Engebretsen family shares its grief in aftermath of bridge tragedy

Sherry Engebretsen
Sherry Engebretsen died in the collapse of the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis.
Courtesy of the Engebretsen family

Jessica Engebretsen, 18, has found comfort in collecting small treasures that remind her of her mother. So far she has a half-dozen items that she has placed on a shelf in her room. "A graduation card they gave me, some pictures from spring break, a shirt that I can still smell her. And then a book that she gave me. And I'm still trying to get some stuff," she said.

Jessica was the last person in the family to speak to Sherry Engebretsen on the night of the accident. She says her mom called her at 5:39 and told her that she was just leaving the office. She says her mother also told her to clean her room, which Jessica says was a very typical request.

Her sister, Anne, laughs and says their mother had high expectations for her daughters.

Remembering Sherry
Ron Engebretsen embraces his daughters Anne and Jessica after making a brief statement near the wreckage of the I-35W bridge on Saturday. Ron's wife, Sherry, was killed when the bridge, which spans the Mississippi River near the city's downtown, collapsed on Wednesday.
Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

"She was always on our case, just, I kind of miss it. You know sometimes you wish your mom would get off your back. Don't. Don't wish that cause you'll miss it when it's gone," she said.

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Sherry Engebretsen's husband of 32 years, Ronald, says his wife was a very attentive mother who read every book that her daughters read so that she could help them improve their reading and writing skills.

"We always had a saying when we first started out and it was 50-50 partners and I mean that was a classic. We were 50-50 together, but we were partners. We were one," he said.

Besides reading, Sherry loved the Beatles, Neil Diamond and sports, according to Ron. He says she was a huge Minnesota Vikings fan. And lately she had also developed an interest in Minnesota Gopher football and basketball.

The family had just gotten season tickets to both Gopher sports teams and Ronald says Sherry took it upon herself to figure out if the schedules worked with the rest of their busy lives.

"Sherry had mapped out the schedule and making sure), Sherry did that, and made sure that all of the stuff at Augsburg and Gustavus and the University of Minnesota all matched up and she said 'there's no conflicts Ron, so we can do it all,'" he said.

Ronald says it's difficult at times coping with the emotion of losing his wife. But he says his faith has helped and he's gotten some good advice from family members.

"As my sister, Patricia Doy, has said, 'they come to you in waves.' It's like an ocean. And you've just got to let it come and let it come over you and let it recede. And let it go out. And then it's going to come again," he said. Sherry Engebretsen's funeral will be held Wednesday at 11 a.m. at Incarnation Lutheran Church in Shoreview.