Grand Haven Tribune: 'They brought out the best in each other'

'They brought out the best in each other'

Becky Vargo • Mar 12, 2019 at 6:31 PM

HOLTON TWP. — A Ravenna couple with close ties to the Tri-Cities area will be memorialized this week after losing their lives in a crash with an alleged drunken driver early Saturday morning.

The 25-year-old Twin Lake man who caused the crash was arrested and sent to the Muskegon County Jail, police said.

Former Spring Lake and Nunica resident Melissa (Nash) Wilds, 37, and her fiancé, Justin Matthew Ducham, 39, a Nunica businessman, were traveling in a Ford Edge on Maple Island Road near Crystal Lake Road in Holton Township at the time of the 1:13 a.m. crash. 

Police said a Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck driven by Cody Loomis crossed the centerline and collided almost head-on with the Ford Edge.

Loomis was pinned inside his vehicle after the crash and had to be extricated by firefighters. He was then taken by ambulance to a local hospital, police said. On Monday, he was released from the hospital and lodged in the county jail.

Loomis was arraigned by video Tuesday afternoon in Muskegon County District Court on two counts of operating while intoxicated, causing death, and two counts of driving while his license was suspended, causing death. All of the charges carry a possible penalty of up to 15 years in prison.

When it was time for Judge Harold Closz to set bond, Assistant Muskegon County Prosecutor Matt Roberts emphasized to the judge that his office was considering a charge of second-degree murder, pending the results of a blood alcohol test.

Because of prior drunken driving convictions in 2014 and 2017, Roberts said that he believes Loomis is a danger to the community. He urged the judge to set a high bond amount.

Defense attorney Jason Barrix argued that his client is a lifelong resident of the area and that he had his family’s support. Barrix suggested bond be set at $50,000 and that his client be ordered to wear an alcohol-monitoring device.

“I can’t overlook the fact that his license was revoked from two prior drunk drivings,” the judge said. “In between, he was cited for open receptacle (in a motor vehicle) in 2016.”

Prior to the judge setting bond at $500,000, Closz said: “Apparently, he didn’t pay attention to the rules.”

Loomis is scheduled for a probable-cause hearing March 26. The preliminary examination is set for April 1 in front of Muskegon County Judge Raymond Kostrzewa.

A supportive sister 

Melissa (Nash) Wilds was the one who always kept the family together. She supported and loved everyone, said her older brother, Joe Nash.

Wilds, also known as “Missy,” organized all the activities held in memorial of their brother, Chance Nash, who died as the result of a sledding accident on Dec. 31, 2009, at Duncan Memorial Park in Grand Haven.

“We still struggle with that (loss),” Joe said.

The Nash children were born in Owosso and lived for some time with their mother in Missouri, Joe said. Joe moved to Spring Lake to live with his father, Dave Nash, and eventually Melissa followed suit. Joe said he believes his sister graduated from Spring Lake High School in 2001.

The family moved to Nunica, and their father still lives in that area, Joe said.

Melissa married, had a daughter, and then eventually divorced and spent some years on her own.

“She was very good at being a single mom,” Joe said. “She took good care of her kids.”

When Melissa was on her own, she spent a lot of time hanging out with her older brother, riding motorcycles and supporting his pursuit of boxing.

“She was always the biggest supporter of whatever I did and whatever anyone in the family did,” he said.

Melissa went on to have a son and eventually moved away from her relationship with her son’s father. 

A few years ago, she met Justin Ducham.

“Justin brought out the best in her,” Joe said. “She brought out the best in him.”

Ducham and Wilds were together five or six years before Justin proposed, her brother said. His sister posted a picture on social media and captioned it, “It’s about damn time,” Joe said.

The couple liked the outdoors, and often rented a cabin north of Baldwin and took motorcycle trips.

“They always liked doing things together,” Joe said.

On the night of the crash, they were “hanging out” to celebrate Justin’s upcoming birthday because he was planning to leave for a snowmobile trip to the Upper Peninsula, Joe said. Ducham would have turned 40 on Sunday.

Ducham operated Auto Pro on M-104 in Nunica for many years. Joe said he was supposed to meet Justin there on Saturday to help him work on some cars.

Wilds worked at Inspired Health in Grand Haven for the past two years.

“She loved it there,” Joe said. “She enjoyed the people she worked with. She was very passionate about her job.”

An ‘infectious smile’

Jan Stempkey said her younger brother “had this really infectious smile.”

“He was always full of life,” she said. “He walked into the room and lit it up.”

Ducham graduated from New Lothrop High School, near Flint, and then moved to the Grand Haven area to work with his dad. Ducham was an avid Harley-Davidson motorcycle rider, and he and Melissa really embraced life, Stempkey said.

“As hard as it is to lose him, he was at the peak of his life,” Stempkey said. “He was so happy. He loved that family.”

Funeral arrangements

The families have planned a joint service for the couple at 11 a.m. Thursday at Port City Church, 3387 Heights-Ravenna Road. Visitation is set for 2-9 p.m. Wednesday at Sytsema’s Lee Chapel, 6291 S. Harvey St., Norton Shores. Visitation will also take place at the church an hour before the service.

The family is asking, in lieu of flowers, that donations be made to an education fund for Melissa’s children, Graysen Evans and Fayth Wilds. 

Joe Nash said the children are staying with their fathers and grandparents.

“Right now, it’s day by day,” he said.

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