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Chris Street's girlfriend: 'It was hard to let him go'

[ 0 ] January 13, 2013 |

Making a life for herself without Chris Street was difficult for Kim Vinton Williams.

“It was real hard for me to let go,” Kim said. “I didn’t ever want to forget Chris.”

Street’s girlfriend since the two were sophomores at Indianola High School, Kim was in the car with the Iowa basketball star on the night of Jan.19, 1993, when his Chrysler LeBaron collided with a Johnson County snowplow just north of the intersection of Highway 1 and Interstate 80. Street died on the scene.

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Chris Street and Kim Vinton during their senior year at Indianola High School. (Photo courtesy of the Street family)

Kim crawled out of the overturned car, then was hospitalized for six days with a separated shoulder, a punctured lung and broken ribs.

In 2000, she married former Iowa wrestler Joe Williams, a three-time NCAA wrestling champion and 2004 Olympian. They have two sons: Kaleb, 10, and Wyatt, 7.

“For me to move on and fall in love with someone else and start a family, which in my mind I was going to do with Chris … I had to be ready to let go of him,” Kim said in an interview this month with the Des Moines Register.

“I had a lot of ups and downs emotionally,” she said. “And then finding a partner, a husband, who accepted me for who I am now and not what I was then. … It’s been hard for him, too. Because he wasn’t even in Iowa City when (the accident) happened. So he didn’t understand the impact it had.”

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Chris Street and Kim Vinton during their freshman year at the University of Iowa. (Photo courtesy of the Street family)

The night of the accident, Kim had accompanied Street to a team meal at the Highlander Supper Club, near the intersection of Interstate 80 and Iowa Highway 1. About 7 p.m., Street was taking her home before heading to a night class.

“I remember getting in the car,” Kim said. “After that, the next thing I remember is being in the hospital, and the sheriff telling me that Chris didn’t live.”

Kim who now works for the University of Iowa as a program coordinator in the College of Public Health’s Department of Epidemiolo

gy, quickly returned to school.

“I only missed a week,” she said. “As I look back, I don’t know why I did that. I didn’t allow myself a chance to mourn.”

Kim secured an internship with ESPN and spent the summer of 1993 in Connecticut. The break was nice. The harsh reality came when she returned to Iowa City to start classes that fall.

“That was the hardest time for me, going through the things I always did with Chris,” Kim said. “Going to football games, the tailgating, then the basketball season starting. Not having him there. And just being known as the girl who was in the car with Chris, or Chris’ girlfriend. That was real hard for me to get my own identity right away.”

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Kim Vinton Williams is pictured at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Jan. 9, 2013. (Rodney White / Register photo)

Not until she enrolled in graduate school was Kim able to branch out beyond the accident.

The Street family moved from Humeston to Indianola as Chris was entering his sophomore season of high school. Kim remembers seeing him for the first time at a football practice.

“I think everyone said, “Oh, the new kid,’” Kim recalled. “He was so tall. It was kind of fun to watch him. I think a bunch of friends went to a movie together on a Saturday night. And that was the first time I met him.”

Like Chris, Kim was a multi-sport athlete at Indianola. She competed in track, basketball and swimming. She was also on the track team at Iowa for two years. She said the two had looked at rings during their junior year of college.

“We had planned on getting engaged, but we were not officially engaged,” Kim said.

When she thinks back, one image of Street stands above the rest.

“The first thing I think of is the smile,” Kim said. “He was always smiling. And he was a fun person to be around. He had a great sense of humor. He had a great way of making you feel good about yourself. Just a very kind and fun person to be around.”

She plans to attend the Iowa-Wisconsin game Saturday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, when Street will be honored on the 20th anniversary of his passing. She’ll have her sons with her.

“I’ve been talking to my kids about it,” she said, “and explaining who Chris was and what happened, and that I was in the car.”

Kim marches on, with Street’s unspoken blessing.

“He would have wanted me to move on with my life,” Kim said.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball

About Rick Brown: Rick Brown covers men's basketball for The Des Moines Register and Hawk Central. He's married and the father of two. He also covers golf for the Register. View author profile.

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