By Bethany Anderson
A group of family and friends came together, on Friday, March 15, some after many years apart, to mark the 20 anniversary of a tragedy.
Mountain City local, Jadey Dunn who was at the time only 19 years young, was killed by a drunk driver at approximately 10:30 p.m. on Monday, March 15, 1999, at the intersection of Shady Street and the main entrance of the Pioneer Village Shopping Center.
Along with his grieving parents, his death took him from his three sisters and one brother (Susan Trivett, Robin Ellison, Alicia Dunn, Heather Maze, and Charley Brown) as well as his son Jadey Preston Dunn who never got to meet his father as he was born three months after his death.
The driver, Robert Wesley Taylor, had previously been at a nearby bar heavily drinking before getting behind the wheel and driving dangerously through Mountain City.
According to the report by Mountain City Police Officer Earl Steinmetz, Taylor’s blood alcohol level as taken at Johnson County Community Hospital following the crash was .16, which was twice the legal limit of .08.
The police report notes “a witness advised that the vehicle driven by Dunn had entered the intersection on a green light and was struck by the vehicle, which was driven by Taylor, which caused the death of Jadey Dunn.”
It was the first car crash that Officer Steinmetz worked as an officer with the Mountain City Police Department. In his report of the incident, he made a note of the state Taylor was in at the scene saying, “While speaking with the defendant this officer detected a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage emanating from his breath, his eyes were bloodshot, and his speech slurred.”
Jadey Dunn had recently completed the Army’s airborne school and was stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He was home on leave in between active duty stations at the time of the crash.
Family and friends took the opportunity to share many fond memories of Jadey at the memorial gathering to mark the 20th anniversary.
Jadey’s sister Susan shared, “If there were one thing I’d want the world to know about my brother, it would be that Jadey wasn’t afraid to tell you he loved you. No matter where he was or who was around, he never got too big for that.”
Jadey’s mother, Jeanie Linton tearfully welcomed the many stories shared by those who had grown up with him, which reflected the sweet and silly nature he was known for.
Dunn’s friend, Billy Gambill shared stories of their various high school pranks and other silly shenanigans shared by the two boys. It was the stories about fun times with friends during their high school years that were among the most treasured by those in attendance with smiles and laughter heard from all as they remembered their young friend.
After sharing stories, laughter, smiles, and tears, those gathered released balloons into the air ceremoniously. Everyone watched as they slowly floated away and then shared hugs as they prepared to go their separate ways once again.
“Words can’t express how thankful we are for the great turn out to help us remember our Jadey,” said his sister Susan. “Today was hard, but with your help, we made it though.”
Following the memorial, his mother Jeanie tearfully expressed, “Memories of Jadey flood my mind like a kaleidoscope. But the greatest of these is his kindness for people and his ability to see good in everyone.”
Jadey’s sister and mother also shared that they have many fears involving the increasing availability of alcohol in Johnson County thanks to the recent referendums that were passed during the November 6, 2018 elections.
These include package sales and liquor by the drink, both of which passed by a relatively close margin allowing for liquor stores to be built and restaurants to serve alcoholic beverages.
Susan stressed that “The devastation from such a horrible event like this stretches through the years and generations.” Adding, “We hope
that sharing Jadey’s story will help to keep his memory alive, but also hope that it helps others who may be hurting with similar stories. We truly hope it can help to prevent more tragedies like this from happening to other families.”