Story last updated at 6:43 PM on Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Mother, child die in crash

Chapman concert to be dedicated to Leslie Lancaster, first-grader Morgan

BY MICHAEL ARMSTRONG
STAFF WRITER

Chapman concert to be dedicated to Leslie Lancaster, first-grader Morgan

An Anchor Point mother and her daughter died in a two-vehicle collision last Saturday morning near Girdwood.



  Photo provided
Leslie Lancaster  
Leslie Lancaster, 48, died of injuries at the scene, and her daughter, Morgan Lancaster, 6, died en route to Providence Hospital, Anchorage. Two men also involved in the crash, Jason Naehu and Derek Hovanec, both 34 of Anchorage, were treated at Providence and released. The accident also killed three dogs riding in Lancaster’s car.

Chapman School and the Anchor Point community were in mourning this week. Lancaster worked as a clinician for South Peninsula Behavioral Services, Community Mental Health Center, and was on the child and adolescent team working with emotionally disturbed children and adolescents in Anchor Point and at Chapman School. Morgan Lancaster was a first-grader at Chapman School.

“It’s a tragic loss for our school,” said Chapman School Principal Sharon Conley.

A school memorial service for the Lancasters is at 7 p.m. Friday at Chapman School. Conley said a holiday concert at 7 p.m. today at the Chapman School gym is dedicated to Leslie and Morgan Lancaster.

Chapman School has been in critical incident mode under Kenai Peninsula Borough School District policies, Conley said. District staff, social workers and mental health clinicians met with students, teachers, staff and parents at the start of school Monday to provide counseling.

“The grieving is going on for Leslie and Morgan,” Conley said. “The heaviness continues. Reality is setting in with these kids.”

According to the Alaska State Troopers, about 9:30 a.m. Dec. 2, Lancaster was driving a 1996 Subaru Legacy south when she lost control on an icy curve near Mile 88 Seward Highway two miles south of Girdwood. The Subaru hit a guardrail, spun into the northbound lane, and was hit on the passenger side by a 2002 Ford F-150 pickup truck driven by Naehu. Anchorage Fire Department emergency medical technicians responded to the crash. The accident shut down the highway until 1:15 p.m., when one lane of traffic was opened. The highway was completely reopened at 3 p.m.

Heavy fog and icy roads contributed to the crash, troopers said. No drugs or alcohol were suspected to have been involved in the crash.

Lancaster has been working with South Peninsula Behavioral Services for the past three years, said Nina Allen, executive director for South Peninsula Behavioral Services. Lancaster has a master’s degree in social work from the University of Alaska Anchorage.

As it helps Chapman School and Anchor Point deal with its grief, Community Mental Health also helped its own staff. Allen said most staff were notified of the Lancasters’ deaths before media identified the accident victims on Sunday. It’s the second such tragedy Community Mental Health has had to deal with this fall. Another mental health clinician, Jim Henkelman, lost his wife, Shari Henkelman, 49, when she died in an auto accident in September.



  Photo provided
Morgan Lancaster  
Conley said Lancaster was an excellent clinician.

“She went way beyond what the job required and mandated,” Conley said. “There was a real sensitivity there for our children.”

A first-grade student in Julie Shaw’s class, Morgan was a great student and always proud to talk about what she learned, Conley said. Her birthday was Dec. 3, when she would have turned 7. She attended Chapman School since kindergarten.

“Morgan had a vitality and an eagerness that first-graders have,” Conley said. “She would come in and go ‘Did you know?’ She spent a lot of time in our office just to talk to us.”

Morgan loved to dress up and had to have matching pink outfits, Conley said.

“I’ll remember the pink more than anything else,” Conley said. “In the classroom she was a real caregiver, mimicking what her mom did. She was the mother of the classroom. … It’s a real close-knit group of kids.”

Allen said Lancaster helped set up a program to serve her clients through the summer and school vacations. Working with the Anchor Point Senior Center, she arranged to use their space to provide children a place to go.

“She did that on her own. That was her idea and she ran with it,” Allen said. “She was awesome. I’m really going to miss her.”

Lancaster had been a long-time volunteer with the Bird Treatment and Learning Center when she lived in Anchorage and continued her work when she moved to Anchor Point. She took care of two birds at her home, Petra, a bald eagle, and Sybl, a snowy owl, said Mary Bethe Wright, who worked in the education program with Lancaster. Lancaster did school and other programs with the birds, and participated in events on the Kenai Peninsula after moving to Anchor Point.

Petra and Sybl were injured birds unable to be rehabilitated and released into the wild, Wright said. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Homer retrieved Petra and Sybl from the Lancasters’ home and is caring for them until they can be returned to Bird TLC.

The Lancasters’ family is in Anchor Point handling arrangements. A memorial service will be announced at a later date. In lieu of flowers, the family asked that donations in the memory of Leslie and Morgan Lancaster be made to the Bird Treatment and Learning Center, 6132 Nielson Way, Anchorage AK 99518.

Leslie and Morgan Lancaster are survived by their father and grandfather, Lewis Lancaster of Tucson, Ariz.; sisters and aunts, April Mobley of Seattle and Keri Lancaster of Tucson; brother and uncle Curtis Lancaster of Long Beach, Calif.; and cousin Kevin Duncan, of Seattle. Morgan also is survived by her father, Paul Lyttaker, of Michigan.

Leslie and Morgan were preceded in death by their mother and grandmother, Margie Lancaster.

Conley said the support in Anchor Point has been helping Chapman School students, teachers and staff deal with its loss.

“This is such a close-knit community. The phone calls and parents who have stopped by have been amazing,” Conley said.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.armstrong@homernews.com.

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