December 23, 2012 in City

Sanderson rides the bike husband chose for her

By The Spokesman-Review
 
PHOTOS BY JESSE TINSLEY photo

Liz Sanderson sits on her new Honda 750 motorcycle Thursday in north Spokane. Sanderson’s husband, John, was killed Aug. 24 after his motorcycle collided with a utility truck that was attempting a U-turn on U.S. Highway 2.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

Liz Sanderson bought the motorcycle her late husband picked out for her before he was killed while riding to attend the funeral of his mother in August.

“It’s beautiful,” Sanderson said of her candy-apple red Honda Shadow. “He said, ‘This bike is for you.’ So, I bought it after everything settled. It’s a good fit, everything. He made a good choice.”

John C. Sanderson, 59, died on Aug. 24, a day after Liz Sanderson had a dream in which she foresaw a bike on its side and a body under a truck. She didn’t tell her husband about the dream because of his abiding love of riding motorcycles, something he had done since age 13.

But as a result of the dream, Liz Sanderson chose not to ride her own motorcycle. She rode in a car and followed her husband, who worked as the prosthetics purchasing agent for the Spokane Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

As they drove to attend the funeral of Sanderson’s 81-year-old mother, Delores J. Sanderson, in Newport, Wash., Liz Sanderson’s bad dream came true as she saw brake lights and cars pulling off onto the shoulder of U.S. Highway 2.

She arrived to find her husband under a 1993 F-350 utility truck driven by Garry D. Baumgartner, 37, of Valleyford.

According to police reports, Baumgartner had pulled his truck to the northbound shoulder of the highway. He then attempted to make a U-turn, steering directly in the path of John Sanderson.

As his family waited for the funeral of Delores Sanderson to begin, they learned that John Sanderson had been killed.

“I read John’s autopsy report,” his wife said. “Reading about the injuries he had, I’m glad he didn’t survive.”

The autopsy showed a devastating brain injury, a lacerated liver, broken ribs and a torn aorta. Liz Sanderson donated her husband’s organs and gave away all his clothes to help homeless veterans.

The couple were due to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary Dec. 12. Instead, Liz Sanderson traveled with a friend to Seattle.

“I decided to make the anniversary an adventure instead of a sad occasion,” she said.

She’s attended grief counseling, something that didn’t suit her sensibilities, and recently attended the funeral of John’s father, Norman C. “Sandy” Sanderson, of Spokane.

He died Nov. 26 at age 84 after having lost his wife, son, daughter and stepson. “He had kidney disease and was on dialysis for 2  1/2 years,” Liz Sanderson said. “Losing John and his wife was very hard. It was too much for him. He chose to exit gracefully.”

Since she purchased the Honda Shadow, Liz Sanderson has logged 222 miles and become an advocate for road safety.

“Drive like it’s your last day,” she said. Motorcycle riders should “drive defensively. Don’t assume someone will see you, because they won’t.”

She also recommended that motorcycle riders and others who engage in high-risk hobbies purchase the $59 annual family membership from Northwest MedStar to cover most of the cost of emergency care. Just landing the MedStar helicopter at the crash scene in August cost about $14,000, she said.

She has not spoken to Baumgartner, who was cited for second-degree negligent driving for causing the crash.

Efforts by The Spokesman-Review to reach Baumgartner were not successful.

“He should never forget this or forgive himself,” Sanderson said. “It was his haste that damaged not only my life but his life and his own family’s. That’s not worth two minutes off your road time. Accept the mistake, but don’t do it again.”

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