Healing bridge brings closure decades after trooper's death - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Healing bridge brings closure to daughters decades after losing their dad

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The Highway 30 bridge of the Boyer River near Dunlap, Iowa sees a lot of traffic.

Now, those who drive that stretch of road will be reminded of the ultimate sacrifice one Northwest Iowa State Trooper made, to help keep the streets safe. 

The story of a bridge, connecting a community to its past, starts 57 years ago.

On a summer evening in 1955, Ralph Garthwaite headed home to his wife and kids. But, the Iowa State Patrol trooper never made it. Instead, he was hit head-on as he crossed a bridge near Woodbine. The traffic report said the other driver, was drunk. Garthwaite died instantly.

"My life went on and his life was ended. That's the worst part about it," said LeRoy "Sarg" Webber.

The retired patrolman graduated from state trooper school with Garthwaite. The tragedy made him think hard about the dangers that come with the duty. 

When Garthwaite died, his hometown paper in Sheldon, Iowa wrote of "One of the Greatest Soldiers," a war hero who earned the silver star and the purple heart. To his two little girls, he was dad. One remembered the day her mother got the call.

"The phone rang, and I heard her respond and cry, and kind of scream," recalled Barbara Halon.

She was six, her sister Carol Garthwaite, just three.

"I felt like I'd been punched in the stomach, and there was a huge hole that there was no way to fill up. It was just like empty," said Halon.

This month, for the first time, the pair saw pictures taken of the crash.

"It was shocking to see how the car had been mangled and just to think our father was in there," said Garthwaite.

She remembers very little about her father. Halon's fondest memory are the trips up to Arnold's Park.

"Just being a family, a complete family," she said.

The man who hit Ralph Garthwaite, Gene Schreiner never served prison time. 

Barbara and Carol say their mom wanted it that way. She told them she didn't want Schriener's children to suffer like her own, growing up without a father.

The Iowa State Patrol renamed a Highway 30 bridge over the Boyer River near Dunlap after Ralph Garthwaite. It's one of ten bridges being dedicated across the state in honor of state troopers who've died in the line of duty.

"For the Iowa State Patrol, today is a day of remembrance, and also of recognition,"said Iowa State Patrol Chief Patrick Hoye at the emotional dedication ceremony.

"You know we've lost a fellow trooper here today, two daughters lost a dad," Hoye pointed out.

Halon flew in from California, Garthwaite from Florida, to be part of the dedication.

"What a wonderful tribute to our dad," said Garthwaite.

Miles and time may separate the sisters from the tragedy, but it's never far from their hearts.

"I felt like it was a way for me to come back and get some closure," suggested Halon.

Ralph Garthwaite only lived 34 years, but even back when he was fighting for his country he had a sense of how short life can be.

"Almost all of his group died and he said to mom he was living on borrowed time, which was sort of amazing," Carol recalled.

Halon hopes in death as in life, her dad's sacrifices will serve a greater purpose. 

"He helped save people's lives and keep people safe, and the fact that now everyone driving down this road will know that. Maybe somebody will be more cautious realizing somebody died here, a trooper died here," said Halon.

A bridge that's connecting a community and bridging decades between a father and those who loved him. 

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