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When 25-year-old Iraq War veteran Aaron Crowe woke up on a warm, wet Friday last March, he had no clue about all of the tasks he was about to leave unfinished.
Restoration of a 1975 Chevy Nova. Culinary school in Los Angeles.
A hip-hop album that he hoped would launch a career in music.
Watching his 5-year-old son grow up.
But early the next morning of March 13, after an evening of celebrating the approach of St. Patrick's Day, he was driving on West Laskey Road, when he struck a stopped train. He was dead before an ambulance could arrive to transport him to the hospital.
The Lucas County coroner determined he suffered numerous "blunt trauma injuries" and was intoxicated at the time of his death.
Crossing flashers at the tracks were working, said Lt. Jeff Sulewski, commander of the Toledo Police traffic section.
But, although alcohol was determined to be a factor in his death, road conditions were hardly ideal, he said. It was dark and raining. The tracks are easy to miss.
Speed was not a factor, as Mr. Crowe was driving slightly under the speed limit, Lieutenant Sulewski added.
"It appears he just didn't see the train," the officer said. "It was very tragic."
But now, six months after the crash, friends and family members have teamed up to finish one of his tasks.
'No Time To Waste', an 11-track compact disc, was about 70 percent complete the morning of Mr. Crowe's death. Justin Schmidt, a boyhood friend who operates a small recording studio and production team called Dem Guys Production on Sylvania Avenue near Secor Road, took on the task of finishing the job.
Mr. Schmidt and family members of Mr. Crowe paid to produce about 1,000 copies of the CD and are marketing it through the Allied Record Exchange in Toledo, on the Internet, and by word of mouth to friends of Mr. Crowe and people who see posters for the album at the University of Toledo and elsewhere.
They have sold about 200 copies of the CD at $10 each since Aug. 31, Mr. Schmidt said.
"Every track involves an encounter of his life …" said Nicholas Crowe, Mr. Crowe's younger brother.
"Aaron considered himself a musician. He was real excited about the album coming out. … He told people this was going to be his big debut."
Many of the songs were written during two tours of duty in Iraq with an infantry division of the U.S. Army headquartered at Fort Carson, Colo. He had returned from the last tour just seven months before his death, said Nicholas Crowe. While in Iraq, the Toledo man performed some of the songs before fellow soldiers - his first live audience.
Unlike many returning soldiers, he was not significantly scarred by his Middle East experience, his brother said. Besides the album release, he was looking forward to finishing the classic car he was restoring with his dad, John, starting culinary school in Los Angeles, and seeing his son, Damion, begin kindergarten.
The boy often accompanied Mr. Crowe to sessions at Mr. Schmidt's studio.
While the father wrote song lyrics in a notebook, the son worked from an identical notebook practicing the alphabet, Mr. Schmidt recalled.
A portion of any profits will go to the son, he added.
Mr. Crowe, whose album was released under the name A. Crowe, was working on the album with Mr. Schmidt the night before the accident.
Later that evening, when the two men parted, Mr. Schmidt said good-bye with the greeting, "Peace out." The next day when he looked at his mobile phone, he found that he received a missed call from his friend at 2:59 a.m., which was around the time of the accident listed on a police report.
Mr. Schmidt is nagged by concern that his friend may have been distracted by the phone call, but he has no way of knowing for sure.
Contact Gary Pakulski at:
or 419-724-6082.17.6613 101.3537