Story By John Murray
It started with a single crack of wood striking cement, and within seconds it sounded like a herd of bison was thundering across the Green in downtown Waterbury.
There were no buffalo in sight, the noise was created by a compassionate and loving community gathered together to honor and salute their friend, Darryl Hammond, who was killed in a hit and run accident while riding his bicycle down East Main Street in Waterbury at 10:30 PM on July 21st.
Darryl Hammond was 59 years old when he lost his life in a hit and run accident.
Hammond loved to make thick, powerful walking sticks, and his family and friends were stuck the ground with the end of a walking stick in tribute.
Darryl might have been invisible to many businesspeople and community leaders in Waterbury, but he was clearly loved by his friends. Darryl hung out on the Green every day. Darryl had wrestled with demons and found his life derailed but found comfort in the company of others that were also struggling.
His friends called him, “Bones”, and there were small bags of candy handed out at the vigil on July 27th with a picture of Darryl tied to it with a quote, “Live life with no regrets, always help a person in need because the good you put into this world will always make this world a better place.”
Hammond had two children, Christa and Michael, and the Independent Center on Church Street paid for Christa to fly to Connecticut from Chicago, and she had an opportunity to see him before he passed 48 hours after the accident.
Christa Williams held up two of her father’s walking sticks and asked his friends to sign them for a keepsake for her and her brother.
Christa Williams organized the vigil on the Green and was the master of ceremonies for an event honoring her father. She held up two walking sticks at the beginning of the event and said she was going to pass them around and asked that all of her father’s friends sign the sticks. One she would keep, and the other was going to be presented to her brother Michael.”These walking sticks are going to come home on the plane with me,” Christa said. “They will be a memory of him.”
Pastor Maner Tyson knew Darry Hammond and gave the opening prayer. “Darryl loved people,” Tyson said, “he knew no stranger here in Waterbury.”
Tyson said Hammond had an electric smile that was brighter than a sunny day.
“He may not be a person that goes into the Waterbury Hall of Fame,” Tyson said, “but in our hearts he’s in the hall of fame because he greeted everybody and wanted to acknowledge that you are here.”
Christa told the crowd what they already knew; that her father loved to make walking sticks. Many people in Waterbury own walking sticks crafted by Darryl Hammond and he would go to flea markets on weekends to sell them.
Nearly a 100 people gathered together to remember Darryl Hammond.
There was a pile of walking sticks placed at the base of the All-Wars Monument on the Green and Christa invited anyone who wanted one, to take them home with them. She said her father would want his friends to have them.
Christa sang several verses of Amazing Grace, Darryl’s best friend Gus Useda played two songs on a guitar, and others stepped forward to offer their loving memories of Darryl and everybody said they were going to miss his smile, his upbeat personality and his huge heart.
One woman stepped forward to say that Darryl had taken her in when she had become homeless and he was her, “brother from a different mother.”
Dora Zimmerman said she’ll cherish her walking stick as a reminder of her dear friend.
As the vigil broke up people scattered across the Green, many lugging their new walking stick. And one could imagine, if there’s a Heaven, that Darryl Hammond was looking down on his beloved Green and smiling.
After greeting all his new friends, of course.