Nadine Doolittle wants everyone who knew her son, David, to remember him every time they drive by the new signs on State Route 302 that say “Please Don’t Drink and Drive. Sponsored by the David Doolittle family.”
For those who didn’t know David, Nadine wants the signs to be a reminder how fast drunken driving can change so many lives.
One of the two signs was erected almost at the spot where David Doolittle lost his life. It took four years since his death to drive into the ground two simple signs with one simple message. Don’t drink and drive—a phrase unfortunately taken for granted by so many drivers, like the one who turned David’s ordinary morning drive to work into his last.
There are not enough tears in the ocean to express Nadine’s sorrows. David was only the first tragedy for her family. He died as her husband battled cancer. Shortly after her husband passed away, another son was lost to the illness. How any human heart can bear such ordeal can only be understood by other hearts who’ve been there.
David and his wife, Cindy, were well known and well liked around the Key Peninsula. David, a tease, was big on fishing and golfing. He was always at community meetings, expressing his views. He loved kids, coaching them at soccer and baseball. “He was a funny character, always laughing and joking,” Nadine said. He had many friends on the Key Peninsula—including the paramedics who responded to the horrible crash on May 4, 2000. Fire District 16’s Robert Bosch, one of the first people at the scene, left to transport the other driver to a hospital without knowing his good friend David was in the other car.
FD 16 Chief Eric Livingood Nelsen was a paramedic at the time and the family’s neighbor when they lived in Key Center before moving to Vaughn. Nelsen’s daughter went to school with the Doolittles’ son, David. “He was killed instantly,” Nelsen said. “He did not have a chance…. this overwhelming feeling like a rush went through me. I remember saying, ‘O God, Cindy… Little David….’
“We kept it really quiet but everybody knew it was a fatality accident, the word spreads around the community fast.” Nelsen summoned Dick and Barb Granquist, the district’s chaplains, and along with a state trooper drove through the long driveway at the family’s home, where Cindy had a daycare. Breaking the news “was one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do in my life,” he said.
Nadine Doolittle has relived that day many times, speaking at various events as a member of a DUI panel. But visiting the Key Peninsula spot that claimed her son is still difficult. She has only returned once—for the sign dedication ceremony this May 4. Cindy and young David now live in the Gig Harbor area.
According to Washington State Patrol, about 22,000 drunken drivers are arrested every year. With every arrest, a life is potentially saved, a family spared the grief of the Doolittles. Nadine tells those attending the DUI panels they are lucky to have been arrested because someone could have been terribly hurt. Some of the listeners give her hugs afterwards, some shake hands, others dash by, heads down. She knows her work reaches some people, and she hopes the signs will do the same.
“I hope it will cause people to use a different kind of transportation (when they drink) and not take the chance,” she said. “It doesn’t take much.”