Crash victims 'both had a heart of gold'


GIBSON CITY — Family members remember Kelsey Bridgwater-Fottler and Charly Jesse as being more like sisters than first cousins, as the two shared many moments together.

While on their way to an appointment that Jesse had in Paxton on Thursday morning, the 21-year old Bridgwater-Fottler and 24-year old Jesse died in an automobile accident at the intersection of Illinois 9 and Ford County Road 1300 East, about three miles east of Elliott.

“They were just both very free-spirited, loved to draw and write, and just loved nature,” said Karley Bridgwater, Kelsey’s sister and Charly’s cousin. “They just lived life as free and simple as they possibly could.”

Both girls grew up in Gibson City and attended Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley schools.

The two shared a love of the arts, with Kelsey interested in art and Charly in poetry. According to her mother, Kelsey dreamed of one day becoming a professional artist.

“She wanted to become an artist,” Kelli Bridgwater said. “She wanted to sell her work. She wanted to share her gift to others and to travel.”

Kelli said her daughter’s personality was quite similar to her horoscopic sign, Leo. She said Kelsey was bold and determined.

“She was definitely a lion at heart — fierce and bold,” Kelli said. “She had beautiful eyes and the widest smile you could imagine. She lit up the room.”

Karley Bridgwater echoed those sentiments about her sister.

“She was just living life as free as she could without a doubt,” Karley said.

Charly was described by her mother, Beth, as a unique individual who loved to write and hoped to do it for a living one day.

“She was a really good writer,” Beth Bridgwater said. “One time in grade school she wrote a poem and it was published (in a Celebrate Poetry book).”

Beth said she named her daughter after her father and Charly’s grandfather, the late Charles “Chuck” Bridgwater.

“I was really close to my dad, and after I had Kristyn, my oldest, I decided that if I ever had another girl, I would name her Charly,” Beth said, adding that her daughter and father shared a close bond.

“She was named after my dad and was really close to my dad,” Beth said.

Beth said her daughter and niece shared a strong bond and close friendship.

“Charly was very loving and caring,” Beth said. “She was kind of a unique kid — she and Kelsey both. They were more like sisters than they were cousins; they really were.”

Charly Jesse had recently learned that she was expecting a baby and was eight weeks pregnant at the time of the accident.

“She was really looking forward to being a mom,” Beth Bridgwater said.

Karley Bridgwater said her family is dealing with the loss of two young lives cut short.

“You just go through all the emotions,” Karley said. “You’re sad, you’re mad, you’re angry, you’re numb.”

The family is holding a joint funeral service for Kelsey and Charly on Friday morning at the Gibson City Bible Church. Visitation begins at 9 a.m., with the funeral following at 11.

A GoFundMe page has been started by Bekah Barnett, a family friend, to help the family incur the costs of funeral expenses. More than $6,600 of the $15,000 fundraising goal had been raised as of Monday afternoon. Donations can be given by visiting the site at

Karley Bridgwater described her sister and cousin as living their lives as best they could.

“They just lived life to the fullest and accepted everyone that crossed their paths,” Karley said. “Friendly, caring, giving — they both had a heart of gold.”


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