'Still with me'

Jordan Bailey remembers father Michael Bailey

Jordan Bailey, the teenage son of the late Michael Bailey, said he has moved closer to faith since his father died 10 months ago. That he wants to believe everything happens for a reason, and that his father, who was more like a best friend, is still with him.

And, in a way, he is.

"I wear it everyday," said the 18-year-old Jordan, clutching the small silver cross containing some of his father's ashes. "It's a reminder that he's still with me all the time."

Life as Jordan knew it -- going to school, hanging out with his father, and living the carefree existence of most high school seniors -- forever changed Feb. 16. His father, a man Jordan loved and revered, lost his life in a vehicle crash on U.S. Highway 40, about a mile east of Hayden.

Few details of that day are lost on his son.

Michael had stopped by Chapman's Automotive, where Jordan worked part-time, that Thursday morning hoping to say hello. Jordan wasn't there at the time, but he spoke to his dad later that morning on the telephone.

"I talked to him on the phone and said 'alright, I'll see you tonight,'" he said. They had plans to keep their Thursday night routine of going bowling.

"It's something I regret quite often," Jordan said of missing his father at the automotive shop. "I can't help but wonder what if I stopped him for a few minutes. Would it have made any difference?"

Later that afternoon, a family member delivered the shattering news to Jordan that his father, a man whom he shared everything with, had died. He said it "turned my world upside down.

"Everything shut down," he said. "There was a numbness, a state of shock for a week. ... I still couldn't believe he was really gone. It was like losing everything I had."

Kathy Oberwitte, Michael Bailey's sister and Jordan's aunt, has been lobbying for more serious criminal charges against Morrison resident Dustin Lund, the driver of the vehicle who crashed into her brother. She said her plight is made easier because she's fighting on behalf of Jordan, whom she describes as the "real victim."

However, Jordan speaks more along the lines of a grieving friend trying to move forward in life without the most important person he's ever known.

Tears well in Jordan's eyes when remembering his often-smiling father and the times they had.

"There was nobody he didn't get along with it," he said. "He would walk into a room and his smile would light up everybody. It would light up the room."

Michael passed his love for working on cars to Jordan, who currently works part-time at Arrowhead Auto while attending night classes at Colorado Northwestern Community College. The two had been restoring a 1969 Pontiac Fire-bird, a muscle car Michael had to sell before Jordan was born but later re-acquired, for three years when Michael died.

Now the car is Jordan's and he vows to keep it as a tribute to Michael.

"He was more like my friend, my best friend," Jordan said. "I always looked up to him. We never argued, we were always joking around.

"It's hard to imagine that he's not going to be there when I get married, have kids, graduate from college. That's probably the hardest part, to know I'll go through all that without him."

Today, Jordan says his father's death has shaped him in several ways. He's grown up quicker. He's come to believe in destiny, in the comfort of knowing that his father accomplished great things during his lifetime.

"What my dad was here to do, he'd already done," Jordan said.

He's also set his sights on a career path that will allow him to help people in need, people like his father. Jordan said he's studying to become a paramedic.

"My whole mindset has changed since all this happened," Jordan said. "I've decided I want to do something to help people, to make a difference to keep stuff like this from happening."

Jordan has also taken a calm, level-headed approach to the circumstances surrounding the case of Lund. Rather than get angry about the handling of the case, Jordan speaks in a soft tone about what he believes should happen to the Morrison man.

"You don't ever want to wish anything bad upon anybody," he said. "I just want to see what's fair and right. Justice needs to be served like it's supposed to be.

"I want people to know there is a face, or a person behind the case. That (my father) doesn't deserve to be known as just another person."

With the anniversary of his father's passing on the horizon, Jordan said it's hard to believe he's still gone. Michael's ashes rest in a wooden box, decorated with a carving of an Elk in front of a mountain, in Jordan's possession.

He is comforted in the belief that Michael watches over him today.

"I'll know when it's time to spread his ashes and where I need to put them," he said. But, he added, while holding the silver cross, "This will stay with me."

Joshua Roberts can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 210, or jroberts@craigdailypress.com.

The widow of a late Craig man has filed a civil lawsuit in Routt County alleging wrongful death against Morrison resident Dustin Lund.

Craig resident Alison Bailey, wife of the late Michael Bailey, filed the suit June 13. Lund and three others -- Paul Basse, Joanne Kazel and Sam Ceridon -- are named in the lawsuit as is the company JSC Enterprises.

Jim Heckbert, an attorney in the Steamboat Springs office of the law firm Purvis, Gray and Murphy, LLP, is representing Alison Bailey. He said Friday that he and Bailey have not determined how much they are seeking from the lawsuit.

"As far as damages, it's still early and an actual number has not been determined," Heckbert said.

Michael Bailey died Feb. 16 from injuries sustained in a two-vehicle crash on U.S. Highway 40, about a mile east of Hayden. He was 42 years old.

A delivery truck driven by Lund collided with Bailey's Ford pickup after Lund fell asleep, and his vehicle drifted into the westbound lane, striking Bailey. Lund reportedly tested positive for methamphetmaine after the crash.

Court clerks in Moffat and Routt counties said Lund has no previous convictions in either of those counties.

Heckbert said Basse owns the delivery truck driven by Lund, and that Kazel and Ceridon own JSC Enterprises. JSC Enterprises was named, the attorney said, because it's possible Lund was working for the company at the time of the accident.

The Baileys were separated at the time of the accident, though divorce proceedings had not been finalized when Michael died, Alison Bailey said Friday. She said the lawsuit was filed on behalf of Michael's son and her stepson, Jordan Bailey, who was 17 years old at the time and could not file the lawsuit because he was a minor.

Heckbert, again citing the case's preliminary status, said there have been no talks of a settlement between the plaintiffs and those named in the wrongful death suit.

"I expect to try every lawsuit I take on and if they want to settle, great," Heckbert said when asked whether he believed the case would go to trial. Heckbert said a judge is scheduled to set a trial date for the lawsuit during a hearing Jan. 19.

He said statutes mandate that any monetary jury award would be distributed to Michael Bailey's survivors in the same manner as if he died without a will.

Meanwhile, 14th Judicial district attorney Bonnie Roesink said Friday afternoon that a decision on whether to file more serious criminal charges against Lund has been delayed for two more weeks.

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