Aaron Carr had planned on going to university orientation on Thursday with his parents. Instead, a weekend crash police say was caused by a drunken driver has left the 20-year-old to now plan their funerals.
Stony Brook psychology professor Edward "Ted" Carr, 61, and his wife, psychologist Ilene Wasserman, 58, were on a Saturday afternoon nature drive in Wading River when police said their car was struck.
Carr died Saturday; Wasserman is brain dead at Stony Brook University Medical Center, according to her son, who is making plans to donate her organs. And now, their only child is left to grieve the loss of his parents, while vowing to continue their legacy.
"Sometimes people in life live until they're 100 years old and don't do anything for people," Aaron Carr said from the family's Setauket home. "I think in the 60 years they lived, they accomplished a lot."
Carr said he is comforted by the fact that his parents spent their lives doing fulfilling work that helped others.
Pioneer in treating autism
The elder Carr was an internationally renowned expert on autism who pioneered several widely used treatments.
Wasserman was a psychologist with a practice in Port Jefferson who, her son said, was loved by her patients.
At home, Wasserman enjoyed the simple pleasures in life, such as cooking and baking fresh challah for the Friday night Sabbath.
She was devoted to her pet rabbit, Happy, and she had even sent her son a text message from the road an hour before the crash to remind him to feed the bunny. Her last message ended with the words, "I love you."
Carr said his parents were deeply in love. "They did everything together," he said.
Carr and his parents, who had been planning to go to orientation at the University of Connecticut on Thursday, were excited that Aaron was accepted to the main Storrs campus.
He planned to major in psychology, and eventually to work with his father on autism.
"He was supposed to teach me everything," said Carr. "Now it's going to be harder. I don't have him next to me to guide me."
Those in the autism field said Carr's loss is devastating.
"This is a giant that is no longer with us," said Dan Rowland, director of development with the Developmental Disabilities Institute in Smithtown, where Carr was a longtime consultant.
Patricia Whitaker, a fellow professor in Stony Brook's psychology department, said faculty members met Monday to grieve and to talk about how they will carry on Carr's work.
"It really was his life's work to help children with autism, and I think that's one of the most devastating losses we're feeling here," she said.
High praise from students
Whitaker said Carr was wildly popular with Stony Brook students, and that his wife was a "lovely, lovely woman."
Carr's entry on Ratemyprofessors.com was filled with notes from students describing him as "amazing" and "awesome."
"I wish I could make clones of him," one review read. "I wish he taught everything at SB," read another.
Michael Koss, 66, of Rocky Point, the accused drunken driver in the crash, remains at Stony Brook Medical Center in stable condition, along with his two passengers. Police say Koss suddenly swerved from the westbound lane into the eastbound lane, striking Carr's 200 Honda Civic about 4:30 p.m. Police said they are charging Koss with driving under the influence, although the charges could be upgraded in future. Arraignment has been postponed while Koss is in the hospital.
Joanna Gaudet, who lives across the street from Koss, said she knows him only casually, exchanging greetings at times. She said she hadn't seen any cars in his driveway for the past few days.
"He's a nice guy," Gaudet said, adding that she was surprised at the charge of driving while intoxicated.
Aaron Carr said he was at first furious with the man who police said caused the deaths of his parents. But then he said he didn't want his life to be overtaken by anger.
"Life is very short," he said, "and I don't want to live the rest of my life hating someone."
With Keegan Calligar