A couple killed in a crash along Interstate 70 in western Kansas placed a high value on their family and ran an appliance, heating and cooling service business in Lee’s Summit.
Mark Groom, 56, and his wife, Margaret Kelli Groom, 55, of Lee’s Summit died Tuesday when the family’s 2003 Chevrolet Suburban rolled over in Gove County. They owned Groom’s Appliance, Heating and Cooling, which they started 29 years ago.
Kelli Groom’s stepfather, Richard E. Nieweg, 85, also died in the wreck.
The Grooms’ three grandchildren were injured and taken to Wesley Medical Center in Wichita. One of the children was expected to be released Wednesday. The two others were doing well in the hospital, the family said.
“We have suffered an unfathomable tragedy,” said Cheryl Atwood of Lee’s Summit, the sister-in-law of Kelli Groom. “We are still in shock.”
The crash occurred about 11 a.m. Tuesday as the Grooms and Nieweg were on their way to Colorado to visit family near Pikes Peak.
Although the Grooms had been planning the trip for a few months, Nieweg decided to go along at the last minute.
“They were planning to come to Colorado, and the area where they were going to vacation is where we live,” said Nieweg’s daughter Janné Martin of Florissant, Colo.
Nieweg, who grew up on a farm near New Melle, Mo., worked most of his life as a computer programmer for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. After he took an early retirement, he had a variety of jobs, including his own lawn service and driving a school bus, tour bus and Greyhound bus. Nieweg still worked at Enterprise Rent-A-Car driving cars, mostly for fun money, Martin said.
“He liked to drive, so it was natural for him to go and find jobs that did that,” Martin said. “He just loved to go and seeing all there was to see.”
But it’s his sense of humor that Martin will miss the most. An example was how he would place people who called his home “on hold,” saying that he was going to “transfer” them to the living room department or the kitchen department, mimicking how corporate America has become, Martin said.
“He was very hardworking, but he was so gentle and so kind,” Martin said.
Mark and Kelli Groom both grew up in Lee’s Summit. In September 1978, Mark Groom married Margaret Kelli Atwood. In the spring of 1986, they started Groom’s Appliance, Heating and Cooling.
“Growing up in Lee’s Summit, we felt we knew the needs of the community, and we put our focus to offering old-fashioned customer service and fair pricing,” Mark Groom wrote on the company’s website. “With the loyalty and trust that our customers have given us, we have been fortunate to expand our services beyond the borders of Lee’s Summit.”
The company now serves Missouri customers in Jackson and Cass counties and Kansas customers in Johnson County.
“They were reliable, very customer service oriented,” Cheryl Atwood said. “They just were good people.”
The business even provided careers for several family members, including the couple’s son, Chad Groom; their daughter, Alana Bloom; and nephew Devin Loomis.
“They worked really hard to have a successful business and a successful family,” Bloom said.
The Grooms made family a priority and they never missed a game or event while their children were growing up, Bloom said. They were chaperones and carpoolers.
Their house was where “all of our friends wanted to come just to talk to our parents,” Bloom said. “That’s just who they were. They loved everyone more than they loved themselves.”
Kelli Groom also would baby-sit her grandchildren while their parents worked.
“She loved being a mom and she really loved being a grandmother,” Bloom said.
Bloom said her mother always told her and her brother that they didn’t have a big family, so it’s important that they have a close family.
“They were just normal people,” Bloom said. “But they were extraordinary.”