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A family outing that ended in tragedy

With their van full of personal items and birthday gifts, the Morgen family was heading home to Largo after a quiet vacation.

John A. and Geraldine "Gerry" Morgen had decided recently that it was time to visit relatives they had not seen for many years. Morgen, 50, had been ill and was laid off last month from his job at Martin-Marietta.

It was a good time to travel, and it was a chance for their 14-year-old daughter, Cindy, to see her maternal grandmother and other relatives in Pennsylvania for the first time.

Their visit completed, the Morgens wanted to get home to Florida to celebrate their granddaughter's second birthday this weekend.

On Saturday, Morgen was driving south about 9:45 a.m. on Interstate 95 near Fayetteville, N.C., with his wife and daughter. A northbound Cadillac crossed the median and collided with the Morgens' Chevrolet Astro van.

The crash killed the driver of the Cadillac, Lina Lara, 65, of Wilmington, Del. The Morgens were taken to nearby hospitals.

Mrs. Morgen, 48, died late Saturday at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center. Cindy, a Largo High School student, died about 6 p.m. Sunday at the same hospital. Morgen was in critical but stable condition Tuesday at Highsmith-Rainey Memorial Hospital with internal and other injuries.

His daughter Christine Morgen, 22, of Oldsmar, and son John Morgen, 27, and daughter-in-law Karin White Morgen, of Cape Coral, were at the hospital Tuesday.

"Gerry hadn't seen her mother in 20 years," said Karin White Morgen. "Cindy had never met her grandmother. So they decided to spend some time in Pennsylvania. They were going home (to Florida) with birthday gifts for their only grandchild."

The Morgens have lived in Pinellas County about 20 years. Mrs. Morgen worked at Contour Fabricators in St. Petersburg. She was a Eucharistic minister at St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church in Largo and cared for elderly people who could not attend church.

Cindy attended the same church and had gone to Morgan Fitzgerald Middle School near Largo. "Cindy was a spirited little girl," the daughter-in-law said. "She found joy and happiness in many simple things. She was so full of life."

Danielle Hawk, 14, a close friend of Cindy's and a former neighbor, said she and Cindy had made a pact to go to the same college and to both get married and have children. Cindy worked as a counselor in the Latch Key program at High Point Elementary School.

"She loved to be with little children," Danielle said. "She loved her family and her schoolwork. She was a heck of an ice skater. She laughed with me when I made fun of her braces."

Funeral arrangements will be handled by Moss-Feaster Funeral Home but were incomplete Tuesday.

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