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Woman mapped future shortly before fatal crash

Corrie Damske was hit by car going wrong way, authorities say

Jan. 3, 2011

At 34 years of age and facing a new year, Corrie A. Damske felt it was time to take stock of her life.

So Thursday night Damske, a Wauwatosa resident and mother of a young daughter, put together a list of her talents and, with the help of one of her best friends, strategized about how to reach her goals.

"She was very creative and artistic," Michelle M. Friedman recalled Monday. "She had just finished designing and building a chest for her daughter that she decorated entirely in bouncy balls, all different sizes and colors," Friedman said.

"We talked about how to move our lives forward, how she could go about getting her ideas in front of the right people and how she could put herself in the direction of her passions."

But shortly after 7 a.m. on New Year's, before she even had a chance to give the chest to her 9-year-old daughter, Hayden, Corrie Damske was killed when the car she was driving was struck by another vehicle headed in the wrong direction on westbound I-94 near 20th St. in Milwaukee, according to the Milwaukee County sheriff's office.

The driver of that vehicle, Leopoldo R. Salas Gaytan, 41, of Milwaukee, was hospitalized after the crash, according to the sheriff's office. The office is considering recommending charges against him that include homicide by intoxicated use of a motor vehicle.

According to the sheriff's office, Salas Gaytan was hospitalized with severe injuries, underwent surgery Monday and was being guarded by sheriff's deputies.

Records indicate he has never held a Wisconsin driver's license, the sheriff's office said.

The crash remained under investigation Monday.

Friedman described Damske as a bright, vivacious woman with "a huge group of friends."

"She'd walk into a room and start hugging and kissing people," Friedman said.

A graduate of Pulaski High School in Milwaukee, Damske took a number of design classes after high school and lived in Tampa, Fla., for a time, Friedman said.

After moving back to Milwaukee, Damske held several jobs, including at Coquette Café in Milwaukee's Third Ward and at a group home for disabled adults, she said.

She also worked for an area furniture store before starting a job at the Milwaukee Art Museum café about two years ago, her friend said.

"She was a really free spirit," Friedman said.

Damske and Friedman were half of a tight-knit foursome of girlfriends, Friedman said.

During their telephone conversation Thursday night, Damske told Friedman that it was time for her to start thinking of a career.

It was then that the two came up with what Friedman called Damske's "2011 Life Goals."

During the conversation, Friedman said, they even talked about who would take care of Damske's daughter if "anything ever happened."

"And something did," Friedman said.

"We lost a loving, passionate and beautiful woman who embodied life.

"Passion," Friedman said, "That was Corrie's word."

Funeral services were pending Monday.

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