Mother of soldier killed in Iraq collapses, dies

'Her grief was so intense,' hospital worker says

Tuesday, October 5, 2004 Posted: 12:28 PM EDT (1628 GMT)

TUCSON, Arizona (AP) -- A 45-year-old woman collapsed and died days after learning her son had been killed in Iraq, and just hours after seeing his body.

Results of an autopsy were not immediately released, but friends of Karen Unruh-Wahrer said she couldn't stop crying over losing her 25-year-old son, Army Spc. Robert Oliver Unruh, who was killed by enemy fire near Baghdad on September 25.

"Her grief was so intense -- it seemed it could have harmed her, could have caused a heart attack. Her husband described it as a broken heart," said Cheryl Hamilton, manager of respiratory care services at University Medical Center, where Unruh-Wahrer worked as a respiratory therapist.

Unruh, a combat engineer, had been in Iraq less than a month when he was shot during an attack on his unit.

Several days after learning of his death, his mother had gone to the hospital complaining of chest pains, Hamilton said. She was feeling better the next day but saw her son's body Saturday morning and collapsed that night in her kitchen.

Her husband, Dennis Wahrer -- also a respiratory therapist -- and other family members performed CPR but Unruh-Wahrer was pronounced dead that night.

Autopsy results won't be released until relatives are notified, said Dr. Bruce Parks, Pima County chief medical examiner. There was no immediate response to a call to his office before business hours Tuesday.

Robert Unruh will be buried Friday at the Southern Arizona Veterans' Memorial Cemetery. His mother's body will accompany her son's in the procession to the cemetery.