Tony and Rosaleen Waters often rode their bikes together through Busse Woods, but Tuesday morning Rosaleen opted to go by herself while her husband took a walk with their dog.
When Rosaleen's ride seemed to take longer than usual, Tony tried calling her cellphone, but there was no answer. Soon after state troopers were at his door with the worst news he could ever hear.
Waters was struck by a car and killed shortly after 9 a.m. while crossing Higgins Road near the exit ramp from northbound Route 53 near Schaumburg. She was 46.
Tony said he still is in shock over the accident and can't believe that his wife did anything wrong.
"She was the most experienced, careful rider out there," he said, adding that she always wore a helmet and bright orange vest. "I don't know what happened down there. She would not ride the wrong way in traffic, she would not cut in traffic."
Police said Waters was crossing Higgins in a southerly direction when the crash occurred. She stopped at the median, then continued heading south, across eastbound Higgins, where she was hit.
Police plan to interview the driver -- an 85-year-old from Schaumburg -- and a reconstruction expert will work to determine the vehicle's path. State police trooper Douglas Yorke said in an email Thursday afternoon that the driver "more than likely" was driving on Higgins rather than exiting Route 53, but an investigation is ongoing. No charges have been filed.
While Busse Woods is located in unincorporated Cook County, Elk Grove Village Mayor Craig Johnson said the village has taken on the responsibility over the years of making sure the trails are safe. In the past, the village led efforts to get bridges built over Higgins Road just west of Arlington Heights Road and across Route 53 north of Biesterfield Road.
More than $3 million in federal funding has been secured to build a bridge over Higgins just east of Route 53, where the accident occurred. The village will pay for about $670,000 of the project, which Johnson said hopefully will be complete by spring 2014.
Johnson said he heard Thursday that the Illinois Department of Transportation has made the bridge project a top priority in the wake of Tuesday's accident. Work is now set to begin in early June instead of late July, he said.
"We're excited it's going to be built. We've been pushing for this for several years," he said. "We've known for a long time that there have been accidents over the years there."
Johnson said that as an avid cyclist himself, he was devastated to hear of Waters' passing and sends his condolences to her family.
"I wish the bridge could have been done even earlier," he said. "Unfortunately, we saw what can happen (without one)."
Waters was a lifelong resident of Elk Grove Village, where she attended Queen of the Rosary School and Elk Grove High School. She also attended Sacred Heart of Mary High School in Rolling Meadows before it merged with St. Viator High School.
Sheila Rudden-Shorey said her sister's death was "so unexpected," especially because the family has biked the Busse Woods trail hundreds of times.
Besides biking, Waters enjoyed cooking, sewing and making jewelry, Rudden-Shorey said. She was fluent in French and loved traveling and celebrating different cultures, and she hoped to travel to Asia one day.
"She was very thoughtful, very caring and very smart," Rudden-Shorey said, noting her adoption of two Corgis, frequent donations to various organizations and ongoing education. "She was constantly growing."
Tony described Waters as an "all-Irish girl," noting that many members of her close-knit family, including many nieces and nephews, live nearby. Many members of her extended family members live in Ireland.
After high school, Waters attended DePaul University and worked for the Peace Corps in the African nation of Burundi. She later worked as a programmer, providing data to pharmaceutical and health care companies. Recently, Waters was taking a few months off to do training for her job and Tony said he enjoyed having more time to spend with her each day.
Around the time she turned 40, Waters went on a fitness kick. She became a fan of organic foods and homemade juices and enjoyed doing Pilates and yoga, along with biking.
While he still doesn't know the details of what happened, Tony said he is concerned drivers don't realize their vehicle has the potential to kill pedestrians or bikers. He also expressed frustration with drivers who are distracted by their cellphones or driving too fast, especially during rush hour.
"People are looking the wrong way," he said of drivers at the intersection where Rosaleen was killed. "They're looking at oncoming traffic. ... They're not looking at the crosswalk. They're looking to the left to make a right turn."
Tony said the couple would have celebrated their 15th wedding anniversary June 12. He looks forward to the bridge becoming a reality, and said perhaps it could be named after his wife.
"She was just an all-around nice person," he said.
Visitation for Waters will be held from 3 to 9 p.m. Friday at Grove Memorial Chapel, 1199 S. Arlington Heights Road in Elk Grove Village. An Irish Catholic mass will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday at Queen of the Rosary Church, 750 W. Elk Grove Blvd. in Elk Grove Village. Interment will follow at All Saints Catholic Cemetery in Des Plaines.