A few days after Carrie Kilpatrick’s son would have celebrated his 21st birthday, the grieving mother erected a roadside memorial in his honor, warning others against the dangers of drunken driving.
The sign went up Wednesday on State Street near Allen Road and Veterans Park in Hampshire.
Kilpatrick regularly will pass the face of her 17-year-old son, Nicholas, which is highlighted in the photo she mounted on the blue memorial sign that reads, “Please don’t drive drunk.”
Nicholas’ siblings will see the road marker every day on their way home from school.
“Yeah, it’s a little painful. You never want to see your kid’s name on a sign like that,” Kilpatrick said. “I think it’s important to bring awareness, and it’s a tribute to him, as well.”
Nicholas was riding his skateboard home from his girlfriend’s house when a drunken driver struck and killed him Sept. 9, 2014.
Justin A. Raven of Wonder Lake pleaded guilty in 2016 to reckless homicide and driving under the influence of alcohol in connection with the fatal crash. He was ordered to serve six months in jail, a sentence Kilpatrick called a slap in her family’s face at the time.
Raven’s attorney previously told the judge that Nicholas was high on marijuana and hydrocodone at the time of the crash.
“He was your typical teenager, but it doesn’t change the fact that Nick was not behind the wheel that night,” Kilpatrick said.
The last time she spoke to her son was over the phone the day he died. Occasionally, Kilpatrick still gets the urge to call him and fill him in on life since his passing.
“I’m grateful the last words I heard Nick say were ‘I love you more than life – best mom in the world,’ ” Kilpatrick said.
Although life hasn’t gotten easier since Nicholas’ death, Kilpatrick has found ways to cope and spread awareness. She now serves as a victim advocate with the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists, where she offers whatever comfort she can to grieving families.
“This is what I’m meant to do with my life, with the life that has been dealt to me,” Kilpatrick said.
There have been other signs since the crash – not memorials, but moments that bring Nicholas to the forefront of Kilpatrick’s mind. A lingering butterfly or a 24-inch northern pike caught on a fishing trip Nicholas would have loved are personal reminders that her son’s memory is alive, Kilpatrick said.
She hopes the roadside memorial will serve as a reminder for the rest of the community.
“As a mom, it’s a fear of mine that people will forget that he existed, and this is just another way to honor him and keep his memory alive,” she said.