Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Tow drivers at funeral: 'We're a family'

LANCE BENZEL and MATT STEINER Updated: March 1, 2011 at 12:00 am

About 400 people gathered at Springs First Church of the Nazarene on Tuesday to honor Allen Rose, the 35-year-old tow truck driver who was dragged to his death last week.

Mourners watched a slide show set to music that reminded them of — or in some cases, introduced them to — moments in Rose’s life, from snapshots of him as a baby, to the birth of his own two children, to the day he took the Oath of Service with the Army’s 82nd Airborne.

The Rev. Kevin McMillan, Rose’s uncle by marriage, spoke of the “miracle of Allen Rose.”

“Allen was a positive person,” McMillan said. “Allen loved to laugh. Allen was good to the people in his life.

“Allen was willing to do whatever he could when he was called upon.”

Following the eulogy, an Army rifle detail fired three volleys, a soldier played taps, and an Army first sergeant presented to Rose’s widow, Renee, the folded U.S. flag that had moments before draped her husband’s casket. She bowed her head and wept.

Rose, who also served with Fort Carson’s 4th Infantry Division, deployed once to Iraq, McMillan said.

Rose’s children, 13-year-old Tiffany and 12-year-old Michael, later stood by their mother as a family friend read a statement thanking the community for its support, contributions and demands for justice.

“There are no words big enough,” Toni Neikirk said. Family members did not wish to take questions.

Outside were parked more than 150 tow trucks from towns along the Front Range.

The procession of tow drivers was so large the 11 a.m. service was delayed approximately half an hour.

According to police Sgt. Roger Vargason, 12 police cars escorted the Springs tow truck procession from the scenic overlook along Interstate 25 near the Air Force Academy to the church at 4120 E. Fountain Blvd.

Many at Tuesday’s memorial were strangers to Rose who came to show support for the family.

Among them were three of the people who found Rose after he had been dragged more than a mile by a GMC Suburban he had attempted to tow from a parking lot at Hill Park Apartments on North Murray Boulevard.

The driver, Detra Farries, was arrested on suspicion of manslaughter Friday evening, but charges have not been formally filed.

“Every time we close our eyes, we see him there,” said Pat Robertson, who came upon Rose with her daughter, Michelle Klein.

“We want to do everything we can to make sure justice is served.”

A third witness that morning, Melissa Fleming, delivered a bouquet to Renee Rose before the service began.

“I just wanted the family to know that I was there, praying for him,” she said.

Trish Melnikoff, the wife of a Colorado Springs tow driver, sat in a rear pew. She was one of scores of mourners who didn’t know Rose personally.

“I think the public is outraged, and I’m deeply saddened,” she said. “To think of an Army veteran who goes to war and comes back safe and has to die like that.”

Tow truck drivers, Melnikoff said, face danger every time they head out on a job — but last week’s incident was exceptional.

“The thought of getting hit by cars is a day-to-day, but you don’t expect something like this.”

4th Judicial District Attorney Dan May was in attendance, in his words, as a “representative and as an individual.”

“We will be dealing with this family for some time to come,” May said. “My office and I get a chance to learn more about the family. We’re able to honor the life and honor the family.”

Brian Corwin, a driver for George’s Towing of Lyons, was part of the procession that made its dramatic approach from Fountain Boulevard — stretching nearly to the horizon, and drawing an awed crowd that included Michael Rose.

“I didn’t really know the guy, but it’s a family kind of thing,” Corwin said, sitting in the back of his tow truck and waiting to get word that the service was beginning. “We’re competitors, but we’re also family if something like this happens.”

Call the writer at 636-0366.

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