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Pedestrian, 79, killed trying to cross McMullen-Booth Road in Clearwater

CLEARWATER — A 79-year-old man who had struggled since he lost his wife was killed Thursday night while crossing McMullen-Booth Road, Clearwater police said.

Robert Groening was crossing the six-lane road from west to east about 7 p.m. He had made it to the curb lane when he was hit by a two-door Chevrolet north of State Road 580.

He was not crossing at a crosswalk or intersection, police said. The driver, Melissa Leiner of Palm Harbor, did not show any impairment and was not charged.

Groening lived alone at the Briar Creek Mobile Home Park just north of where he was struck. He moved there with his wife, Doris, in 1989 from Hauppauge, N.Y., a hamlet on Long Island.

Robert and Doris Groening married two days after Christmas in 1952, said Renee Groening, his daughter-in-law. Robert graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, served in the Air Force and worked as a consulting engineer. Doris was a secretary. They had two daughters and a son.

When they retired, they escaped to Florida. Robert joined the Knights of Columbus at a Catholic church near their home, Espiritu Santo. They liked to bowl, fish and canoe. In 2002, they celebrated 50 years together.

Five years later, Doris fell ill and died in the hospital, Renee Groening said. Robert had difficulty coping and spiraled into depression, she said.

Six months after Doris' death, Robert was arrested for the first time in Florida on charges of battery and aggravated assault. He would be arrested five more times, on charges of trespassing, disorderly conduct and driving under the influence.

His son, Robert, and Renee last saw him Tuesday, and he appeared in good spirits, Renee said. They don't know where he was walking in the dark Thursday night.

Contact Drew Harwell at (727) 445-4170 or

Pedestrian, 79, killed trying to cross McMullen-Booth Road in Clearwater 11/11/11 [Last modified: Friday, November 11, 2011 7:27pm]
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