Rio Vista, Weatherford grieving teacher who planned to retire in December

With more than two decades teaching in a small school district, Beverly J. Brown touched many lives.

That is why her death Monday in a two-vehicle wreck has shaken the community of Rio Vista, said Chris Nichols, principal of the elementary school.

Brown, 57, commuted 48 miles each way from her home in Weatherford to teach first grade in the Johnson County municipality, Nichols said.

"She was set to retire in December," said her niece, Aleshia Howe. "And she was a wonderful woman."

But with so many years in the classroom, Brown was loved by students who have advanced through all grade levels, and beyond, Nichols said.

Grief counselors, he added, were available Monday and Tuesday for students.

Approximately 300 children, K-12, are taught on the school district's three campuses.

"They all know who she is," Nichols said of the students. "It's a tough situation because we're such a small school.

"But you expect to see her in the mornings; it's a bit strange now not to see her in the hallways."

Brown died in a head-on collision on Texas 171, four miles north of Cresson, said Trooper Larry Clint Ferguson of the Texas Department of Public Safety.

The driver of the other vehicle, Houston G. Earnest, 20, of Mineral Wells, was listed in fair condition Tuesday at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth.

He suffered broken limbs and internal injuries, Ferguson said.

The wreck was still under investigation Tuesday.

It happened about 7:20 a.m. Monday as Brown was on her way to work, Ferguson said.

The area is just north of the border shared by Parker and Hood Counties, Ferguson said.

Weatherford and Rio Vista are about 48 miles apart.

Brown was southbound on the highway in a red 1999 GMC Sonoma pickup, while Earnest was north in a white 2008 Dodge four-door passenger car, Ferguson said.

Earnest's car crossed into the path of the Brown's pickup, striking it head on, the trooper said.

Ferguson said he did not know why the wreck happened, but drugs and alcohol have been ruled out by a blood sample taken from Earnest.

Earnest, however, was unable to give much information on Monday.

"He honestly doesn't remember," Ferguson said. "He's pretty badly injured also."

Nichols said Brown's fellow teachers worried about her making such a lengthy commute, but she always tried to assure them that she would be OK.

The principal said he believed Brown would miss students and colleagues after retiring. But, he added, "she was looking forward to being at home with her grandkids."

Howe said her aunt is survived by husband, Paul; sons Andy and James, both of Weatherford; and daughters Tamra Lewis of Granbury and Jennifer Todd of Weatherford.

Brown has three grandchildren, but Tamra is expected to deliver a fourth in a few weeks, Howe said.

Funeral arrangements are pending.