NEWTON FALLS - "It's tough, It's hard to imagine this still happened," said Neal Stoner, 50, while sitting in his parents' Newton Falls home - a home that was left empty after the couple was killed in a car crash Saturday.
Kenneth Stoner Sr., 87, and Dolores Stoner, 83, had been on their way to a family graduation party in Pittsburgh, along with their son Kenneth Stoner Jr., 60, and his wife, Pamela Stoner, 60, when the Toyota Camry they were riding in was struck from behind about 3 p.m.
"It was going to be a nice afternoon with family. It turned pretty tragic pretty fast," said Kenneth Jr.
Kenneth and Dolores Stoner of Newton Falls died in a Saturday crash on the way to Pittsburgh.
Special to the Tribune Chronicle
Kenneth Jr. had slowed down at the end of a line of traffic on Interstate 76 in a construction zone, about a mile west of the split with Interstate 80. He said he didn't see anything in his rearview mirror or hear any screeching tires before his car was struck by a Nissan Acura, obliterating his trunk and putting its license plate "in the back window."
Kenneth Jr. said he just sat there for a few seconds, then a couple of young men knocked on his window and ambulances arrived in what seemed like seconds.
He and his wife, who was in the passenger seat, were taken to St. Elizabeth Health Center in Youngstown with non-life threatening injuries and released later Saturday night. Dolores was declared dead minutes after the accident, and Kenneth Sr. passed away Sunday morning at St. Elizabeth's.
According to the patrol, Lynn Berger, 35, of Cranberry Township, Pa., the driver of the Acura, was unable to stop in time and struck the back of the other vehicle. The crash is under investigation and the case has been moved to the prosecutor to determine what charges will be filed.
Kenneth Jr. said his parents were both in the back seat - something he said was not typical. Normally, he said that his father would ride in the passenger seat while the women rode in the back, but this time his father insisted on riding with his mother in the back.
"God must have been watching," Kenneth Jr. said.
He said the two did everything together since being married in 1950. It was unusual to see them apart.
"You know how sometimes it says 'together again' (on obituaries) - they were together forever," Kenneth Jr. said.
In 1956, they moved into a house they built on LeMae Avenue behind the post office in Newton Falls. Here they raised their three sons and enjoyed visits from their seven grandchildren. Kenneth Sr.was retired from Republic Steel, and Dolores had served as financial director for the village for 20 years beginning in the late 1960s.
The couple's devotion to family was known by neighbors and friends alike. George and Donna Rittenour, who live next to the Stoners, said they were the "last of the originals in the neighborhood," and that they often would chat back and forth from each other's front stoops. George Rittenour said he had been at their home Saturday morning to look at photos of Kenneth Sr.'s prized Messerschmitt - a tiny, two-person car that he won in a drawing in 1955 from Century Food Market.
Besides being known by residents in their own neighborhood, Neal said the couple was a constant fixture in his own town in Minster, just West of Lima. They would attend his son's sporting events and the Oktobersfest celebrations that drew crowds of up to 100,000 people, according to Neal.
The family even began their own "StonerFest" at the week-long event, giving Kenneth Sr. an opportunity to show off his Messerschmitt. Neal said the two played along with the pun and enjoyed the company. He said they plan to carry on the family tradition along with Dolores' large collection of Santa paraphernalia that she filled the dining room with for Christmas.
Neighbor Bob Doane said one time he guessed at the number of Santas - part of the family tradition - and said the number was somewhere in the 300s. Doane said he and his wife were close with the Stoners and would visit them almost daily, checking in with the wild bluebirds that Kenneth Sr. cared for in the backyard.
He spoke with their third son Ron after the accident.
"He said, 'I think mom was calling him, saying "get over here,'" Doane said.
Funeral arrangements are being handled by Borowski Funeral Home.
"They'll be hard to forget. I wish everybody was like them," Doane said. "It'd make the world a better place."