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Former Sellwood merchant dies after coastal crash

Not at fault in Florence head-on
by: Oregon State Police, It can happen in an instant: The Oregon State Police released this photo of the July 9th crash on the central Oregon coast which claimed the life of Inner Southeast Portland resident and former Sellwood bookstore owner Rebecca Marie Howe. Her sedan was struck by a pickup truck which crossed into her lane, after veering into and out of a roadside ditch.

Rebecca Marie Howe, age 47, a Southeast Portland resident who for two years operated KISS Books in Sellwood, was the driver of a car which was struck nearly head-on on Highway 101, about three miles south of Florence, on the Oregon coast, on July 9th. Ms. Howe initially was transported to Peace Harbor Hospital in Florence, and then was transferred by ambulance to Sacred Heart Hospital in Eugene, where she remained in very critical condition, in a coma, until her death on the weekend of July 15-16. She had been using safety restraints, and was not in any way at fault in the violent collision which claimed her life.

The accident occurred on Sunday, July 9, at 12:40 pm. State Police from the Springfield office told THE BEE that a 2005 Dodge pickup driven by Rodney L. Deris, age 53, from Florence, was southbound on Highway 101, when he drove off into a ditch on the right shoulder, then came back onto the highway and crossed the center line. His pickup then crashed nearly head-on with Rebecca Howe's northbound 1993 Honda Civic four-door sedan.

Police add that Deris was using safety restraints and received minor injuries. He was transported to Peace Harbor Hospital, where he was treated and released. Oregon State Police troopers from Florence and Springfield continued to pursue the investigation with the assistance of the Lane County District Attorney's Office. Alcohol is being investigated as a possible contributing factor in Deris' handling of his vehicle, and the DA's office is reportedly considering criminal charges in the aftermath of Ms. Howe's death.

Officers report that Rebecca never regained consciousness after the crash, and in fact was being kept alive by the medical equipment to which she was connected. Her family eventually made the heart-wrenching decision to disconnect life support, and her death came over the weekend of July 15-16.

In a May, 2004, article on the then-new KISS Books store, written by BEE reporter Rita A. Leonard, the unusual name for the store was explained by Howe: 'KISS stands for 'Keep It Simple and Serene'.' Howe added that was only after she had signed the lease on the storefront that she discovered some relevant graffiti embedded in the sidewalk near the front entrance: 'The word 'KISS' appeared in two places.' Her shop, which had been located at 8317 S.E. 13th in Sellwood, closed its doors on April 30th of this year. She had planned a new career as a consultant.