La Verne Magazine
by Julia Carachure
photography by Denisse Villalba and Veero Der-Karabetian
photo by Denisse Villalba
Still spiritually linked with the daughter they lost, Elaine
and Frank Sr. were able to locate her senior graduation pictures, taken
in August 1992. None were ordered at the time because Kelly did not like
them. Brother Frank Jr., a student at Mount San Antonio College in 1992,
came to the University of La Verne in 1996 to start a degree in computer
December is a time to celebrate the holidays; a time to relax and be
with your family after enduring final exams. For most people, it is a time
to be grateful for the things that you have in life and to appreciate them
with your loved ones.
For one family, all of that changed on Dec.12, 1992, into a time of
shock, mourning and disbelief. That year, University of La Verne senior
marketing major Kelly Salamone died at the hands of a drunk driver, when
he struck her car with his pickup truck while running a red light. She was
only 21 years old.
On that day, Kelly's evening had consisted of going out with three of
her sorority sisters from Sigma Kappa-Sara Lester, Marlene Alcantar and
Kim Stachniak to TGI Fridays for dinner. After their meal, the girls headed
to Sara's dorm room in the Oaks and spent the rest of the night talking
until about 1 a.m.
"She hugged me, and then she got in her car and waved and drove
away," says Lester. "I went back to my room, and I just started
studying for finals. It was like almost 2 a.m. I had gotten ready to go
to bed, and my phone rang, and it was Kim, and she's at home, and she said,
'You know Sara, I am really worried. I called Kelly's house, and she is
not home yet.' And I'm like, 'What are you talking about?' and she said,
'Well, Marlene and I were driving home-I saw a car that looked like Kelly's
car.'" It was then that Kim told Sara that there had been a car accident
on Foothill and D Street, and she was not sure whether Kelly had been involved.
Meanwhile, less than 20 minutes away, the Salamones were sleeping soundly
in their beds. The phone call came after 2 a.m.; the phone ringing incessantly
from Kelly's room. They were not pleased with the phone ringing so late
at night. They thought it was one of Kelly's friends who had forgotten about
not calling Kelly late at night asking for her. "Doggone her, I have
told people, 'Do not call us that late at night.' By then, she actually
had her own phone, but you could hear it because the bedrooms are right
across. So it rang and rang and rang," Frank Salamone Sr., remembers
what he was thinking as the phone kept ringing. He got up and unhooked the
phone, only to be convinced by his wife Elaine to plug the phone back in
case someone was trying to reach Kelly. Once he put the phone back in, it
began to ring once again. This time, Elaine was the one who picked up the
Concerned about Kelly, Sara informed the parents that Kelly was on her
way home. She told them that there had been a terrible car accident, but
that it did not look like Kelly's car had been involved. Instantly, her
mother said that she was pretty sure that it was Kelly's car involved because
she would have been home by that time since the family lived close to the
The minute they knew about the situation at hand, her father drove to
the accident scene right away to confirm if it had, indeed, been Kelly who
had been hurt. The police did not allow anyone to go anywhere near the car
that was thought to be Kelly's.
As he was approaching the car, two officers immediately stopped him.
Yelling and hysterical, he tried to explain that his daughter's car was
involved. A sergeant then approached him, and Frank Sr. told the officer,
"Just let me know, Kelly Salamone is my daughter's name; was it Kelly's
car, was it Kelly's car?" At first, the sergeant insisted that he could
not say anything, and both officers were still holding Frank Sr. Finally,
he nodded his head "yes," confirming that it was indeed Kelly's
car. "All I want to know is where is she?" he asked. The sergeant
then informed him that paramedics had taken her to Pomona Valley Hospital.
He went straight to the hospital. When he got there, he immediately
went to the front desk and informed the desk attendants that he was Kelly
Salamone's father and asked whether she was there. Looking at one another,
they informed him that she was there and asked for his insurance card. He
told the attendants, "Take whatever you want; I want to see my daughter,"
he recalls. "They took the information, and then this doctor took me
in this little room, and I'm thinking 'OK, there's a bunch of people out
there, and he took me to here.' "
The doctor then closed the door behind them. The doctor just stood there,
stumbling to find words. It finally occurred to Frank Sr. that Kelly had
died. After regaining his composure, the doctor informed him that he needed
the rest of the family to come to the hospital.
