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Chuck Warwick was Principal at MDR High School from 1952-1957. He is retired and living in Urbana. To learn more about Mr. Warwick, click here.
From October 1952 through June 1953, I drove 80 miles nightly to visit my wife Betty hospitalized with polio. On one trip from our home in Minonk to the hospital in Peoria, Betty's mother and I had a near death experience, which brought me closer to God.
On alternate months, my mother and Betty's mother Bessie came to Minonk to take care of our two young sons while I was working. On this particular night, I had made arrangements for a babysitter to stay with the children so that Bessie could join me in seeing Betty.
About two-thirds of the way to Peoria, we were passing through Metamora on Route 116. I had passed through this town at least 200 times going to and from Peoria so the location was by now quite familiar to me. The most significant landmark here was an unmarked railroad crossing with a long, narrow lumberyard building, which ran parallel to the railroad right up to the highway. For quite a while I approached this crossing very cautiously. However, after never seeing a train here, I unconsciously became lackadaisical. When I was within a few feet of the crossing this evening, I suddenly realized that an oncoming freight train was about to cross this highway.
Instinctively, I floored the gas pedal in hopes of getting on the other side of the track before the train crossed the highway. Had I tried to slam on the brakes at this point, we would have been hit broadside by the train and probably been killed. Wham! The train did hit the back fender of our Jeep station wagon. My car spun 180 degrees and landed in an upright position across the track on the opposite side of the highway. We were literally headed for our home in Minonk rather than our heavenly home with God. Miraculously, we were unharmed and my dented auto was still operational.
After the train crew had stopped and ascertained we were okay, Bessie and I decided to continue our trip to Peoria. We, of course, did not tell Betty about our meeting with destiny. Because this incident had occurred so quickly and we knew immediately that we were physically okay, neither Bessie nor I felt much fear at that moment.
Finally the evening was about over, and we were entering Minonk. At this point, I began shaking uncontrollably. It finally dawned upon me how close we had been to death. Had we been killed, the situation would have been terrible for Betty. Who would take care of our two boys? My recently widowed mother might be one possibility, but this would necessitate moving the boys 160 miles to my mother's home in Keokuk, Iowa. Who would be available to visit Betty frequently at the Peoria hospital and comfort her during her grieving period for the loss of her mother and husband? Given her severe physical condition, could she have survived this mourning period?
In retrospect, I am convinced that God floored the gas pedal for me when I approached the railroad crossing in Metamora. Had he not done so, I would have jammed on the brakes and Betty's mother and I would have been crushed to death by the train. Thank you, God, for giving Betty and me at least another 47 years together in this world!