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Helen Stephens

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A Sparta woman has been charged with running a stop light and causing a crash in Swansea that killed an elderly Belleville woman.

Helen Stephens, 89, died Nov. 12. She would have turned 90 on Nov. 19, and her family had planned to celebrate the day with her.

"We had a big party planned for her that she didn't know about," said Stephens' sister-in-law, Donna Hasty, of Edwardsville. "We were picking her up on Tuesday (Nov. 13) to be at our house for the rest of the week and then taking her on a bus trip for a senior event they were having at the casino."

The accident happened at 11:16 a.m. Nov. 12 at the intersection of Fullerton Road and Illinois 161. Karen Corn, who was driving a 1996 GMC Yukon, made a left turn onto Fullerton Road from Illinois 161 while the light was red, according to Swansea police reports. Stephens, who was driving a 1985 Plymouth Caravelle, crashed into Corn while Corn was making the turn. Then, a third vehicle was struck by Corn.

Stephens and a passenger in Corn's vehicle were taken to Memorial Hospital in Belleville, where Stephens was pronounced dead.

"It was horrible and so shocking," Hasty said of Stephens' death. "Everybody liked her and she was a very likable person. She had her friends in the trailer court and they'd go out and have lunch together. This was just such a shock."

Hasty described Stephens as an active woman who enjoyed her family and friends and always looked after others. She said Stephens took care of her ill husband for about nine years until he died about seven years ago. After his death, she was able to get out more.

"For a (nearly) 90-year-old person she was very spry," Hasty said. "Always up and going."

She said Stephens also loved to play cards, adding that, "Of course she always beat you, and she let you know it."

"She was an amazing woman, and she was always after you to take care of yourself," Hasty said, recalling Stephens' advice to her brother (Hasty's husband) to stay off an aching foot earlier on the day of the fatal wreck.

Published in Belleville News-Democrat from Nov. 30 to Dec. 5, 2007
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