A desk attendant dialed the family's phone number and handed the phone
to him. By then, it was 2:30 a.m., and he told his wife and son to come
to the hospital. When they arrived, they also called Kim and Marlene and
Kelly's boyfriend Jeff Kelly, whom she had been dating for two and a half
years and whom the family knew would have eventually become Kelly's husband.
When Elaine and their son Frank Jr. arrived at the hospital, they were
taken to a small room with Frank Sr. Twenty minutes later, the family came
out of the room and told the girls that Kelly was gone. They broke down
and began to cry as Jeff ran inside the hospital to find out what happened.
When he saw them, he broke down and cried along with them.
While they were gathered at the hospital, the Salamones kept asking
the doctors whether they could see her, only to be told that they could
not because Kelly had to be seen by the coroner in Los Angeles first to
perform an autopsy. Another reason they were not allowed to see her was
partly due to the fact that, at the time, she was not in good condition
Sara still remembers how she felt the next day, and how everyone was
dealing with Kelly's death. She describes what she did that weekend. "The
next day, I woke up, and I am like, 'There is no way; this just seems like
a dream.' I woke up late, it was like around 9 or 10 a.m. I was so numb;
I just stayed at their house the whole day and that night and Sunday. I
just went over there and stayed with them at their house, and we all just
sat there in silence on the couch; we just needed to be together. We didn't
know how to deal with it."
Jeff still remembers how he felt after Kelly died. "Pain was the
only reality there was, and then after the pain was anger and after the
anger there was probably feeling sorry for myself."
Another call that needed to be made as well was calling another close
friend of Kelly's, Cathy Fleischer (now Cathy Plante), who was studying
at the time abroad in England. Cathy recalls that it was around 3 a.m. in
England when she received the call from another close friend Eileen Andrade.
"I remember like it was yesterday," says Plante. She paused. "I
was sleeping, and there was only one telephone. I ran upstairs in my jammies,
took the phone, not having any clue what the phone call was about, and I
was [still] half asleep. Maybe it was a friend, I didn't think about it."
It was Eileen, calling to inform her that Kelly had died. Cathy remembers
how she felt that night. "I just sat on the phone; I don't even think
I said anything. And then, probably after about 10 seconds, I really realized,
'Oh my gosh, what just happened?' I couldn't believe it." Cathy remembers
vaguely that she screamed once the realization hit her.
Meanwhile, for the Salamones, the wait to see their daughter was agonizing.
It was five days later that she was released to Custer Christiansen Mortuary
in Glendora after being examined by the L.A. Coroner. Since they had not
seen her, Frank Sr. made the mortuary officials promise him that Kelly would
look nice. So they quickly went to work, and, in the end, she did. Two days
later, Kelly was laid out, and a rosary was held in her honor at St. Dorothy's
At the rosary, not a single pew was empty. Attendants had to resort
to either standing in the aisles, in the back of the church or outside.
People kept coming in to support the Salamones and to honor Kelly. The family
was there for more than two and a half hours, long after the rosary was
over because people were constantly coming in, whether they were Kelly's
friends or people who knew the family. The funeral took place the very next
At the funeral, Frank Sr. stopped counting at about 125 cars since so
many people were showing up. More than 800 people in total arrived. It was
during the mass that he started thinking about his children getting married,
especially his only daughter. "And as we're walking down the aisle,
behind the casket, the pallbearers, it occurs to me that I am wearing a
white boutonniere-and I am thinking in my mind and walking down the aisle-and
it occurs to me this is the last time I am ever going to walk her down the
Prior to her death, Kelly had been working part time at the Olive Garden
in Montclair. Her manager called her family and offered to cater the gathering
that was taking place after the funeral. No one had any idea how many people
would be there, so they just kept bringing food inside. St. Dorothy's Church
also volunteered by bringing in chairs and tables for everyone in attendance.
"It was the weirdest feeling, walking into a house after the funeral
and feeling like a stranger in my house. It was just an awful feeling; it
was eerie," says Elaine, quietly describing the way she felt after
Many anti-drinking groups approached them to use Kelly's death to promote
the consequences of drunk driving, but, naturally, they declined. "We
were numb," says Elaine in regard to when these groups approached the
family. By the time all the arrangements for Kelly were done, it was Christmas
Frank Sr. remembers with clarity what that was like. "That was
a very strange year. We had Christmas Eve with Elaine's family, and we went
to Christmas with my family, but it was like we were going through the motions.
It's like we knew why, and it was strange."
All of this fell at the hands of Gary Southworth, the former fourth
grade teacher who was responsible for Kelly's death. In January 1993, the
criminal trial began, and some time later the civil case against him started.
