Audubon officer dies in car wreck

"Photo: Audubon speaker Joan Roberts was driving this 1985 Ford station wagon when it hit a pickup (background) at Highway 525 and Bayview Road. She died in the accident. In the background, Trooper Larsen measures skid marks.Jim Larsen/staff photoAn officer in the Whidbey Island Audubon Society who was to speak to a South Whidbey group Monday afternoon died that morning in a traffic accident at Highway 525 and Bayview Road.Joan Roberts, 75, was killed as she tried to turn left onto Bayview Road, which has two entrances onto Highway 525. She tried to turn at the southerly entrance where there is no left turn lane.According to State Patrol Trooper Larsen, the southbound Roberts was trying to turn left in her 1985 Ford LTD station wagon. Her car was struck by a northbound 1971 Chevrolet pickup driven by Gregory Schweer, 52, of Freeland.“It looked like a failure-to-yield right-of-way situation,” said Larsen, emphasizing that the investigation is continuing. It was raining heavily shortly after the accident, but apparently not at the time it occurred at about 7:50 a.m.Highway traffic was detoured around the accident site until approximately noon.Both vehicles were totaled, with extensive front-end damage. Roberts was pronounced dead at 9:05 a.m. at Whidbey General Hospital. She had been wearing a seatbelt.Scheer was admitted to the hospital with injuries to both knees and a laceration to the head. He was not wearing a seatbelt.Although the State Patrol cited internal injuries as the cause of Roberts’ death, Island County Coroner Dr. Robert Bishop didn’t immediately concur. “There’s no obvious trauma,” he said Tuesday morning. An autopsy was scheduled for later that day.Bruce Roberts, Joan’s husband, said his wife had an early appointment in Langley, and later was to appear at a Friends of the Langley Library meeting to talk about eagles. Mrs. Roberts, vice president of the Whidbey Audubon Society, was a biologist and ornithologist and former college teacher. She taught at Andrews University in Michigan, the Omak branch of Wenatchee Valley Community College, and for a short time at the Whidbey Campus of Skagit Valley College in Oak Harbor.Steve Ellis, president of the Whidbey Audubon Society, said Roberts will be hard to replace as a representative in the community.“She added that touch of science to our group,” Ellis said, adding that Roberts had a Ph.D. in zoology. “She represented our chapter and was able to speak with authority.”But more than just extensive knowledge, Roberts brought a warm teaching style to Audubon meetings and as a guest speaker. “She always used humor, she was friendly and caring. She must have been a great college teacher,” Ellis said.Bruce Roberts said he and Joan moved to Oak Harbor four years ago to be near a son who lives in Anacortes. He was notified of his wife’s death at 11 a.m. Monday by the coroner.Mr. Roberts said his wife attended Audubon meetings in both Coupeville and Freeland, “but didn’t go to the south very much.”A crowd of 21 people interested in birds had gathered to hear Roberts’ presentation at the Langley Library, not knowing what had happened that morning.Program director Peggy Foster said they waited for about five minutes. When no one appeared, local author Susan Zwinger, who was in the audience, was asked to present a program.Once Zwinger began, Foster called the Roberts home to ask what had happened. “It was a shock,” Foster said. “I was speechless.”Bruce Roberts said there will be no funeral services. A memorial service will probably be held at the Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Oak Harbor. No date had been set as of Tuesday."

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