2018-08-02 / Front Page

Laker lost, but fondly remembered

Accident in Benzie County
By Amy Hubbell
Of The Enterprise staff


A SISTER’S love. Spencer Carpenter, left, is leading a charge to improve safety at the intersection in Benzie County where her sister, Payton, was killed last week. A SISTER’S love. Spencer Carpenter, left, is leading a charge to improve safety at the intersection in Benzie County where her sister, Payton, was killed last week. Spencer Carpenter doesn’t want her sister, Payton, to be forgotten.

A memorial service was held yesterday at Glen Lake School for Payton, a 2017 Laker graduate who was killed in a two-car crash last Thursday near Lake Ann.

“They were heading north to Cedar to meet a friend and hang out,” Carpenter said.

Payton was driving northbound on Reynolds Road about 5 p.m. with her friend, 19-year-old Lydia Drzewiecki, when her car was struck by an eastbound vehicle driven by Tristen Clay, 21, of Lake Ann.

Clay, according to police reports, failed to stop at the intersection where Reynolds meets Cedar Run Road as marked. He was also killed.

Drzewiecki suffered non-life threatening injuries and spent several days in the hospital before her release this week.

Payton and Clay’s deaths are not the first caused by accidents at the intersection. Another young person was killed in December 2008.

Carpenter, whose determination is fueled by her grief, has dedicated herself to seeing that something get done at the intersection.

She took her message to social media and local television news broadcasts, from which she’s gained support for the cause.

Carpenter plans to attend the Aug. 9 meeting of the Benzie County Road Commission to make the case for improvements.

“I’m not doing this for me,” Carpenter said. “I’m doing this for Payton. I don’t want anyone to go through what our family has.”

The Carpenter girls attended Glen Lake as School of Choice students.

Payton and her friend, Lydia, were members of the Laker girls softball team. Payton is remembered fondly by coach Gary Galla of Cedar.

“She was our DH (designated hitter) and had a great temperament,” Galla said. “She was a jokester who wasn’t afraid to tell you how it was.”

Kelly Bunek, a softball standout at Glen Lake, remembers good times with her teammate.

“There was never a dull moment with Payton,” she said. “I’ll remember her laugh, her wit and her spunk.”

Payton attended Grand Valley State University last year, following in her sister’s footsteps, pursuing a career in nursing.

“She wanted to be an ER trauma nurse,” Carpenter said.

Payton worked as a certified nursing assistant at the Grand Traverse Pavilions and was planning to transfer this fall to Olivet Nazarene College in Chicago.

That is where Carpenter lived until just a few months ago.

“I had a job lined up in Chicago, but a week before I was going to start, I didn’t feel peace of mind with that decision,” she said. “I was looking at positions in Florida and Colorado, but decided to re-evaluate where I was going.”

Carpenter decided to come home to northern Michigan and family, which includes her parents, Damon and Jamie, as well as Jodie and John Dodson of Glen Arbor, her aunt and uncle.

“Everything fell into place,” she said. “I was meant to be here for the last couple months of my sister’s life.”

The Carpenters have received support from the Glen Lake School community, from the Lake Ann community where they live, and from total strangers who have reached out with condolences and financial support.

Ron and Tina Drzewiecki, whose daughter was injured in the crash, have set up a GoFundMe account in Payton’s memory with a fundraising goal of $9,000.

As of press time yesterday, $2,290 had been raised in 17 hours.

“The support has been overwhelming,” Carpenter said.

Yesterday friends and family said goodbye to Payton. But they have many memories to carry on.

“I want people to remember her sense of humor; her tender heart and her bravery to stand up bullies and call them out when she saw something that wasn’t right,” Carpenter said.

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