Two months after I graduated from Delta High School in 1981, tragedy struck.
On the morning of July 19 that year, my mother asked me to drive to City Market and grab a couple of items. When I arrived, a friend who worked there asked me, “Did you hear about Jerry?” I hadn’t. “He died last night,”he said. He went on to tell me that he and Rena Newton were killed in a crash.
Jerry Love was driving a 1975 Ford pick-up on Highway 50 in north Delta early that morning when he lost control. According to the Colorado State Troopers, the pick-up hit a telephone pole and then 15 feet later, a tree. Rena and Jerry both passed away from their injuries.
Rena and I were classmates while Jerry would have entered his junior year.
I remember Rena being a sweet girl who had her circle of friends. I would see her in the hallways always laughing or with a smile on her face. Jerry was a popular kid, an up and coming athlete. His friends were my friends. Through those connections we would often end up at the same places.
The occasion that would bring Jerry and Rena together was her 19th birthday party.
The tree that would be the final resting place for the pick-up still stands. The bark of the tree was stripped from the impact and for years it was a sad reminder for all of us kids what had happened that summer night. Mercifully it now is hidden by fence.
What I will never forget outside of losing two beautiful people was Jerry’s funeral. The memorial service was held in the auditorium of the former Delta High School.
Ours was the last class that would graduate from there. The high school moved into the current building the following year.
But it was Jerry’s graveside service that provided me the most vivid memory. As we passed his casket to say our final goodbyes in front of me a few people ahead was Dan Cholas. For us boys, Cholas was our disciplinarian. He was tough on us but in that moment he was vulnerable. As he passed Jerry, he stopped for a brief second and slapped the top of the casket then dropped his head. To this day that moment in my memory makes me emotional. And in that moment I realized one of the toughest men I knew cared about all of us.
Less than a month later I would be off to basic training and my classmates would be off to start their own lives. While the classes behind us would move into the new school building.
I don’t know what support there was to deal with their grief, if any.
When I received the news last week that four Delta students were involved in an accident and one had passed away, I was sitting in my daughter’s driveway in Arvada. My heart sunk. Delta’s a small town and I knew there would people I know involved. While my heart would ache my mind took me back to 1981 and that terrible morning when I would be asked: “Did you hear about Jerry?”
I don’t know Gannon Hines or his mother, Bridget, but I do know the parents of two of the kids involved. It’s tough to find the words.
I raised my children in Delta for a reason. Because I knew my kids would be safe in a community where I know so many people. But life offers no guarantees and for Bridget Hines, it offers no solace. Time does not heal every wound.
What I do find in this dark cloud that hovers over our community as it grieves is the amazing support that the students and faculty at Delta high are receiving. Support has poured in from the Delta community and neighboring communities. The photos posted on social media are simply beautiful.
It’s a reminder once again why I moved back time and again over my adult life. It’s home and DHS will always be our school no matter how many years have passed.
If I could offer any advice to Gannon’s friends it would be this:
When your heart begins to ache talk to someone. If your mind goes to your friend Gannon, let it. You will see him as long as you have a memory and he will come when you least expect him. Talk to him he’s really there.
“When he shall die, cut him into little stars, and he shall make the face of heaven so fond, that all the world will fall in love with night and pay no worship to the garish sun.” — William Shakespeare.
Dennis Anderson is group publisher for Wick Communications, Alaska and Colorado. He can be reached by email at