Memorial signs urge driving without drugs, drink

A pair of memorial signs being unveiled Friday won’t bring back a 47-year-old Bonney Lake father killed by a repeat drunken driver, but his family hopes they will remind passers-by that tragedy can strike anybody.

Gary Slick was walking along 214th Avenue East to pick up his vehicle from a nearby tire shop on Aug. 11, 2012, when a pickup truck ran him down. The impaired driver, James Southard Jr., was sentenced in November to 27 years in prison. It was his second vehicular homicide conviction in 13 years.

After sitting through some of the court hearings, Slick’s sister, Kathy DePiro, asked that a sign be erected in Slick’s honor urging people not to do drugs and drive. She will attend Friday’s unveiling ceremony.

“I want everybody to know about the accident,” DePiro said. “I want people to think twice when they get in the car drinking or doing drugs. I want people to think twice that this could happen to anybody.”

The signs will join dozens of others throughout Pierce County erected in remembrance of people killed by impaired drivers. The Tacoma-Pierce County DUI Victims Panel, which puts on speaking panels for court-ordered defendants, pays for the signs with fees collected from the defendants.

Not every DUI victim gets a sign – it must be requested by the family.

An exact count of memorial signs wasn’t immediately available. Officials said the number constantly changes because signs are vandalized or knocked over.

“They’re a reminder of the extreme human cost associated with DUI,” said Gloria Mansfield Averill, DUI and traffic safety coordinator for Pierce County’s Community Connections.

Although there still are many alcohol-related deaths on Pierce County roads, officials said there was a 42 percent drop from 2006 to 2012. There were 68 fatalities due to impaired driving from 2006 to 2008, and 35 from 2010 to 2012, Mansfield Averill said.

Friday’s sign unveiling will be paired with an emphasis patrol Saturday night in Bonney Lake. It will bring in dozens of law enforcement officers from surrounding agencies, including six drug-recognition experts.

Officials also will carry out the Home Safe Bar program, which sends representatives to establishments where drunken drivers came from to educate on-site bartenders.

The irony that Slick hadn’t had an alcoholic drink for about 18 years isn’t lost on his family, which includes a son, 22, and two daughters, 20 and 25. Slick was always the designated driver for his friends and family members and rarely was seen sipping anything but Coca-Cola. After her brother’s death, DePiro switched from diet soda to Coca-Cola as a way to keep him in her thoughts.

She described Slick as a happy-go-lucky man and devoted father who coached youth sports teams, loved watching NASCAR racing and spent his spare time snowmobiling and riding ATVs. He was a construction worker and was active in his church, sometimes going to disaster areas such as ground zero in New York to volunteer.

“He was absolutely wonderful,” DePiro said. “His infectious smile and his positive attitude drew people to him.”

unveiling ceremony

Memorial signs for Gary Slick will be unveiled at 3 p.m. Friday on 214th Avenue East near state Route 410.