Local

Ahwahnee couple killed by drunk driver remembered

Saturday, June 02, 2012

The family of an Ahwahnee couple killed two weeks ago by a drunk driver, gathered Saturday in the spot where their loved ones died.

Gary Smalz, 60, and his 52-year-old wife Laura were riding their motorcycle near their home when a man in a truck crossed directly into the path of their bike. The truck driver, 41-year-old Gary Ragsdale, was arrested for driving under the influence and now faces vehicular manslaughter charges.

A low, steady rumble of motorcycles led the procession to the spot where Gary Smalz and his wife Laura died. Among the group was Gary's mother Marilyn who remains heartbroken over the loss of her oldest son.

On Saturday, she and her daughter April remembered Gary who spent nine years teaching others about motorcycle safety. "In a way I think he would be glad he left this world with a lesson, and that's don't drink and drive be responsible. But in a way I think he would be really angry that somebody was so irresponsible to not care," said April Bryant, Gary's sister.

Investigators say the driver was Gary Ragsdale. Ragdale was arrested for driving under the influence and now faces vehicular manslaughter charges.

Jazz Singh helped family and friends find closure during the memorial. He was there and tried to help the two after they were hit by a truck. "It was like, boom. It was so out of nowhere."

But the focus of Saturday's memorial service wasn't on how the couple died, but rather, how they chose to live. Laura was an artist and Gary loved music. Both loved to travel and were married for four years after their significant others passed away.

Family members say there are plans to hold the memorial ride every year to honor the couple.

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ahwahnee, madera county, local, mariana jacob
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