The judge answered. It was a woman’s voice:
Do you know where you’re going to be driving next? If you do, tell me so I’ll know what streets to stay off of.
Then she hung up.
On the morning of the visit to Mrs. McEntarffer’s home, a story about Friday’s accident ran in the paper. The judge, on his way to deliver a speech to the Kiwanis Club, was driving west on L Street in the middle lane of the one-way when he tried to turn left onto 13th and collided with a motorcyclist.
The motorcyclist, 74-year-old Fred McEntarffer, was a retired corrections officer at the penitentiary, someone “loved by all.”
The story said Urbom went on to give his speech, then found out the man had died.
People posted comments on the Journal Star Web site. The comments showed anger, hate, forgiveness.
Hmmmm… wrote on September 09, 2006 12:57 AM:“He runs over a guy and then goes off to give his speach, real nice. If it were me I would have been at the hospital praying for the poor man I hit.“
Be Nice wrote on September 09, 2006 1:24 PM:“Okay so a Judge made a bad Judgement in turning. A turn in his life he cannot unturn. He would love to. Let this man have peace. “
Joyce Urbom says her husband didn’t think the man would die, that’s why he went on to give his speech, and because he didn’t want to let down the Kiwanis.
A police officer asked him where he wanted to go after the speech — his car had been taken as evidence. He said he wanted to go to his office to preside at a sentencing. When he got off the bench, that’s when he learned the man had died.
The officer took a blood sample, Joyce said, then drove him to meet her at their church, Trinity United Methodist. She was at a meeting for the Young At Heart group.
She asked him where his car was.
“‘I will tell you,’ he said. ‘But let’s get in your car.’ And he sat there and told me what happened. He was in such grief, and disbelief.”
Joyce says her husband prayed for the man. He prayed for his family.
The judge has been listening to the phone interview. Joyce says he wants to talk now, after all.
She hands him the phone.
“It is a nightmare,” he says. He sounds tired.
“It’s daunting. I just feel terrible.”
But the meeting with Mrs. McEntarffer, he says, was “very, very special, very relieving and healing.
“I hope it brought some closure to that family.”
When they opened the door of the mobile home, Mrs. McEntarffer was standing there waiting for them, her arms outstretched.
Laurie McEntarffer is telling the story now.
It’s hard to tell, she says, because details are sketchy, even the time of day the Urboms knocked on her door. It happened after a night of no sleep.
“I’m still so lost in time.”
They sat on her couch and she asked what happened, details of the crash, and he told her. He apologized.
They hugged, and then she and some of her kids and grandkids stood in a circle in her living room with the Urboms, all holding hands.
“Mr. Urbom prayed first. Then we all prayed, then we all finished it off with an ‘Amen.’
“There were many tears. He was just devastated by this. I can put myself in his place, and I know how I would feel.”
Reach Colleen Kenney at 473-2655 or email@example.com.