Family members pay tribute to crash victim
Rene Welch watched a few of her grandkids in her Kremmling home June 19 while their mother, Rebecca Wilie, made a few deliveries for her job. Wilie spoke to Welch, her mother, when she passed Winter Park on her way to Kremmling.
As Wilie approached Hot Sulphur Springs around 5:30 p.m., a white GMC Acadia traveling east drifted into the other lane, collided with Wilie and killed her.
“It got to be later and later,” Welch said. “I knew something was wrong. Then the coroner came to the door, and I knew.”
Welch texted one of her other daughters, Ariel Guerra, who had company over at her house that night. Welch told Guerra to call her back as soon as possible, but Guerra tried multiple times with no luck. Then Guerra called Wilie, and when Wilie did not answer, she knew something was wrong. With company in her house, Guerra went outside to call her father.
“I was probably outside for like two hours crying,” Guerra said. “I couldn’t go back inside. It was really hard. We didn’t want to break through to the kids.”
That night, Welch also called her other daughter, Elizabeth Lawless. Lawless ignored the first call because she and her husband, Justin, were hiking at Horsetooth Reservoir with unreliable cell service. The couple went to Walmart, and while in the parking lot, Lawless picked up her mom’s second call.
“She told me, and I called my mom a liar probably 37,000 times and told her it’s not a funny joke,” Lawless said. “It’s not okay to lie to me about stuff like that. And then it clicked that it wasn’t April Fools’, but it was real.”
The family started coming to Kremmling this week to prepare for a service honoring Wilie and to support each other. They said Wilie’s smile, singing, humor and loud personality are a few things they will never forget. Lawless also mentioned her love for surprises.
“She would randomly call me and say ‘I’m 30 minutes from your house, get your kids ready, I’m taking him to the aquarium,’” Lawless said. “I’m like, ‘Wait, what? How long are you staying?’ and she’s like, ‘Oh I’ll stay for a couple days.’”
Lawless and Guerra said Wilie played her big sister role well. They recalled one day when they were in elementary school, and their mother was sick while her husband had left early for work. The girls missed the bus to school, and after unsuccessfully trying to wake up Welch, Wilie thought of a plan.
“We knew how to drive a go-kart,” Lawless said. “So (Wilie) stole mom’s van and drove us to school. I think she was 9, and I was 6.”
Guerra remembered a time when a boy bullied her little brother, Seth, and she threw a soda at the bully in retaliation. With his white Denver Broncos jersey now ruined, the boy said he would tell Guerra’s mother what she did.
“Becky comes out acting like she is mom and was like ‘F— you, little kid!” Guerra said. “That kid was like, ‘I’m scared of her mom.’ It wasn’t even my mom, it was my sister.”
Wilie never grew out of her big sister role. After the girls moved away from home, Wilie followed her mom from Grand Junction to Kremmling, separating her from her sisters in Grand Junction and Fort Collins. Lawless and Guerra said Wilie would call two or three times a month to check in with them.
“We (would) just spend three hours catching up on every minute of every day,” Lawless said. “It was like we were always next to each other in a way, even when I was mad at her.”
Lawless said Wilie grew up faster than she and Guerra did. After Welch moved to Kremmling, all three sisters remained in Grand Junction for a while. While Wilie had a three-bedroom apartment, a husband and children, the younger two sisters were “still kind of being kids, and crazy.”
“She took us in,” Lawless said. “She let us live there. She took care of us, fed us. We helped her clean, helped her with the kids, but she made sure that we stayed okay, that we had a roof over our heads.”
While Wilie cared greatly for her siblings, she did not limit her kindness to just them. Her sisters and mother said she was always willing to help anyone in need. Wilie once drove by an accident and got out of her car to help the Colorado State Patrol direct traffic, trying to make sure nobody else would get hurt.
The three women said Wilie seemed to have a special connection with animals. She would rather catch a spider and take it outside than kill it, no matter how much her sisters protested. Although she chased bunnies as a child, she was scared of them in her adult years.
To honor Wilie’s love of animals, the family will release ladybugs at a celebration of life Friday at Doc Ceriani Park Community Park in Kremmling. That celebration will happen immediately after a service for Wilie at 11 a.m. at the Fairgrounds Dance Hall. The family invites anyone who knew her in the community to attend.
Wilie leaves behind four children, ages 5, 12, 13 and 15.
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