When people in Gulfport learned Judith D. Verrett had died Friday in a crash near Palm Beach Gardens, “the earth stood still,” a family member said Saturday.
Verrett, 65, whom daughter-in-law Keeley Williams Verrett called “the most beautiful girl in the world,” was the sole fatality Friday in a three-vehicle wreck on Florida’s Turnpike that closed southbound traffic for hours between the PGA Boulevard and Indiantown Road exits, the Florida Highway Patrol said Saturday morning.
Keeley Verrett said from New Orleans that the family had been driving from Mississippi to Miami, where Verrett’s son, Aaron, lives, and where his wife operates a dental clinic. She said Aaron’s wife had just had a new baby.
Verrett and four other family members were in a Chevrolet Tahoe heading southbound when their SUV struck a turnpike maintenance vehicle parked on the side of the road about 10 a.m. Friday, according to reports.
Authorities have said the maintenance vehicle had its yellow lights on when the Tahoe hit it and began to roll. A tractor-trailer struck the Tahoe, flipping it.
Rescue crews had to cut two trapped people out of the Tahoe, Palm Beach County Fire-Rescue said.
Saturday’s Florida Highway Patrol summary said all five in the Tahoe were taken to St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach, where Judith Verrett was declared dead.
The driver, husband Alexander E. Verrett, 70, is listed in critical condition. Keeley Verrett said Saturday evening that Judith’s daughter Robin Verrett Love, 46, is in stable condition and Robin’s husband Rogick Love, 38, and son Taylor Verrett, 12, suffered only minor injuries.
Verrett was a nurse and was a health coordinator at theGulf Coast Community Action Agency, a private nonprofit with nearly 300 employees that administers social-service programs in southeastern Mississippi.
But at an age when some people start to slow down, Keeley Verrett said, her mother-in-law also began dabbling in community theater.
First it was with her congregation, St. Rose de Lima Catholic Church in Bay St. Louis. She later did some commercials. And in 2014, she got a role as “Old Sandra” in the film “Could This Be Love.”
“It was a small role, but she did great in it,” Keeley Verrett said.
Keeley, who is married to Judith’s son Troy, was on her way Saturday to West Palm Beach. She said no funeral arrangements had yet been set.
“She was an extremely dedicated mother, grandmother and friend,” Keeley said.
“She’s just one of those people that took care of everybody. Anything anybody needed, she did it. I don’t think any of us know what we’re going to do without that lady.”