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Remembering a sweet, quirky, funny runner

My Sentiments Exactly

I can still remember it as if it happened this past Christmas.

I know exactly where I was and what I was doing when I got the call from my niece / goddaughter / No. 1 girl-on-the-planet, Kelly Marie.

“Aunt Patty, I need to tell you something…” her voice trailed off the phone for a moment — but not before I noticed it held a maturity I hadn’t sensed anytime prior in my 19 1/2 years of chatting with my little sweet pea.

After what seemed like an eternity but was just a nanosecond, she told me her childhood friend Caitlin Yager, along with her family, had been in a car accident while traveling back home from visiting with family members in the Norwalk area on Christmas Day.

At the time of that call, in the late afternoon of Dec. 26, 2013, I was sitting in the office of my then workplace at a local accounting firm, where I was corporate communications director.

“It was bad, Aunt Patty. Her parents and brother are really hurt and … um, Caitlin … didn’t … make it…”

I remember her saying just before falling backward into my swivel chair, since our conversation had apparently startled me into a standing position.

Just before that, Kelly and Caitlin, like all their 2012 high school co-graduates, were enjoying winter break of their sophomore year in college, Kelly at Walsh University and Caitlin at Marietta College.

They were both just shy of 20 years old.

In the dizzying hours that followed, our family — like everyone in our friend / church circles rocked by the tragedy — gathered to share our fondest memories of Caitlin.

Kelly had known her since their days at St. Christine Elementary School, where they were classmates, co-cheerleaders and teammates on the girls’ basketball and soccer teams.

I thought Caitlin was a total hoot and I could be imagining this, but I seem to remember that sometimes she snorted when she laughed, just like old Aunt Patty, which she affectionately called me.

She was with Kelly and her BFF Marissa often after practices and games; the girls frequented my sister’s house, as well as my parents’, frequently.

I recall her ferociously hugging my Pop on his birthday once after she joined us for his dinner at the Olive Garden, one of the few Italian-esque food chain restaurants in which he’d consent to consume food. Real Italians are funny like that, capisce?

Anyway, it was driving home from there on another occasion that Caitlin, infamous for her contagious silliness and laughter, deadpanned: “Yes, raspberry iced tea,” after an elderly police officer had asked in anyone in the car had been drinking during a routine traffic stop. As the story was told to me, my sister Gina was taking her home after she, my Mom, Kelly and Caitlin had dinner at you-know-where.

Tickled by her droll moxie, the officer smiled and said, “Well you ladies continue on your way — and take it easy on that raspberry iced tea.”

That was Caitlin, always cracking jokes or singing childhood songs in some eccentric accent or octave. I remember she LOVED to bake and often made chocolate chip cookies for the high school cross country high school team on which she and Kels ran.

Gosh, I miss her beautiful smile and quirky sense of fun.

One way I and many others have chosen to honor her memory is to support the annual Run for Caitlin, an event of the same-named nonprofit organization founded by Caitlin’s brother, Matthew, and family friends Mike and Dr. Greg Delost in 2014 and is administered by Caitlin’s parents, Rich and Carol Yager and attorney Raymond and Dr. Maria Delost after that horrendous automobile accident that seriously injured her family and claimed dear, sweet Caitlin.

According to the foundation website, the run is its main fundraiser ($80K to high school and college students to date!). If you’re not busy this coming Saturday and you indulge in such healthy habits, check out the Run for Caitlin 5K and 3K. The eighth annual runs and walks take off at 9 a.m. at Canfield High School.

And I sure do hope there’s lots raspberry iced tea up in heaven for you, Hon. Hug Pop for me!

— Catch up with Kimerer at www.patriciakimerer.com.

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