Tuesday, November 24, 2015 • 06:19

Elderly couple killed Sunday morning by alleged drunk driver

Reader Nikki Paredes took this photo of Carl and Eunice Ackermann. She wrote: "This was a picture I took of Mr. and Mrs. Ackerman awhile back. They will be truly missed in the community as they showed true love does exist and endures anything. God brought them both home to Him, together while hand in hand."
July 10, 2013
Many residents were shocked and saddened Sunday when they learned that an elderly Valley Center couple who had been walking hand-in-hand along Old Castle Road every morning for at least a quarter century had been killed by an alleged drunk driver.

The couple's names have not yet been released by the Medical Examiner's office, but many people who saw the couple walking say they were Carl and Eunice Ackermann, retired elementary school teachers who lived on Old Castle. He was 79 and she was 78 years old.

The deaths occurred Sunday, July 7, at about 6:15 a.m., when 20-year-old Earl Smith Jr. from Oceanside was driving his 2011 Toyota Corolla eastbound on Old Castle Road near Mauka Drive at an unknown speed, according to California Highway Patrol spokesman Jim Bettencourt.

Smith drifted to the right of the roadway and collided with the couple who were walking eastbound with their backs to traffic, according to Bettencourt. Both were from Valley Center and died instantly on scene. The couple was well known to community members for walking in that area.

A neighbor heard the collision, went outside and called 911. Valley Center Fire Department personnel responded to the scene and confirmed their deaths. The driver was arrested on scene and transported to Vista detention facility. He was booked on suspicion of felony driving under the influence of alcohol and vehicular manslaughter, said Bettencourt.

This collision remains under investigation.

The Roadrunner has rarely encountered an outpouring of sadness such as the death of the Ackermanns has provoked. Many people were inspired by the couple's obvious devotion to each other although some had been concerned about them walking on a road that has such a narrow dirt walkway.

Several members of the community were discussing the idea of having a memorial walk in honor of the couple, but at press time no date had been set. Others have also talked about planting a memorial tree or plaque in their honor.

One reader from The Roadrunner's Facebook page commented that he used to see them for many years, "All the way back since I use to ride the school bus." Roxanne Greene said, "I saw them every morning on my way to work and waved at them. They were almost always holding hands and I worried about something like this happening to them."

Randy Martin said, "This is horrible news. I just saw them walking last week. They were so loving to each other. Never didn't see them holding hands."

"I was always so worried when I saw them walking in that road but I always thought it was so sweet that they always held hands," said Julie Picot.

Vanessa Rios said, "I passed them every morning and wished for a relationship like they had! Hand-in-hand every day!"

Michelle Johnson commented, "When I read this earlier today I called my dad who works for the water district and grew up on Lilac Road. He remembered them walking (and) holding hands thirty years ago, as he would go to high school. And all his years driving up Old Castle every morning going to work. He said 'just Friday, I watched them as they held hands, just like every other day.'"

"My husband and I also admired their love and dedication to each other. It's amazing that they touched the lives of so many people without even knowing," said Amanda Norskog.

"This absolutely breaks my heart," said Shelley Dawson Pearson, "For years they brought a smile to my face as I passed them in the morning. The way they held hands each and every day melted my heart and I always felt blessed to be able to see them."

"So sad to hear about this. Been driving this road for over 25 years and always saw them. They would make me smile when I saw them," said Eileen M. Velasquez. "The drive is forever changed today."

Michelle Fernandez said she was "worried about them every time I saw them walking on the side of the road around the curves."

Marisela Gonzalez added, "This is so incredibly sad. Even though they were an elderly couple, I'm sure they still had so much life ahead of them. They are most definitely significant to our little town and all of Valley Center will mourn their loss. Their dedication to each other is truly inspirational. These two are now resting in peace together and I don't think they would have had it any other way."

Lenny Kerbs said, I saw them walking along the narrow edge of Old Castle nearly every day. Always carrying a plastic bag to collect trash or cans as they walked. I was always impressed that they took that long walk everyday—but also always worried about their safety on that narrow roadway. May they rest in the arms of their maker. They will be missed!"

"My family and I are devastated over this news. We have seen them 3-4 times a week for many, many years. Our hearts are heavy. They were like old friends to our neighborhood," said Suzie Durant.

Patti Lechmann added, "They were a highlight to my morning as I drove to work ... no matter what kind of day it started out as I would see this loving couple and it would bring a warm feeling and a happy smile to my day! They were taken to our Lord the way they spent each and every day: together, holding hands!"

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    Ackerman's Memorial
    July 11, 2013 | 01:16 PM

    I wanted to know about some type of memorial as well. I would be interested in helping. I miss them every morning as I leave my house. My husband was the first one on the scene. He heard the crash from our home on Mauka, but he was asked to leave by the CHP after they arrived 20 minutes later!!!!!!!

    Lauren Cunningham
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    Our Couple
    July 12, 2013 | 03:54 AM

    Roadrunner, please let all know when a memorial or walk might be held. Thanks,

    Cherie marek
  3. print email
    loving couple
    July 12, 2013 | 06:17 PM

    They had become a part of life in Valley Center and had made living here so special.

    I am sure they have influenced us all who had seen them together by helping us understand the enduing power of love.

    Any announcements concerning tributes would be appreciated .

    Dennis Scalise
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    Carl and Eunice
    July 13, 2013 | 11:52 AM

    My heart goes out to the family and friends of Carl and Eunice.... They will be missed by so many of us here in Valley Center that only knew them as that loving couple walking hand in hand down Old Castle... They touched so many of our hearts and only now do we know their names. Carl and Eunice RIP, you will truly be missed by so many of us.

    *****Please keep us posted on the Memorial thoughts from the community. Would like to be apart of this....

    Suzy Weichers
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    Death of Ackermans
    July 15, 2013 | 09:02 AM

    Like so many others have mentioned, I became used to seeing this couple mornings walking hand-in-hand while I would be driving on Old Castle on my way to work at Palomar College. If I happened not to see them, I'd wonder/hope that they were OK maybe just on a different route. I thought they were an inspiration. What a tragedy for everyone concerned.

    Katherine Gannett
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    Carl Ackermann
    July 24, 2013 | 09:39 AM

    Thank you all for posting this info about our father we were not close but its still very sad too hear this when we were kids we came to California and had to do the walk every day with them it's nice to hear that everybody looked out for them every day thank you..Margaret Ackermann

    Margaret Ackermann
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