FOX LAKE – Staring out her kitchen window, Betty Phelan can still see her son walking up the path.
“He had a very distinctive walk,” she remembered. “He was always leaning forward.”
Curtiss Phelan was 22 when he was killed by a drunk driver Feb. 3, 2007, at Fox Lake Road and Broadway Street in Pistakee Highlands.
“The shock of it never really goes away,” his half-sister Diane Maddock said. “It never goes away. I can remember it like it was yesterday. Every detail.”
In the spring, Maddock started working with the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office to get a memorial sign put up near the site of the crash. She hoped to surprise her stepmother, Betty Phelan, for Mother’s Day, but the weather didn’t cooperate.
This is the first memorial sign the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office and McHenry Township have been involved with. The $200 cost was covered by Iron Justice, a motorcycle group of law enforcement members, and the Police Benevolent and Protective Association, said Deputy Theresa Harper, who walked the family through the process.
If the sign prevents even one accident, Betty Phelan thinks it’ll be worth it.
Maddock also hopes the sign will keep her brother’s memory alive.
Curtiss Phelan lived with Maddock and her children for more than two years after moving back to the area from Arizona to be closer to his family.
He worked at GFX, an assembly warehouse in Volo.
“Curt was always extremely positive,” Maddock said. “He was kind. He was helpful. There was never a time you didn’t want to be around him. He was fun loving. He liked to laugh. He was extremely, extremely responsible for a 22-year-old man.”
Six years later, both Maddock and Betty Phelan are still grieving.
“As his mom, everything I do – cooking, going to my daughter’s place, washing the clothes – reminds me of him, the things I used to do and the jokes he would make,” Betty Phelan said.
“I just don’t know if I’ll get to the point where I don’t just ache with loneliness. I know I’ll see him again. but it’s hard right now. It’s hard to wait.”
Nicole Cerk, a McHenry mother of two who is now 36 years old, was sentenced to eight years after pleading guilty to aggravated driving under the influence in Curtiss Phelan’s death. She will be eligible for parole in November 2015.