The holidays were going to be something special this year for the Proctors, a tightly knit religious family in upper Montgomery County. Richard and Martha Proctor's oldest daughter had just given birth to her third child. One son had traveled from Texas for what was to be the family's first Christmas together in years.
Instead, five members of the family--two sons and three grandchildren--were killed Thursday afternoon in a head-on collision on a rural highway in Carroll County about 30 miles west of Baltimore. They had been on their way to a Christmas Eve musical pageant at their church.
Those killed were Terry Proctor, 22; Roger Proctor, 14, and three small children, Rebecca Jeanette, 3 years, Pauline Jeanette, 18 months and Ruth Ann Jeanette, one month. The children were the daughters of Tanya Jeanette, 21, the Proctors' oldest daughter, who was injured in the crash.
Maryland state police said the accident occurred near Mount Airy, when a Plymouth station wagon swerved across the center of Rte. 27 and collided with the Proctors' Volkswagen Rabbit.
Two others in the Proctors' car, including Martha Proctor, 45, and her younger daughter Shelia, 17, were injured in the 3:55 p.m. crash. Richard Proctor, a physician, was at his job in Bethesda where he recently became commandant of students at the Naval Medical Center.
Police, who are still investigating the incident, have charged the driver of the other car, Kevin Cooper, a 25-year-old Glen Burnie construction worker, with driving while intoxicated, reckless driving and failure to keep to the right of the center line. Cooper was admitted to Carroll County General Hospital and treated for a possible dislocated hip.
"He said he probably fell asleep," Maryland State policeman Dennis Murphey said Cooper told police. "He doesn't remember."
"I'm not a vindictive person," Proctor said in a telephone interview yesterday afternoon. "But I also come from a family that doesn't drink. I can't believe this sort of thing can continue, and can't believe there aren't ways to do something about this situation.
"I'm not bitter," he added. "Bitterness isn't going to bring back my children and grandchildren."
The Christmas Eve pageant at the church was to be a family event for the Proctors. The newborn baby would play Jesus, and Tanya was to be Mary. The family had persuaded Terry to play Joseph.
As word of the accident spread yesterday throughout the Proctors' quiet residential neighborhood in Clarksburg near the Howard County line, friends and neighbors reacted to the news with varying stages of disbelief.
"I can't think of anybody less deserving for this to happen to," said Mavis Bauer, who lived next door to the Proctors. "They were an absolutely fantastic family, very close and sharing. I can't comprehend that this has happened."
Bauer and other neighbors described the Proctors yesterday as a friendly and outgoing couple whose life revolved around their children, their grandchildren and their church, United Methodist Church of Westminster, Md.
The couple and two of their teenage children had moved to Clarksburg from Stuttgart, Germany only last June after Proctor, who was an army physician, was appointed to the post at the Naval Medical Center.
A few weeks later, their recently divorced and pregnant 21-year-old daughter Tanya Jeanette, also moved into the home, along with her two babies.
The family quickly became a part of their new community, the neighbors said. Son Roger, 14, who also died in the crash, was a ninth grader and avid trumpet player who had been practicing hard to make the Damascus High School Band.
The 17-year old daughter, Shelia, was involved in school drama. Martha, the mother, was the director of religion at the church. "She was very interested in the church," said James Snyder, who lived across the street from the Proctors. "She felt it was her duty."
Tanya's daughter was born on the Friday before Thanksgiving, and the event brought both joy and sadness to the Proctors, according to Mavis Bauer.
When complimented on how adorable her babies were, Tanya replied, "'I know. I just wish I had somebody to share them with,'" recalled Bauer. "I think she had decided she was really going to concentrate her life on those babies."