NEWELL-On a hot Sunday evening in July, 27 years ago, Lynn Simmons was on her way home from her boyfriend's after a long Fourth of July weekend, but she would never make it.
Driving northbound on a dangerous stretch of state Route 2, just north of then-Mountaineer Park, the 19-year-old Simmons was hit head-on by a suspected drunk driver and killed. The southbound driver, a longtime Mountaineer jockey named James Andrews, was killed too.
In that cruel instant, the lives of Simmons' parents, Larry and Linda, and her friends and family were changed forever. They have held Lynn in their hearts all these years, keeping her memory alive by naming a scholarship at Oak Glen High School after her.
Lynn Simmons as an Oak Glen graduating senior in 1984. (Submitted photo)
Now, a good friend of Lynn's wants to dedicate that same stretch of Route 2 in her honor. The Lynn Simmons Memorial Highway will cover about three miles of two-lane road from just north of Mountaineer to the Newell Dollar General store, said Warren Wright, who is
spearheading the effort.
"I've thought about it over the years, and I've always wanted to do something in her memory," said Wright, 48, of Weirton. "I've talked about it with friends. Whenever we start talking, her name still comes up. Everybody wanted to do something."
Wright contacted the West Virginia Division of Highways in November and filled out the requisite paperwork. The state agency sent an inspector to make sure the road was appropriate for such a designation, and by the end of the year, Wright's request had been approved, he said.
Lynn Simmons' mother, Linda, said she was surprised and pleased at the initiative by Wright, calling the dedication bittersweet.
"We tried to get them to do something with that road at the time (because) it didn't bank right. There was something wrong with that bend. There were a lot of wrecks there," Linda Simmons said.
The curvature of the road at the time of the fatal accident was different than it is now. It has since been widened and straightened, Simmons said.
But in 1987, it was known as one of the most dangerous stretches of road in Hancock County. Contemporaneous news accounts noted that on the same weekend as Lynn Simmons' fatality, there were two other accidents along that part of Route 2. And in the preceding six months, there were five accidents.
Another double-fatality occurred there earlier in the 1980s, killing jockeys Bill Floyd and Bill Floyd Jr.
The fatality on July 5, 1987, happened right in front of the old Porter farmhouse and sounded like an explosion, according to news accounts. It cut short a young life of promise about a month before she would have turned 20.
Lynn Simmons was born Aug. 18, 1967, in East Liverpool. She went to school at Jefferson Elementary, Wells Junior High and Oak Glen High School, graduating one year early in 1984, her mother said.
Simmons played volleyball at Wells Junior High and was in the National Honor Society at Oak Glen.
"She loved volleyball. She loved to go fishing. She loved to be with her family," Linda Simmons said.
Wright, a former Newell resident who knew Simmons from school, said he remembers her as "intelligent, caring. She was a giving person. ... She was a sweetheart. She always went out of her way for everybody."
Lynn attended the Ohio Valley Business College for a year and then went to work as a secretary at the Newell Central Service car dealership, her mother said. But she also had bigger plans.
"She was going to see about enrolling in a nursing school, and she was thinking about Kent State," Linda Simmons said.
Because of that interest, a scholarship in Lynn Simmons' name-and funded by the Mountaineer Classic Iron Car Club-is given annually to an Oak Glen graduate who plans to study nursing, Linda Simmons said.
Even though time has lessened the pain felt by the Simmonses, last weekend's accident that killed three Oak Glen students has brought back painful memories of that Sunday night in July 1987.
Linda Simmons said her heart goes out to the parents of Kristyn Butcher, Kaylin Rice and John "Emmett" Snow III.
"It's been a hard week," Simmons said. "It brings it all back."