Relatives mourn Bremerton woman killed in New Years crash

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As a taxi driver, Jennifer Winchester has racked up countless miles and trips around Kitsap over the past 10 years, bringing people to the airport on business trips, to work and home after too much drank at the bar. She was striking up a conversation, wanted to know where you were going, if you would be safe once there and how your day was going, her daughter Kolby Winchester said.

After Jennifer’s night shift was over, she knocked on her daughter’s door or texted her out for hot coffee, something to start her grandchildren’s day.

“She would text me at 5 a.m. to make sure that even though I’m a grown female with two kids, she would make sure I was up to get ready for work,” Kolby said.

“She loved everyone from all walks of life,” said Jennifer’s son Blake Winchester. “She didn’t care who you are, where you’re from or what you looked like. She would welcome you and make a friend of you, just love complete strangers. She was the center of our family here.

While Winchester was driving on New Years Eve, an SUV crossed the center line of Freeway 305 and hit his car head-on. Winchester, 50, of Bremerton, died at the scene.

Prosecutors alleged that the driver of the SUV, a woman from Poulsbo, was intoxicated at the time of the crash and charged her with homicide and driving. Dorothy Liebenrood, 36, pleaded not guilty last week and remains in Kitsap County Jail on $ 250,000 bond.

Jennifer’s family and friends meet with memories and photos.

Following:Suspected drunk driver accused of killing taxi driver on New Years Eve charged with homicide and driving

“Always worth the wait”

Shortly after moving to Bremerton a few years ago, Jennifer became Kandi Goodrich’s regular cab driver and they quickly became friends. They shared internal jokes and let off steam. On one trip, they circled a group of killer whales. Jennifer was always answering a call.

When her friend was driving, Goodrich said, she often waited up to an hour to make sure Jennifer was her driver, even though she only had to drive a few minutes down the road.

“A little time Jen was always worth the wait,” she wrote in a message to Kitsap Sun.

When she heard about the New Year’s Eve accident, Goodrich called Jennifer’s number. It was, she said, the first time her friend hadn’t answered.

Gerren Allen met Jennifer a few years ago after missing a bus to work. He called a cab and met an amazing caller, someone real and down to earth. He would go for a walk with Jennifer sometimes, and she would look at him in the rearview mirror and smell a bad day: “You wanna talk about it? “

Jennifer’s middle child Kayla Rochelle recalled how Harborside Taxi recruited its mother away from a competitor because of her reliability. Rochelle followed in his footsteps and also drove a taxi for a while.

“She made a connection with everyone who got in the cab,” Kolby said. “It was never just a simple drive from ‘point A’ to ‘point B’ with my mom. There was always something in between.

“She always held us all together”

Those close to Jennifer remember that she put her children and grandchildren before her, a positive spirit, small moments of tenderness.

Blake recalled finding solace in his mother that you could cry or try not to and, “Then she would sneak in a joke or a little song on the spot or something like that.” You are still sad, but now you are trying not to laugh.

Jennifer Winchester, front left, with her three children and stepdaughter.

On one occasion, Jennifer picked up a last minute Christmas tree from Rite Aid. The store had closed, but she grabbed a tree and slipped $ 40 under the door.

Kolby remembers her mother taking her to a local lake with a cheap yarn and hook and a bag of Cheetos: “We went to a little lake in Bremerton and went fishing with that,” he said. -she says. “She always made sure we were happy even when we didn’t have much.”

“She always started her mornings with me at 5 am, and she was always the text of my sweet dreams before I went to bed,” Kolby said. “She always held us all together.”

Nathan Pilling is a reporter who covers Bainbridge Island, North Kitsap and Washington State Ferries for the Kitsap Sun. He can be reached at 360-792-5242, [email protected] or on Twitter at @KSNatePilling.

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