Relatives struggle to understand highway deaths of mother, son 1 week apart

OLD TOWN — The family of a LaGrange woman and her adult son are struggling to understand their deaths, which occurred one week apart along the same stretch of of Route 16 in Alton.

Dozens of family and friends gathered Sunday morning to celebrate the life and legacy of Robin Gardner, 63, at New Life Church and cafe in downtown Old Town — the place she was driving to when she was killed the day after Thanksgiving. One week later, her son, Alex Gardner, 35, who also lived in LaGrange, was killed on the same road when his car hit a tree.

One of Robin Gardner’s daughters, 30-year-old Rev. Brooke Gardner, led her mother’s memorial service on Sunday. She is the lead pastor at the church, adjacent to the cafe, which she also manages.

In mentioning how she was preparing for her mother’s memorial earlier in the week, Brooke told nearly 150 gathered at the service “with the passing of my brother three days ago, it blew all my plans up.”

“You make plans and sometimes things don’t work out the way you think they will,” she said tearfully. “I don’t understand these things, but I know God can make something beautiful out of this.”

Robin, 63, was struck and killed by a relative in a car crash on the morning of Nov. 24 in Alton. Tyler Creighton, 25, the half-brother of Gardner’s son-in-law, was driving the other car. Creighton was on his way home from a methadone clinic and might have had marijuana in his system, according to law enforcement. He later admitted to texting at the time of the accident.

Creighton is facing charges of manslaughter, driving to endanger, and violating conditions of release from an Oct. 23 OUI charge in Piscataquis County, officials have said.

Robin Gardner was on her way to open the cafe on the morning of her death.

“You could not ask for a nicer family,” a family friend who didn’t want to be named said on the sidewalk outside the cafe Sunday morning. She said Robin was the kind of person who would give a stranger her coat if they were cold.

“And they were so close,” she said of Alex and Robin. “They always had been.”

Less than a week after Robin’s death, her son, Alex was killed late Thursday night when when his car struck a tree less than a mile from the site of his mother’s accident on Route 16, also known as Bennoch Road. He was found in the driver’s seat of his pickup truck around 9:30 a.m. Friday. Police, who are still investigating the crash, believe he was traveling at a high speed.

Brooke and her sister, Celeste Creighton, told a local news station Saturday that they believe their brother’s accident was intentional.

“I thought he would make it through, but he couldn’t, he just couldn’t do it,” Brooke told NBC affiliate WLBZ. “He wouldn’t have done that just to do it, he just missed her so much, it was unbearable.”

“He couldn’t comprehend that he was not there to protect my mom,” Brooke said. “I thought he would make it through this and he couldn’t do it.”

While the focus Sunday morning was on Robin, mentions of Alex were peppered throughout the memorial service.

“I’ll never forget my mom and what she instilled in me,” Brooke said. “She instilled her strength, [and] what it meant to be a mom, not just to me to but to her community. That was mom’s legacy. She’s with her son now.”

Teary, Brooke said, “I’ll talk about my brother and who he was next week.”

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