Gone too soon

By William S. Coleman III

If you see me and I don’t have the usual smile on my face and I seem not to put forth my optimistic personality, it is because I am grieving the recent loss of three people I cared about.

These last couple of months I’ve have witnessed heartache and pain from families that I know and love because of recent deaths in their families.

There comes a time in all of our lives when someone we know will die; and whether they have lived a day, a week, 19 years, 57 years or any age, the impact of the loss of their lives on us will make our hearts skip a beat. Often times we will find ourselves emotionally choked up, and the only outlet we have is to take a walk in the rain where we can let our tears fall from our face.

When you know somebody, a friend, a family member or someone in your community who has lost a family member, be compassionate, caring and understanding. Show them support and empathy.

I am dealing with a deep hurt and sadness for the loss of the daughter of one of my best friends in college, Len Gengel. Len Gengel is a friend who has a heart as big as you can imagine. He lost his beloved daughter, Britney, to the Haiti earthquake. Over the years, his family has given in service to many community organizations and people in need – all over the world. Lenny’s dad, Bernard Gengel, was a fireman who served the City of Worcester for many years. Britney, 19 years old, gave her life in service to the children of Haiti on the January 21, 2010.

Jerry D. Daniels, 57, was a very good friend of mine in college. We used our student loan money to produce the Ultimate Disco Dance in the 1970s at the Chateau Deville in Framingham. Jerry moved to Seattle, Washington, and operated several coffee and food carts around the city, employing many people. He was also a professional dog runner in Seattle; he was Seattle’s version of the “Dog Whisperer.” Jerry lost his life to a malignant brain tumor, February 16, 2010. I spoke to him everyday up until he took his last breath.

Barbara R. Hawley was the sweetest woman you could ever meet! She lost her life on February 13, 2010; she was a youthful woman in her seventies. She welcomed me in to her home in 1973 and became an adoptive mother figure to me here in Worcester, as I was a new transplant from Philadelphia. Throughout Worcester’s prominent Black community, Mrs. Hawley extended her arms and opened her heart to those in need. In 2000, the Worcester Senior Center gave recognition to Mrs. Hawley and 74 other unsung heroes of the Worcester Senior Community for their love of family and service to the community.

As my friend Jerry lay dying in his hospice bed he said these prophetic words to me: “Hey man, if you want to do something in your life, don’t wait … do it while you can.”

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