Injured U student dies

After a car accident in Minneapolis two weeks ago, Melissa Speich died Friday.

Mike Enright

The last e-mail Kurt Speich received from his daughter Melissa was to double check the week of a summer vacation to North Carolina.

It had become an annual trip for Melissa, her dad and her younger brother Jacob.

“My whole family, my side, would go and we had a couple of beach houses on the ocean,” Kurt Speich said.

“And Melissa just absolutely loved that. Ö She’d love to get up in the morning, every morning, and go for a long walk on the beach; she’d do that two or three times a day.”

Melissa Speich, a University School of Public Health graduate student, died Friday while hospitalized at Hennepin County Medical Center.

She had been in the hospital since Easter Sunday – the day before her 23rd birthday – after being critically injured in a car accident near the Metrodome. An allegedly drunk driver drove through a red light, striking her vehicle.

Melissa’s father was with her when she died.

“We sat with her all night and her breathing got very labored at 5 o’clock in the morning, and then, at exactly 6:35 a.m., she took her last breath, and I saw her heart stop beating, and I felt her hand release mine and she was gone,” Kurt Speich said.

Her mother, Cindy Speich, said she is going to miss her daughter terribly.

“I was just looking forward to seeing the future happiness in her life,” she said. “I know that I’m not going to have that, and it really hasn’t hit me yet.”

Melissa’s fiancé Adam Doyle, a University alumnus, said it’s hard to imagine her being gone.

“I’m still in denial that the accident even happened,” he said. “Melissa is the best thing that has ever happened to me, and I still can’t believe that when I go home that she’s not going to walk through the door every day.”

Jerry Rinehart, vice provost for Student Affairs, said Speich’s death is a “terrible tragedy” for both her family and the University community.

“It’s especially disheartening to hear that the driver who killed her may have been drunk,” Rinehart said.

The driver, 33-year-old Geoffrey A. Baker , from Hudson, Wis., has been charged with vehicular homicide and first degree drunken driving.

According to authorities, he has three DWI convictions.

“I think it’s so unfair that he walks away, and we had to sit for 12 days with our daughter and watch her die,” Kurt Speich said.

Melissa A. Speich was born April 9, 1984.

In 2006, she received a nutrition science degree from the University. She hoped to attend medical school after getting her master’s degree.

Melissa loved to run and read, her mother said, and she was a talented cook.

Melissa had an outgoing and friendly personality, always smiling and seeing the good in everything, her mother said.

But most of all, Melissa was a kind, genuine person, Cindy Speich said.

“If you became her friend, you were her friend for life,” she said. “She was just always there to make people feel good about themselves. I just love her so much.”

Funeral services will be held 11 a.m. Thursday at First Lutheran Church in Stoughton, Wis. A memorial service is also scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday in the atrium of the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis.