Friends give sick time, create memorial for two car wreck victims

10:36:37 AM CDT - Thursday, October 07, 2004

By Amy Geiszler-Jones

When employees at WSU Libraries heard that longtime colleague Betty Smith had been severely injured in a car accident, some immediately donated sick leave to Smith.

Within a few weeks of the Aug. 27 accident, 12 people had donated more than 1,000 hours of sick leave, enough to ensure that Smith stays in pay status for nine months while she recovers from a concussion, broken ankles and a damaged left shoulder in the Wesley Rehabilitation Center.

The 12 donors include a former WSU employee who now works with another state agency, according to Frankie Brown, assistant director of human resources. Another five WSU employees have their names on a waiting list, ready to donate more time if Smith needs it.

Smith, a library assistant in interlibrary loans, was on her way to work the morning of Aug. 27 when her car was involved in an accident with another longtime, beloved WSU employee, Marie Sellberg, who died at the scene. Sellberg, 78, worked for 18 years as a cooperative education coordinator before retiring in 2000. She continued working part time in the registrar's office following retirement and was headed to WSU to help with the last day of registration the day of the accident.

After the accident, Sellberg's fellow employees in the registar's office were also moved to show their support for her. They collected money to purchase a brick in WSU's Plaza of Heroines to honor Sellberg.

The $128 already collected is enough to purchase the brick, but registrar employees would like to raise enough to purchase a larger memorial a granite paver in the plaza, said David Reagan, an administrative assistant in the registrar's office.

Anyone who wants to contribute can send checks payable to the Plaza of Heroines to the WSU Foundation, 1845 Fairmount, Wichita, KS, 67260-0002 or campus box 2. Donors should indicate the contribution is for the Marie Sellberg Plaza Fund.

The fact that WSU employees responded immediately to donating sick leave is no surprise to Brown.
"The campus is that way," she said. "Whenever there has been a need we always get the hours needed. It's a good program for that reason."

Wanda Kraus-Seal was one of those employees who immediately donated time to Smith. The two have worked together in the WSU Libraries for two decades and are workout buddies, spending their lunch hours exercising at the Heskett Center.

"We're kind of like sisters," said Kraus-Seal, describing their friendship. Kraus-Seal visits Smith frequently, getting Smith ice cream, playing cards and even staying by her bedside through a few nights.

"Each visit I have with her I see improvements and that's good," Kraus-Seal said. "She's becoming more like herself."

Smith has some memory loss due to her head injury. But one thing she's not forgotten is how much she enjoys her job, said Kraus-Seal and Smith's husband, William Sherwood.

"She doesn't like taking it easy," Sherwood said of his wife who during the weekend before her accident had gone parasailing and jetskiing. "It's been traumatic for her but she's a strong woman. She really wants to come back to work."

Coming back to work will have to wait, though. Smith, 51, faces several months of therapy and recovery. She currently receives therapy four to five times a day, including speech therapy to help her memory loss, Sherwood said. She's had surgery on both ankles, which were shattered, and it will take as long as 18 months until doctors assess whether she'll need a shoulder replacement.

"I and Betty really appreciate everyone donating their leave," Sherwood said. He said he's also grateful for the support he and his wife are receiving from two local churches where his wife knew several members and from family and friends, such as Kraus-Seal.

"It's apparent my wife knows everyone's brother and sister," Sherwood said of the tremendous support.

Anyone who wants to send well wishes may send them to Smith's sister-in-law, Stephanie Sauls, who works at WSU, to campus box 136 or stephanie.sauls@wichita.edu

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