The two people killed in a weekend Jeep crash were identified Monday as a husband and wife from Riverbank.
Dennis Ludwig, 56, and Linda Ludwig, 55, were on a steep trail in their 1973 Jeep CJ5 about 1 p.m. Saturday at Frank Raines Regional Park when the Jeep rolled down the hill, according to the California Highway Patrol and the Stanislaus County coroner's office.
Both were wearing safety belts, said CHP officer Tom Killian.
The couple were in a rough area of the park traveling on dirt trails when the accident occurred, according to the CHP. They were attempting to turn the vehicle around when it rolled down the mountainside, according to the CHP.
"They were good people," said Colleen Stephansen, who lived next door to the Ludwigs for 10 years before moving to Modesto about a year and a half ago. "It's a shame they are both gone. It is really tragic. It is a loss to Riverbank."
The couple were known for their love of the outdoors as well as their kindness. Linda Ludwig had run Linda's Little Laboratory, a child care center, out of the couple's home since 1991 and had converted the house into a virtual preschool.
"I'm shocked. She was really neat," said Debbie Parr-Noblitt, project manager for Stanislaus County Cares, an organization that helps early child care providers complete degree programs. "We all loved her. All the staff are shocked. She was really the kind of person I would have chosen to take care of my own child. I would go out to her family child care home, and she had the whole home set up so the children could play in several rooms in her home. It was all set up like a preschool. It was a happy place."
Parr-Noblitt remembered Dennis Ludwig as a special person, able to take in stride the fact that his home doubled as a child care center.
"They were both down-to-earth," Parr-Noblitt said. "Earthy people. They loved their family."
Dennis Ludwig was a canal systems operator for the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority, a group of 32 water agencies within the western San Joaquin Valley, and San Benito and Santa Clara counties. Before joining the authority in 2005, he was a plumber and a machinist.
"He was a very genuine person with a big heart," said Bob Martin, a co-worker, friend and neighbor.
Martin recalled a time when he was away from home for a weekend, and a big windstorm knocked down the fence at Martin's Riverbank home. When he returned from his trip, the fence had been replaced. Dennis Ludwig had done it himself.
On her child care Web site, Linda Ludwig had written that she met her future husband in 1976 as she picked up her two young children at a baby sitter's. She wrote that she fell in love at first sight and that he was a wonderful father to the two children, Anna and Anthony.
Dennis Ludwig had ridden a dirt bike, and Linda Ludwig a quad runner. They turned their attention toward the Jeep a few years ago, Stephansen said. The couple was involved in a local chapter of a Jeep Club, she said.
Linda Ludwig had written on her site that the couple "love to ride in the dirt."
They enjoyed camping in the mountains with their daughter and her family. They also tried to spend a weekend every winter and summer in Lake Tahoe, as money and time allowed, she had written.
"They stayed really busy, and they were both willing to give the shirts off of their backs to help somebody," said Stephan- sen, who also runs a home-based child care. "They would take in anybody who needed help."
One time, she said, a child care provider in Colorado had financial problems when her husband lost his job. So Linda Ludwig went to the grocery store and bought the Colorado family a gift card for groceries.
She also volunteered her time to make scrapbooks for parents who lost infant children.
Dennis and Linda Ludwig each had contributed to The Bee's 2 Cents column. In 2004, Dennis Ludwig told The Bee that he had always wanted to try skydiving but his wife was against the idea and he relented.
Bee staff writer Inga Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2324.