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Crash victims mourned in North Fort Myers

Mar. 14, 2013
Memorial Service for Elderly Couple Killed in Cras...
Memorial Service for Elderly Couple Killed in Cras...: Son-in-law Greg Cramer speaks after a memorial service for John & Marilyn Steffen at New Wine Worship Center in North Fort Myers. The Steffens were killed in a car crash with a law enforcement officer. Video by Terry Allen Williams
Emily Cramer, left, cries as she sits with her parents, Kim and Greg Cramer, during the memorial service for John and Marilyn Steffen. Kim Cramer is the daughter of Marilyn, and Emily is her granddaughter. / Terry Allen Williams/
Terry Steffen, here with his wife, Dee, said that his mother loved music and although her children 'couldn't carry a tune if you gave us a bucket,' she'd still prouly watch her kids sing. / Terry Allen Williams/The News-Press


The page with the final hymn Marilyn Steffen played for the congregation at the New Wine Worship Center in North Fort Myers remains open on the organ at the small country church at 541 Evergreen Road.

On Feb. 27, Steffen ended the 7 p.m. service by playing “Won’t It Be Wonderful There?” Three days later Steffen, 77, and her husband, John, 84, were killed when a Lee County Sheriff deputy’s 2008 Crown Victoria crashed into the couple’s 2003 Cadillac DeVille.

Wednesday, family and friends gathered for a memorial service Wednesday and deal with issues connected with the Steffens’ deaths.

That crash remains under investigation by the Florida Highway Patrol. The initial report of the crash on March 3 says the car driven by John Steffen pulled in front of the sheriff’s cruiser driven by Deputy Roberto Torres. Steffen died at the scene and his wife died en route to the hospital. Torres received minor injuries.

Torres returned to active duty Monday after about a week on temporary duty, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office said.

The FHP report also stipulated the sheriff’s cruiser had on emergency lights and was responding to a 911 call. However, a witness, Mark Leissring, of Fort Myers, interviewed by The News-Press, saw a cruiser less than a mile from the crash scene and said it was running without lights or sirens.

Cpl. Jeffrey Rongish from the FHP, homicide investigator for the case, was not available for comment.

Terry Steffen, 57, John and Marilyn’s oldest child, said the family was not looking for retribution.

“We’re not unrealistic, we know things happen,” he said. “Just like (his brother-in-law Greg Cramer) told our attorney, ‘We’re not here to hang some cop out who was just doing his job.’”

“We just want to know what happened,” said Kim Cramer, 46, Greg’s wife and Terry’s sister.

The three were among a handful of Steffen family members who made an overnight trip this week from Pandora in Northwest Ohio, to attend the service.

The family has retained an attorney from Toledo, Chad Tuschman. He was getting more information about the crash.

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“The family is very hopeful and would expect that the corporal investigating this tragedy will conduct a diligent and detailed investigation,” Tuschman said. “The family members are keeping all options on the table so that this type of tragedy never happens again to any other citizen in Lee County.”

The memorial service was at New Wine Worship Center, where the Steffens were headed the Sunday of the crash.

Pastor Grover Barron III and his wife, Debbie, could not say enough about the Steffens, especially how they were eager to help in any situation.

“John was a great guy. He always had a smile and he was always in Sunday school,” Barron said. “He was a quiet man, but John would do anything for the church.”

John Steffen had just picked up a hearing aid, she said, which made Marilyn Steffen ecstatic.

“Marilyn said at the ladies club that thank God John got them so she didn’t have to shout anymore.”

Terry Steffen said his mother loved to play the organ and had done so as long as he could remember. She’d bring him and his sisters to their small Pentecostal church in nearby Gilboa every Sunday.

“She made us sing, and we couldn’t carry a tune if you gave us a bucket, but she’d be up at the organ beaming ,” he said.

Barron became emotional talking about the Steffens, members of the church for 24 years — the longest-tenured members — and the crash .

“We kept waiting for them. They liked to come early and play the organ,” he said. “I was dumbfounded. It still hurts.”

Connect with this reporter: MichaelBraunNP (Facebook) @MichaelBraunNP (Twitter)

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