‘God bless Tyler’ Outpouring of love recalled 11 years after fatal wreck

Published on Monday, 23 December 2013 23:25 - Written by DAYNA WORCHEL dworchel@tylerpaper.com

Laura Walker, 60, sent a note of thanks this week to the people of Tyler for helping her young grandson after his mother was killed in a car accident 11 years ago.

Drymon Payne was only 4 1/2 years old when a drunken driver crossed the Interstate 20 median and slammed into the car being driven by his mother, Laura Payne, 27.

Ms. Payne died instantly on Dec. 23, 2002, and young Drymon was hospitalized in the intensive care unit at East Texas Medical Center for several weeks with life-threatening injuries. The mother and son were on their way to Dallas for the Christmas holidays with their family.

Mrs. Walker, who still lives in the Dallas area, said in a phone interview she is forever grateful for the love and support Tylerites showed to her grandson and son-in-law during that time.

“People came by the hospital just to see if there was anything they could do for the little boy,” Mrs. Walker said. “The medical staff went out of their way to take such good care of him — they were very caring people. They showed tenderness and concern for him. I believe he got a great outpouring of love. God bless Tyler. I intend to pray that until the day I die,” she said.

Drymon, who is Mrs. Walker’s only grandchild, had staples in his abdomen, cuts on his head, and some broken bones in his arm and leg, his grandmother said. The child’s physician brought a gift for him in the Intensive Care Unit, she said.

“People in Tyler came to see about him. People left gifts and cards for him,” Mrs. Walker said.

And Tylerites also contributed money to help Drymon and his family, although Mrs. Walker said she is not sure how much was collected because the amount was not important.

“I never asked because it wasn’t important to me,” she said.

The most important thing was that people cared enough to come and see about her grandson, Mrs. Walker said.

“It was so close to Christmas, and people were so busy, but they took the time out to come see that little boy,” she said.

Ms. Payne was taking classes in Wilmington, N.C. to become a mechanical engineer and had just received her grades — four A’s, a B and a C. She was excited about her grades, Mrs. Walker said.

“She was warm and friendly and loving, and she had many friends” Mrs. Walker said of her daughter, who also liked to sing.

Mrs. Walker said she drove to Tyler on the night of the accident and was here before Drymon got out of surgery.

“I left two days before he got out (of the hospital) to make funeral arrangements for my daughter,” Mrs. Walker said.

Ms. Payne was buried on New Year’s Eve, 2002, in Terrell.

The man who hit Ms. Payne’s car was convicted of driving drunk and sentenced to serve prison time, Mrs. Walker said.

“I told him in court I would pray for him, and I still do,” she said as her voice caught with emotion.

Her grandson Drymon will be 16 in March and is 6 feet 3 1/2 inches tall, Ms. Walker said.

“He looks just like her, and he is very smart and makes good grades,” she said.

The boy now lives with his father, Richard Payne, and stepmother, but he visits Mrs. Walker and her extended family often in Dallas.

“My family is large, and they make sure he is included in things,” she said.

Mrs. Walker’s son, Robert Kidder also is close to Drymon and sees him often.

Although Mrs. Walker continues to grieve for her daughter, she said she is grateful for the 27 years her daughter was with her.

“I am so happy that she decided to have a child,” Mrs. Walker said of Ms. Payne, who didn’t want children when she was first married. “It’s like a part of her lives on,” Mrs. Walker said.