April 30, 2014

‘This couple was truly meant for each other’

College coach still in intensive care, services for his late fiancee are Friday

Rachel Brown

— With memories of her wreck in which no one immediately came to her aid, the middle-aged woman bent inside the smashed Lexus on the side of the wet interstate. She joined the hands of the young couple who sat battered in the front seats.

He had severe head injuries and broken bones. She was believed to have already died.

“Our father, which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name ...” the woman began praying.

She didn’t know then they planned to marry this weekend.

That woman, a witness family members know only as Laura, was an “angel” to Dalton State College assistant basketball coach John Redman and his fiancee, City Park School teacher aide Brittany Huber, said Redman’s mother, Susie Kirk.

Huber was killed and Redman was severely injured during the one-vehicle crash Monday evening on I-85 in Meriwether County, about 40 miles south of Atlanta. Investigators said Redman lost control of the vehicle and crashed.

“She is just an angel with wings, that’s all I can tell you,” Kirk said of Laura, who visited the family at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. “To hear her story today and what she did for John and to be there to help ... words can’t tell you how I think she will be a part of our family the rest of our lives.”

On Wednesday night, Kirk said her son is “stable and comfortable” but still unconscious and badly injured in intensive care at Grady Memorial Hospital. Huber’s stepmother, Lori Huber, said the family has planned visitation for 5 p.m. central time at Spring Hill Baptist Church in Mobile, Ala., on Friday. A funeral service will follow at 6 p.m.

Huber was to have her wedding there this weekend.

Both mothers said they have been touched by the Dalton community’s outpouring of support and sympathy since the wreck. Huber and Redman met a few years ago when Redman was a coach on Huber’s brother’s basketball team at Spring Hill College. The two became friends on Facebook, and soon began dating.

“This couple was truly meant for each other,” Lori Huber said.

‘Who I want in my classroom’

Huber, 25, and Redman, 23, had been engaged since June 2013. She already had a finance degree but she had began taking art classes. She hoped to eventually finish her degree and become an art teacher. She created crosses and crowns and advertised her work on Etsy. As a teenager, she attended a private college preparatory school, St. Paul’s Episcopal, and was a cheerleader. Despite having a hearing impairment, Huber had no need to take special education classes. After graduation, Huber returned to the school to teach art classes at a summer camp.

When Redman accepted an assistant coaching job to help kick off Dalton State’s new basketball team in 2013, Huber began looking for a job and followed her love to Dalton. She became a kindergarten teacher’s assistant at City Park School.

During her job interview last fall, Huber mentioned she was interested in eventually becoming a teacher, Principal Rick Little said. He learned during then that she read lips because of a hearing impairment.

“A lot of hearing impaired folks you have to be in face-to-face contact with them, but with her, she always picked up everything you said,” Little said. “It’s not like you had to be looking directly at her to make that contact, which is very unusual.”

By the time the interview was over, the first-year teacher Huber would soon be working with was sold.

“She was so excited,” Little said of the teacher. “She said, ‘That’s who I want in my classroom.’”

Huber loved working with the young students, Lori Huber said. At City Park, counselors and administrators met with the class on Tuesday and explained that she wouldn’t be coming back. The students had seen her only the day before since she worked before leaving with Redman for their wedding week. They were on their way to Mobile, Ala. Both Redman and Huber are from the Mobile area. Little said the reality of the situation probably still hasn’t sunk in for most students. Teachers are having a hard time grappling with it themselves, he said.

“She had just been with us since November, so everybody was just getting to know her really well,” he said. “But she made a real impact on the staff here with her positive attitude and just always smiling and how she approached her job.”

Faculty and staff at the school are discussing possibly setting up a scholarship in her honor.

About a week ago, Redman had come to the school to have lunch with Huber. Many talked about how much in love they were and how excited Huber was about the wedding.

On social media, Huber referred often to God’s plans for her life. Her faith was strong and she and Redman had visited at least one church in Dalton, Lori Huber said. They were deciding where they wanted to settle in.

Huber leaves behind a brother, Michael Huber; sister, Gretchen Hall; biological mother, Margaret Hall; father, Mike Huber; and stepmother Lori Huber.

‘Just like a son’

Dalton State head basketball coach Tony Ingle rushed to the hospital when he heard his almost 24-year-old assistant was injured in the wreck. Ingle was there waiting for him by the time he arrived in intensive care.

“He’s just like a son,” Ingle said. “It’s more than just a coach and assistant coach. I just love him.”

As of late Wednesday, Redman remained on a respirator, and doctors were continuing to monitor a serious head injury.

Ingle said he and Redman have been the two-man leadership for the basketball program, which went 26-4 this past season. He said Redman is “highly organized,” “very personable,” and “just like a sponge picking up and learning as much as he can.”

“I don’t know if he’s got a weakness, to be honest with you,” Ingle said.

Kirk said doctors inserted a feeding tube into Redman. He remained heavily sedated but is not in a coma, she said. He can wiggle his toes and fingers. Doctors didn’t know Wednesday what kind of lasting damage, if any, the wreck had caused.

Kirk said she still feels overwhelmed at losing Huber and at her son’s tragic injuries. She struggled for words to adequately express how deeply she appreciated the Ingles being there for Redman while she and other family members worked to catch a plane from their home in Texas.

“I was going to get in my car and drive, but he just kept me informed on everything that happened,” she said of Coach Ingle. “They were here before John was even admitted to the ICU room ... John had so much love right here at this hospital ... That just makes me feel really proud. I feel indebted to them.”

Kirk said she feels indebted to Laura, too. Laura told the family she also helped get the couple’s little white dog, Paige, which was trapped under the steering column and injured from shattered glass, to a veterinarian.

When Laura was in a severe car wreck several years ago, stranger after stranger passed by her when she needed help, Kirk said. Those memories came rushing back when Laura saw the Lexus slam into the concrete wall as she came from the opposite direction. She quickly turned her vehicle around and went to them.

“She said she just knew on that day and at that time she was supposed to be headed that direction and she was there to help Brittany and to help John,” Kirk said.

Georgia State Patrol spokesman Tracey Watson said a specialized collision reconstruction team will recreate the wreck over the next several weeks to determine exactly what happened.

“(Redman) driving too fast for conditions is the primary contributing factor,” Watson said.

Information on how fast Redman was driving wasn’t immediately available. Officials have said the road was wet at the time of the crash, but the wreck isn’t weather-related.

Dalton State Athletic Director Derek Waugh said more than a dozen family and friends were at the hospital supporting Redman and one another. He and Ingle asked for prayers for both families. College officials said counselors are available to help students deal with the tragedy, and Waugh said athletes are supporting one another, but their main concern is for their family rather than themselves.

“This is by far the most tragic thing that has happened to our young athletic department,” he said.

It’s a tragedy family members hope Redman will be able to physically recover from. They say they’re grateful for the community’s outpouring of support — and for the support of Laura and her kindness and prayer.

“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from all evil,” Laura prayed on Monday as she joined the couple’s hands to one another. “For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory for ever and ever. Amen.”