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Family Killed in Series of Vehicle Accidents

September 24, 1990

WAHPETON, N.D. (AP) _ When their two children were killed two years apart in a car crash and a snowmobile accident, Bernie and Jean Haugen immersed themselves in helping others.

Haugen, a municipal judge, was a champion of children and children’s rights, friends and neighbors say. He supervised the Richland County juvenile court, taught Sunday school and served as a Boy Scout leader.

Mrs. Haugen, an instructor in occupational therapy at North Dakota State College of Science, became active in a support group for parents grieving the loss of a child. The couple also enlisted as foster parents to troubled adolescents.

In mid-June, they were driving home from Minneapolis, where they had taken a runaway to catch a flight to Washington, when their car slammed into a bridge.

Mrs. Haugen was killed. Her husband of 30 years died Aug. 14 from his injuries.

The Haugens - parents and children - now lie buried a few yards from their home in Wahpeton, near the Minnesota line.

Residents wonder at how so much sadness could strike one family.

″It’s incredible, absolutely incredible,″ said the Rev. Marv L. Hartmann of Bethel Lutheran Church, which the family attended for 20 years. ″Then and now, the whole community is just sick at heart.″

″The whole community has really been working together on this,″ said Chuck Sheeley, who was a close friend of Haugen’s. ″It is tragic. Nobody can understand this because there’s no reason for it.″

The couple’s son, Donnell, was killed with a friend in an automobile accident near Otter Tail Lake, Minn., in 1981, the night before they were to graduate with honors from Wahpeton High School.

Their daughter, Kimberlee, died of head injuries in a snowmobile accident near Brainerd, Minn., two years later. She was a passenger on the snowmobile and was just three months short of graduating from high school.

Those who knew the teen-agers remember them as good students, active in sports and other school activities.

″They were excited, enthusiastic about everything,″ Hartmann said.

Donnell was an Eagle Scout and a school record-holder in the 3,200-meter run. Kimberlee was a gifted musician and active in youth activities at the church.

She won first place in a contest for writing about the person she admired most in the community - her father. She described his work with young people and the church, calling him a man willing to fight for his convictions.

″He was an advocate of abused, deprived and neglected kids,″ said Sheeley, the county probation officer. ″Those were the kind of kids that bothered him the most.″

″It was almost a lifestyle for Bernie, not a job,″ Hartmann added.

Haugen suffered severe internal injuries and broken bones in the crash and later developed pneumonia. He was 51.

″It’s difficult accepting this,″ Sheeley said. ″But (Bernie) always told me that life isn’t fair. I guess he was right. We’re all going to miss him very much.″

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