Russell Michael Corbett and his wife Betty Lou moved from Milford Mill to a small farm in Carroll County just a few months ago because they wanted their three young children to grow up with plenty of land around them.
Neighbors said the Corbetts were still talking about how much they loved living in Carroll, in an old house they completely remodeled, on six acres in a section of Silver Run where residential development is well under way, but pastures and woods still flourish.
The Corbetts' country idyll was smashed Sunday in a car on rainy road as they were driving to a birthday party in Arbutus. A collision with two other cars killed all three of their children: Jacqueline Michelle Corbett, 5; Russell Michael Corbett Jr., 3; and Loren Cassidy Corbett, 18 months.
Russell Corbett Sr., 26, remained in serious condition today at Washington County Hospital in Hagerstown, and Betty Lou Corbett, 24, was in serious condition at the Shock-Trauma Unit in Baltimore.
Another passenger, Kathy Posedenti, 15, was listed in critical condition today at Shock-Trauma. The driver and passengers of one of the cars Corbett hit were treated for minor injuries. The driver of a second car he hit was in serious condition at Washington County Hospital.
The police said the Corbett children were wearing safety restraints in the car, but the impact was too great to prevent serious injury or death as the car crossed the dividing line on Md. 97, not far from home, close to the Pennsylvania line.
The Corbetts recently had moved from a small brick house in a thickly settled neighborhood along Milford Mill Road in Baltimore County.
"The kids were everything to them," said Russell Corbett's father Charles, a retired CSX Transportation clerk. "They wanted the land for the kids. They were going to get a horse for the oldest girl."
He said his son was always a meticulous driver. "Russell never drove fast," Charles Corbett said. "He used to drive me crazy. He'd drive up the country and every car would pass him."
Charles Corbett lives in Pikesville. His family came to town in 1853, he said, and started the first general store, which is now Fields Pharmacy on Reisterstown Road.
He held up a recent picture of the three children. It was a fine picture of smiling, happy faces, but their grandfather said even that didn't do them justice. "They were so much prettier than that," he said.
At Russell and Betty Lou Corbett's old neighborhood on Milford Mill Road, neighbors remembered the middle child, Russell Jr., as being mechanically inclined like his father, who installed and serviced equipment in dentists' offices. The boy would play with his father's tools, and hammer nails into wood. The oldest girl took ballet.
Russell built a garage in back and Betty Lou laid down a flagstone walk, said Olivia Rifici, who lives next to their old house. They made extensive improvements to the place, she said. "When they moved in, it was a wreck. They did a lot."
And the children were always with them, she said. "They were the typical American family that loved their children."
Rifici's grown daughter Robin, who lives with her, said the house still reminds her of the Corbetts, though they moved out months ago. "I look out at that yard, and I think of children playing," she said.
At their new home in Silver Run, the Corbetts' friend, Tom Medairy, still was putting up the vinyl siding yesterday. Betty Lou Corbett had starting working for him recently, cutting the vinyl strips while he climbed ladders to mount them.
"It started as a joke," Medairy said. "I found she was serious. She started cutting, and she was pretty good. We've been going ever since."
Next door, the Corbetts, especially their children, had made friends with John and Jeanne Bechtel. The children visited often, she said. "We were sort of like their grandparents."
She said her son had been in the midst of fixing an old bicycle for one of them.
"They were good people, friendly people," said John, who still works part-time at his machine shop. "They'd have been good neighbors. They still might come back."