Signs of love

Crosses show support

of friends, family

By Sarah Doty

Dick and Lorraine Willmert stopped at the intersection of U.S. 63 and Minnesota Highway 30 on Sunday. In the past nine days, it has become part of their daily routine as they travel from their home in Austin to their daughter’s hospital bed in Rochester.


In the ditch where they stop are two sets of five crosses. One set is decorated with silk flowers on vines, the other with stuffed animals and trinkets that describe the people whose names are painted on each cross.

For those passing by on the highway, it is a memorial to the five people whose lives were taken in a Memorial Day weekend crash. For Dick and Lorraine Willmert, it is a tribute to five people they loved.

Weekend crash

On May 23, the Willmerts hosted a picnic at their home in Austin, with everyone excited about the three-day weekend afforded by Memorial Day.

"We are a close family, and we got everyone together," Lorraine Willmert said.

After visiting and eating, the Willmerts’ daughter Rita Seha; her fiance, Terry Milholland; their 5-week old child Raymond; Seha’s daughter Heidi Newell; Newell’s son Carter; and Newell’s friend Jarah Beers all went fishing in Albert Lea. They were just miles from home in Rochester when the van that Milholland was driving was struck by a pickup truck driven by Christopher Steven Frisch, 25, of Winona.

Milholland, 45, Raymond, Heidi Newell, 19, and Beers, 23, all died at the scene. Carter, 2, died Friday from injuries suffered in the crash. Seha, remains hospitalized in fair condition. Frisch was not hurt.

Since the crash, Frisch has been charged with 24 felonies linked to the crash, including multiple counts of criminal vehicular homicide and multiple counts of criminal vehicular operation while under the influence of alcohol.


Memorials mark site

At the site of the crash on Sunday, Dick Willmert couldn’t hold back his tears.

"We are appreciative of all our friends for putting the markers down," he said. "It’s beautiful."

While he knows that his sons-in-law put up one group of crosses, he isn’t sure who put up the others.

"We didn’t know we had so many friends until this happened," Lorraine Willmert said.

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