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Scholarships lift up grieving family

For three years, Living Legacy lets couple go on

SHARE Scholarships lift up grieving family

Three years ago, Rosann Prescott was struggling through snarled-up interstate road construction on a business trip from Brigham City, where she had recently been hired as a municipal secretary, to Spanish Fork.

A car wreck took her life and left four minor children at home.

Bitter feelings from a divorce kept the father away, so Prescott's son, Keith, and his wife, Dana, moved into mom's house in Brigham City with their own month-old baby, Jacob, and took charge of the family.

That meant taking full responsibility for Doris, who was 16 at the time; Camilla, 14; Cameron, 12; and Karl, 10.

Keith Prescott was 23 and his wife was 24 at the time.

Keith Prescott said he never had any doubts that this was the right thing to do. "My mom was in the process of redrawing her will and talked to me about it a few weeks before her death. She said it was her wish to have the children stay with us (if anything ever happened)," he said. "I felt it was something expected of us by her."

Dana Prescott didn't hesitate, either. "It's all such a strange thing when somebody dies. I just took on her perspective. Since I had my first child, I thought if I died, what would I want to happen to him? I thought about what she would have wanted for her kids and it seemed like something we could do for her."

The family has come a long way since then.

Just last week, Keith Prescott happily collected a $1,500 Living Legacy scholarship to help him with his nursing studies — the third year in a row he has received this scholarship.

His brother, Richard, also got a scholarship at the same ceremony. And sisters Doris and LeeAnn previously have received Living Legacy scholarships.

The Workers Compensation Fund (WCF) awarded 70 of these scholarships at a luncheon ceremony last week. The money is intended to help spouses or children of people who have died in work-related accidents.

When his mom died, Keith Prescott had been attending Utah Valley State University, but that stopped with the move from Provo. He attended Bridgerland Applied Technology Center, graduating in May 1999.

Now a student at Weber State University, he will graduate in December as a registered nurse and plans to get a master's degree so he can become a nurse-anesthesiologist.

He also has worked all this time and currently is pulling 12-hour weekend shifts at South Davis Community Hospital.

Dana Prescott, who graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in family sciences the morning after her mother-in-law died, had another child, Micajah, during all this.

"We had so many kids, we didn't dare think of having another one, but he came anyway," she said. "He was determined to come."

She now is expecting a third baby in February.

Although Keith Prescott's schedule seems grueling, he gives full credit to his wife for making things work smoothly.

"I think I have a really easy part in all this," said Keith Prescott. "I go to school, I work. My wife is there throughout the day taking care of the kids. There's a lot to be said for that."

Although there was life insurance and some other money, the family had some rough financial times.

The younger brothers and sisters also struggled with learning to view their youthful brother and sister-in-law as parental figures. And everyone was grieving the loss of Rosann Prescott.

Dana Prescott said things were easier with the younger children, but 16-year-old Doris had a tougher time. "Doris was a little older and didn't want to look up to us as a responsibility figure," Dana Prescott said. "Doris also was getting to that time, too, when she wanted to cut the apron strings and be more independent. That was real hard."

However, the couple's commitment to family has paid off.

Doris now is a student Southern Utah University and worked this summer in Arizona. Cameron has a summer job at a Boy Scout camp in Yellowstone. The other children are happy and doing well.

Best of all, the painful break with Keith Prescott's father, John, has been mended.

Not long ago, John Prescott moved from Layton to Brigham City and the two younger boys asked if they could live with him. But since he works two jobs, the boys still come to Dana Prescott's house every day to have someone look after them until their dad gets home. John Prescott also has been helping financially and now voices "a lot of appreciation" for what the couple has done, Dana Prescott said.

"My dad has been wonderful," Keith Prescott said. "He's gone from an estranged relationship to one of increased endearment. He's definitely a major part of our lives. We love to have grandpa around."

Lane Summerhays, the Workers Compensation Fund president and CEO, said that the Living Legacy scholarships like those awarded to the Prescotts have been distributed since 1990. Since the program's inception, the WCF has provided 470 such scholarships totaling $700,000, according to Summerhays.

"WCF's interest is real and personal," the awards program says. "Receiving a scholarship can help turn a tragic event into one which focuses family members on planning for the future and reaching academic goals."

At the same ceremony, the WCF also awarded five Safe Workplace Scholarships to five graduate students who are studying safety and ergonomics, or industrial hygiene, at the University of Utah.


E-MAIL: lindat@desnews.com