TERRE HAUTE —
Former Terre Haute Mayor Judy Anderson is recovering from injuries sustained in a Sunday afternoon auto crash in Putnam County that claimed the life of her husband, Brent.
The Andersons, both age 72, were westbound on U.S. 40 near Reelsville when their Lincoln Town Car went off the north side of the highway and struck a makeshift cargo trailer before crashing into a tree.
Brent Anderson, who was driving, was pronounced dead at the scene by Putnam County Coroner Dave Brown. Judy Anderson was airlifted to Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis where she remained in good condition on Monday. She was being treated for multiple injuries, including broken ribs and head injuries.
An autopsy conducted Monday afternoon at Terre Haute Regional Hospital by forensic pathologist Dr. Roland Kohr revealed that Brent Anderson died from a heart attack.
Brown said that Brent Anderson had a history of heart issues, and that the autopsy revealed clogged coronary arteries.
The injuries that Brent Anderson sustained as a result of the crash did not contribute to his death, Brown told the Tribune-Star.
The couple’s son, Luke Anderson, told the Tribune-Star that his family is grateful for the prayers of friends and citizens of Terre Haute, and the support his mother is receiving.
“She did sustain a lot of injuries, but she is stable and resting comfortably,” Luke Anderson said of his mother. “We are asking the public to respect our privacy and allow us time to grieve for our father, and time to help our mother heal and get her back to where she needs to be.”
Investigators of the accident reported Monday that no skid marks or brake marks were found on or along U.S. 40 where the Andersons’ westbound car drove off the four-lane highway and struck a tree.
Chief Deputy Tom Helmer of the Putnam County Sheriff’s Department said investigators did find a rust mark on the inside of the driver’s front door, and they believe that mark may have come from the makeshift cargo trailer that was struck by the car before the vehicle hit the tree. Helmer said it appears the parked trailer caused damage to the driver’s side and roof of the car beyond the damage that occurred when the car struck the tree.
Both Judy Anderson, who was a front-seat passenger, and her husband were wearing seatbelts, Helmer said.
Judy Anderson was mayor of Terre Haute from 2000 to 2004. Luke Anderson was chief of staff for her administration. She had several positions in local government before being elected mayor of Terre Haute in 1999. She won the Democratic Party primary that year, defeating incumbent mayor Jim Jenkins and easily winning election in the fall. Anderson was the first — and, so far, only — woman elected mayor of Terre Haute.
Brent Anderson taught in Vigo County schools and was a former athletic coach at area schools. He was inducted into the Wabash Valley Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2010.
Anderson was a graduate of Schulte High School and Indiana State University. He coached at Fort Wayne Central Catholic for several years before coaching at Clinton/South Vermillion High School from 1972 through 1984, according to Tribune-Star archives. He was the first South Vermillion football coach. After retiring as a head coach, he taught and coached at Sarah Scott Middle School in Terre Haute.
Coaching colleague Ron Stateler, who played football at Clinton High School during Anderson’s first season as coach, remembered Anderson on Monday as a gentle giant on and off the playing field.
“He was a great man,” Stateler said. “And he was inspirational to a lot of kids up here.”
Stateler, who is now in his 21st year as a wrestling coach for South Vermillion, said that Anderson recruited him to assist in coaching football when Stateler was a new Clinton police officer.
“There I was writing traffic tickets, and a driver’s education car pulled up with coach Anderson inside, and he calls out to me and tells me I’m coaching football,” Stateler said, laughing.
“I’ll always remember how big and how intimidating he was to me,” Stateler said. “He was a great man.”
Judy Anderson has said that during her term as mayor her husband was very supportive of her in her governmental duties.
In an interview with the Tribune-Star in March 2002, midway in her administration, she said: “I’m very, very fortunate to have Brent as a spouse and a partner, because we enjoy the same activities, we enjoy them together. We like the same things. We like the same food. He comes to City Council meetings. ...
“He’s going to be retiring next year, so he’ll be totally free to do all these things. He enjoys it. And the deal was that when he was the head football coach, you know, I took all four of our kids and went to every football game and gave 100 percent support. Now our lives have turned around and he’s doing exactly the same thing,” she said.
Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.