Twenty-year-old junior in industrial engineering and native of Pelham, Ala. Dalta Garrett was killed in a four-vehicle collision on Interstate 85 in Macon County near Tuskegee on Tuesday, July 3 at 3:30 p.m., according to a press release from the Alabama State Troopers.
According to the state troopers, Garrett’s 2009 Toyota Corolla crossed over the median and collided with two other vehicles. Garrett’s mother and sister, Vivian and Joan Garrett, claim she swerved while trying to avoid a bicycle that fell off of the car in front of her.
“Dalta was a safe driver. She didn’t have any tickets,” Joan said. “This was a freak accident.”
Not only was Dalta a full-time student, but she was also a AFROTC cadet and active volunteer with the Alabama 4-H & Youth Development Council.
“She excelled as a leader, and she was a joy to know,” said Janet McCoy, development program and state activities and events coordinator for Alabama 4-H & Youth Development. “I was going back and looking at some pictures I have taken of her as a 4-Her over the years, and there was not one that didn’t have her bright smile. I think that was who she was. She was always positive and encouraging, and when she was feeling down, she used her faith and strength and joy for life to bring herself back up.”
Garrett was the president of Alabama’s 4-H Council in 2008, and her entire family are all longtime 4-H volunteers, according to McCoy.
According to Vivian, her daughter could have been a beauty queen, but she chose to serve her country instead.
“She loved the Air Force, and she loved Auburn,” Vivian said. “She was one of the strongest women I’ve ever known.”
Garrett was also a scholarship AFROTC cadet at the University. She completed her field training two weeks prior to the accident, and she aspired to become an officer in the Air Force.
“I wrote her every day,” Vivian said. “She received 105 letters with kind words of encouragement and Bible verses while at field training. She was so proud of that.”
Joan said Dalta believed women could do just as much as men in any arena, and, according to Vivian, Dalta was strong-willed, both in body and soul; and she never let the stereotypes against her gender hinder her in any way. “Dalta was the top female cadet with pushups and sit-ups,” Vivian said. “She kept up with the men, and sometimes outshone them. She encouraged other women to do their best. She was an inspiration, not only in the Air Force, but in everything.”
Col. Joseph Fetsch, commander of the AFROTC Detachment 005, said Dalta was an inspiration to him and his cadets.
“You just couldn’t be in a bad mood around her,” Fetsch said. “She had such a positive outlook on life, and that motivated others to have that same outlook.”
Fetsch said Dalta had a way to motivate people around her and act as a leader without overshadowing the person in charge.
“She encouraged everyone to succeed, and the last thing you’d want to do is let her down,” Fetsch said.
According to Vivian, Dalta counseled several of her peers each week, and Fetsch said that is one of the qualities that stood out most about Dalta.
“A lot of people we don’t even know have sent us letters saying how Dalta went out of her way to befriend their children,” Vivian said. “Dalta was compelled to reach out because of her faith, and she helped bring people back to Christianity. She was always first to befriend somebody.”
Laura Countess, Dalta’s roommate and hometown friend, said she was a huge encouragement, especially during their freshman year.
“She really became just like one of my sisters,” Countess said. “We helped each other through the tough times and the good times, and it was so great to just watch her grow as a person.”
Coutness said one of Dalta’s favorite things to do was to eat dinner at Panera Bread on Friday nights after an exhausting week.
“We did all of the usual roommate stuff. I remember just laying on our beds and having sweet talks about our weeks,” Countess said.
Dalta’s visitation was on Sunday at the Southern Heritage Funeral Home, and the funeral service was held on Monday at the First Baptist Church, both in Pelham.
Vivian said approximately 500 people attended the visitation, and close to 800 attended the funeral, including 11 cadets who were still in field training, according to Fetsch.
“The Air Force let them out on Monday to attend the funeral,” Fetsch said. “This was special permission that had never been done before.”
Vivian said the Air Force honored Dalta well.
“Cadets left field training to come, and there were people from flight school that came,” Vivian said. “Everyone left coins and medals in her casket. And just before she was lowered into the ground, the cadet’s screamed out the Airman’s Creed. That really meant a lot to us.”
McCoy said the funeral was truly a celebration of Dalta’s life.
“It was probably the most heartbreaking thing I have ever attended, but it was also the most inspiring,” McCoy said. “I left there thinking that Dalta would have been so proud that people thought so much of her. They’re such a sweet and loving family, and you left there feeling blessed to have known their daughter.”
Dalta was the fourth of five daughters. She is survived by her parents, Vivian and Bill Garrett, and her four sisters—Joan, Ruth, Deborah and Sabrina.