Three members of a family who left Tecumseh one week ago for a move to Wisconsin were killed in a traffic accident on an icy highway in that state Thursday. Locally, many of their friends are now mourning the loss while keeping the family’s surviving child in their thoughts and prayers.
The Wisconsin State Patrol said Roy and Jenny Kato, both 34, and their 13-year-old son, Joshua, were killed when their vehicle slid into the path of another vehicle near Maine, Wis., the Associated Press reported. The couple’s 5-year-old daughter, Brooke, suffered non-life threatening injuries and was hospitalized.
Julie Bivens, a family friend from Tecumseh, said the Kato family was in the process of moving back to Wisconsin, where Roy Kato was transferring from his job at Shawnee’s Oldcastle Glass to another facility in Wisconsin.
She said his job originally brought the family to this area about four years ago and they were well known and loved in the community.
“They were very good Christians — they’re going to be missed,” Bivens said. “They were loved by everybody who knew them.”
Bivens said Joshua, who was an eighth grader at Tecumseh Middle School, played soccer for both the Shawnee Soccer Association and Tecumseh Association. Brooke also played soccer in Tecumseh and was in kindergarten at Krouch Early Childhood Center, she said.
The family also was very involved with Scouting, with Joshua starting as a Cub Scout.
“They were one of the closest families I’ve ever seen,” said Elizabeth Williams, who knew the family through Scouting. “They were the kind of people who would give you the shirt off their back, even if it meant they had to do without.”
Bivens, who described Brooke as both a “momma’s girl and a brother’s girl,” said she can’t imagine what the 5-year-old is going through after losing her entire family in such a tragic accident.
Williams agreed, adding Joshua would have done anything for his little sister, even giving his life for her. Williams said their deaths have been hard to accept.
“We all talked to them just the other day,” she said.
While the Kato family lived in Oklahoma, they were active in Rock Creek Baptist Church, Williams said, where Jenny Kato also taught the second grade Bible class.
“They were genuinely nice people,” Williams said.
Clorisa Brown, who knew the family, said their deaths have affected the Scouting community in Shawnee, Tecumseh and Bethel.
“It has really rocked us hard,” she said about the news. “They were an all around great family.”
Page 2 of 2 - Bivens, who has had contact with some of family’s relatives in the Wisconsin and Michigan areas, said Brooke is reportedly staying with her grandparents.
The driver of the other vehicle involved in the crash was also hospitalized with unknown injuries, the patrol reported.
A funeral service for the Kato family members has been scheduled Tuesday in Wisconsin, Bivens said.
Relatives are working to set up a trust fund for Brooke Kato, she added.