Married Couple of 49 Years Hit, Killed by Auto : Accident: Death of Merna and Everett Taft while crossing Soledad Canyon Road at night prompts calls for lighting intersection.


Merna, 70, and Everett Taft, 71, of Edina, Minn., went everywhere together.

They were "snowbirds," moving to California for six months each winter to get away from the Minnesota cold and to be near their son, Brad, and his family.

On Dec. 1, they celebrated their 49th wedding anniversary, Brad Taft said.

Hand-in-hand, the energetic couple would take daily walks through the neighborhood surrounding Canyon Villas Senior Apartments in Canyon Country where they rented an apartment.

But Thursday night, their walk turned deadly when they crossed Soledad Canyon Road near Solamint Road and were hit by a car driven by 24-year-old man coming home from work.

"He didn't see them at all," Sheriff's Deputy Michael Shapiro said.

The couple died in front of a fire station less than a block away from their home. The driver, Colby Spere of Canyon Country, was taken to Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital in Valencia, where he was treated for a broken wrist and released.

There was no evidence that drugs or alcohol were involved in the accident, authorities said.

"I've been crying all morning," said Paula Hallgath, an apartment complex resident who gathered with neighbors on an outdoor bench there. "They were so nice, so polite. . . . To live that many years and have a tragic death. . . ."

The residents said they have complained to city officials about the speeding traffic on Soledad Canyon Road. Apartment complex dwellers warn newcomers not to cross that street because "they'll run you over," resident Jean Sudol said.

After the accident, apartment manager Herman Shamalta called the Santa Clarita City Council to appeal to its members to put a light at the intersection of Soledad Canyon and Solamint roads. He said he was told that city traffic officials would check into it.

But Shamalta is not too optimistic. "I've called before and their answer to us in the past is that it costs too much money," he said.

The traffic has cost three apartment residents their lives, Shamalta said. In addition to the Tafts, an elderly woman died last year when she tripped while trying to avoid traffic, hitting her head on a curb.

"We don't have any more lives to spare," said assistant manager Robyn Ellis.

This recent tragedy cost Shamalta a close friend.

Everett Taft went golfing with the apartment manager every Thursday. The afternoon of the accident, Everett was delighted by the great weather and boasting to Shamalta about his first hole-in-one on Monday afternoon. The weekly golf game was one of the few times the couple would be apart.

"They were so in love with each other," Shamalta said. "It's almost a blessing that the two passed away together. The Lord wanted them together."

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