Two weeks ago, Mark McQuate married his bride, Kelly Beard, on a sun-splashed, sandy beach in Key West, Fla.
Today, he will lay her to rest.
The Bettendorf couple's time as husband and wife was cut short March 24 when the pair's rented Nissan Altima collided with a Chevrolet Trailblazer on Interstate 24 in Nashville. The crash killed Kelly McQuate. The McQuates were on their way home from Florida.
Mark McQuate, a retired firefighter, has been recuperating from his injuries at his parents' home in St. Louis, but is in the Quad-Cities today for Kelly's funeral.
"He's doing fine and is improving every day," said his mother, Kay McQuate. "Surprisingly, for what they went through, his injuries were not a lot. His jaw was broken and has three plates in it."
Kelly "was a struggling, single, loving mother who finally found happiness only to have it tragically cut short," her husband said in an e-mail interview, unable to speak because his jaw is wired shut. Each of the McQuates had three children before they met three years ago.
Kelly worked as a manager at Poor Boys Pizza & Pub.
"Her life revolved around her children and making Poor Boys Pizza a place people wanted to eat and socialize," Mark McQuate said. "She really loved the business."
Kevin McCarthy of Muscatine, Iowa, Mark McQuate's best friend for 21 years, remembers the day he and his buddy walked inside Poor Boys and saw Kelly for the first time.
"We had gone there to eat, and Mark had noticed her and was attracted to her," McCarthy said. "A few weeks later, Mark and I were down in Mobile, Ala., playing golf, and he called a bartender (at Poor Boys) and sent her flowers. That was on St. Patrick's Day three years ago."
McCarthy said the McQuates were a fun couple.
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"They both enjoyed motorcycle riding. Mark was a Harley rider, and they'd go out on the nice days and take rides together all of the time,'' he said.
Mark McQuate doesn't remember anything about the accident. He was sleeping when it occurred. When he awoke in a Nashville hospital after surgery, he learned Kelly had died.
"The pain in my face is nothing compared to the pain that my heart has produced," he said. "I don't know what I will do without her. Bargaining with God to turn back time or trade places hasn't worked so far - being mad at him doesn't help, either."
Mark McQuate said he and his wife were "soul mates," adding "death does not separate us." He encourages everyone to try to ignore their day-to-day problems and focus on what matters.
"Enjoy having a discussion and a cup of coffee with your wife every morning, or watching her enjoy picking up a seashell off the beach and look at its beauty, or rubbing her back for her before she goes to sleep after she had a hard day getting three boys educated, working 10 hours, cooking, doing laundry and still having time for one more person in her life," he said.
Meanwhile, police said a preliminary investigation shows that one of the vehicles was traveling in the wrong direction. The driver of the Trailblazer, 45-year-old Johnny Kindle of Clarksville, Tenn., did not sustain life-threatening injuries, according to police.
Responding officers reported that Kindle appeared to have been drinking. A small amount of marijuana was found on the passenger floorboard of the McQuates' car, which Kelly was driving.
Police say it will take some time before they determine which driver was at fault. Toxicology reports still are pending.
Mark McQuate wants to put to rest any theories that he and Kelly had been partying at the time of the accident.
"That is not the case," he said. "I am comfortable in stating it was not her fault."
IF YOU GO
Services for Kelly M. (Beard) McQuate, 33, of Moline, will be 11 a.m. today at Wheelan-Pressly Funeral Home, 3030 7th Ave., Rock Island. Private burial will be later at the National Cemetery, Arsenal Island. Memorials may be made to the Kelly Beard Memorial Fund at Blackhawk Bank and Trust.