He ended up serving a year in county jail. "He was just washing the
cars, things like that, at a police station," says Elaine, not pleased
that he got off so easily.
"It basically came down to this: He wasn't speeding; they did a
telemetry track to figure out what had happened, and how fast he was going.
He was going the speed limit; he was going 40 miles an hour. He never saw
the light; he never saw her, so he hit her at a flat 40 miles an hour as
she was starting to come out of the intersection," Frank Sr. recalls
regarding the facts of the accident. "He never put the brakes on,"
adds Elaine calmly.
Sara recalls how she felt when she saw Southworth walking around. "It
blew my mind because typically you'd think it would be a college student
out there drinking. And when I found out that he was a teacher, I couldn't
believe because I am a teacher myself, and I was becoming a teacher at the
time. That was my goal. I just wanted to, not kill him, but wanted to go
and just scream and yell and just shake him, and it really angered me because
his school district supported him."
While the civil trial was taking place, nobody left Frank Sr.'s side.
Someone was always there to keep an eye on him in case he tried to hurt
Southworth. Looking back, Frank Sr. is grateful of that. "The feelings
were very raw; you go through a whole variety of things where you see somebody
like that, this pompous idiot standing there like a know-it-all professor.
What a jerk, what a jerk," he says, thinking about the feelings he
had toward Southworth.
Later on, when they looked at the police transcripts, the Salamones
found out as well that Southworth was drunk to the point where he thought
that the person he hit was a little hurt, but otherwise OK. When he was
told that the young woman inside the car was dead, he fell apart and stopped
talking. He was later taken away by the police.
Kelly was one semester away from graduating from the University of La
Verne. University President Stephen Morgan told the Salamones before the
first vigil held for her that he would present Kelly's diploma at graduation.
He proceeded to explain what was going to take place at the ceremony.
The Salamones attended her graduation, where they were presented with
her diploma. A small ceremony took place, and five seconds into his speech,
President Morgan stopped speaking; he couldn't go on, and proceeded to give
the Salamone family her posthumous diploma. The commencement crowd was emotional
once they saw what happened. Her degree is now displayed on the parents'
wall at home as a reminder that she did indeed graduate.
About a year after Kelly passed away, Elaine was made an honorary member
of Sigma Kappa. But she did not do this alone. Sara's mother joined with
her so she would have someone learning about Sigma Kappa along with her.
She was taught everything that the sorority knows and does. For the first
couple of years, she helped with some of the events that Sigma Kappa promotes.
For many families, losing a child is never an easy thing to go through.
But for the Salamones, life went on for them, although it was not easy at
first. Through the years, the Salamones have demonstrated that they are
proof that life does go on long after a loved one dies. After some time,
Elaine became a member of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), and she
went back to work. She is currently working at Glendora Trophy, which specializes
in engraving. Her husband, on the other hand, has been volunteering his
time on and off to Boy Scouts and helping with retreats. Attending a bereavement
group also helped them deal with what happened to their daughter.
"This year it will be eight years. It took us a few Christmases
to make it Christmas again," Frank Sr. says. "But we are getting
there." The Salamones have also learned some lessons over the years.
Not everything is as big a deal as it normally would have been before the
accident. "It sure makes you stop and think about life in general.
Some things aren't as major as they would have been before this major catastrophe,"
says Elaine. "Life is too short to worry about every little thing,"
answers Frank Sr.
So what has been the thing that has kept them going? The answer: Their
faith and the idea that Kelly is watching over them. "I know that more
than once she has slapped me upside the head when I got a little full of
myself" Frank Sr. recalls, laughing. They realized that their faith
kept them going when the priest that performed the funeral pointed that
out to them.
Frank Sr. recalls what the priest said to them. "He said, 'You
know your faith is wondrous,' and we both looked at each other, and he said,
'Do you know,' he said, 'how many couples, younger and older, who have lost
children come in here totally dead and so disoriented and just out there
somewhere where they couldn't deal with it at all?' He said, 'You know that
is a testimony of your faith,' and that is what it is, it's how we are right
"I never once questioned God as to why," says Elaine. "People
said both, 'Do you still believe? Aren't you bitter?' and I said, 'You know,
I never questioned God.' I never questioned Him; I think the only question
I had for God is that He could have given her a few [more] years down here,"
Frank Sr. adds.
Kelly's brother, Frank Jr., has also had his view of life changed as
well. He is more cautious about drinking, and it bothers him whenever someone
talks about driving home drunk, especially since that is why his sister
died. "I don't think people understand it, until it happens actually,
how serious it is," he says.
The Salamones have learned something else through their bereavement
group. "The hardest thing in the world to lose is a child and after
about a month and a half, two months, the hardest thing in the world is
to lose somebody you love, period. And it's like you have to deal with it
on your own terms, no matter how many pills you take, no matter how many
doctors you go to-somewhere you have to sit down and make the decision,"
says Frank Sr.
While the Salamones still miss Kelly, Frank Sr. says that when he sees
a young woman, he is reminded of Kelly. "Seeing a young woman in a
business suit marching off to do battle with the business world or a young
mom with her kids going to a community church" jolts him forward to
what Kelly could have done with her life.
The Salamones are not concerned about Southworth anymore. Frank Sr.
recalls what family members have said to them. "For years the family
said, 'You know, we happen to know people who know him and know where he
lives and what he's doing,' and I said, 'You, know, I am done with that
man,' every now and then when, I get really depressed, then I think about,
'Well you know, once everybody is grown up and out of the house, and I don't
have any problems, you have to consider this again,' and it's like, you're
raising a doubt, and he's not worth it; he really isn't. I have to believe
that the good Lord takes care of everybody," he laughs. "When
he hits the gate, he's going to have to answer to life, so we just do what
we need to do." While talking about Southworth, he looks at his wife
and reaches out to touch her arm to see if she is OK. She only nods, indicating
that she is fine.
Kelly has left her legacy with everyone who knew her. When Frank Sr.
describes his daughter, he says that she was someone who could not be contained.
"She didn't lack energy, that was for sure," he laughs, remembering
her. "She was a go-getter, one of those people that got along with
everybody. She was a total Italian; you didn't stand in her way." Kelly
was also an inspiration to others. "She was a good example. She was
so organized and put together, you could rely on her," says Cathy.
Friends and family remember her as a very feminine girl who put plenty
of effort to look her very best. "She was very feminine and put a lot
of time in the way she looked. In some ways, she was very high maintenance,"
says Jeff. Eileen recalls the time when it was Jeff's birthday, and Kelly
looked her very best. Jeff was so stunned with how she looked that when
he went to hug her, Kelly told him not to wrinkle her clothes.
ULV also has not forgotten Kelly. Friends and family, along with University
Relations, set up a memorial scholarship that is awarded each year to a
deserving student. The requirements to qualify include being a female business
major in her senior year with an emphasis in marketing and a 3.0 grade point
average. A tree was also planted in her honor near Founders Hall.
Kelly's memory is still honored by her sorority. A candlelight vigil
is held for her every year. "Oftentimes, we think that drunk driving
happens, and you don't know the people who are involved, so it's not important
to you; you don't take it into consideration until it happens close to home.
So we try to put it at a real-life level; it's happened to someone who was
at this school, and even though a lot of us don't know her, we still feel
through educating our members and people on campus that we got to know how
much of a special person she was, and how drunk driving took her away, and
that it happens to many other people," says current Sigma Kappa President
In addition to that, Sigma Kappa also has a program called Alcohol 101
to teach their members about the pitfalls of drunk driving. They have a
designated sister program, which has people acting as designated drivers.
Sigma Kappa also has a memory book on Kelly, which is updated often. The
book includes pictures of Kelly and articles that have been written about
her. It is always present at the vigil, which takes place at the tree that
was planted in her honor, near the University Seal.
This year, the vigil will be held in the spring. A song is traditionally
sung, entitled "Pass It On." The vigil is a "way for us to
know Kelly, to experience her without her being here," Gardner says.
"They tell us funny stories like her being pushed into a pool at a
party." Sara comes to the vigil yearly to share stories about Kelly.
"As time goes by, the girls don't know; none of them have met her;
none of the girls even knew who she was, and so basically for me, it's a
way of telling the girls about who she was, and why she's so special, and
why it means so much to us that they keep her memory alive."
Her spirit is still present throughout the University in many ways,
from her sorority sisters and through the personal memories of friends and
family. She was indeed an example to everyone that one should live life
to the fullest. It has been evident that she did that during her brief life.
She may not be here in body, but her spirit is still here, and if one
looks around long enough, she may see her as an angel guarding her loved
ones from above, wherever they are, with a smile on her face.
photo by Veero Der-Karabetian
Kelly Young (far left) and Sara Lindsey look through a
photo album brought by the Salamones to the annual Sigma Kappa candlelight