Motor vehicle accidents are an all-too-common occurrence hereabouts and in that regard we’re not much different from many other communities. Some of those crashes take lives and, sadly, that is not unique to us either.
So it might be easy to dismiss the death of a Riverhead man Monday, three weeks after he crashed his pickup truck into a tree along Peconic Bay Boulevard in Laurel, as just another statistic and a police blotter entry. Yet this was somehow different. It wasn’t just another crash and just another premature death.
This accident, and subsequent accounts of it, rose above the standard clinical coverage to become human. Sure, all the typical elements were there — police, ambulance and hospitals — but the driver wasn’t seen as just a victim. He was a man whose life touched some and whose death touched many.
Donald Fox was a regular guy. He had a job and friends, including the operator of a local pizzeria who said Mr. Fox possessed “a heart of gold.” The tragic nature of his death aside, having such friends made him a lucky man. He was fortunate, too, that people who never met him and didn’t know his name raced to his side in his time of peril. After his truck hit the tree, and just moments before it burst into flames, James Murray, who lives just down the road, ran to the scene and, with the help of some passers-by, pulled Mr. Fox, a big man, from the wreck.
That he ultimately died does not at all diminish their selfless efforts to save a stranger’s life. He didn’t die because no one cared.
He’s remembered in death because people did care, people who knew him and people who didn’t. That’s not at all unique, but we’re better for hearing it and knowing it.
Don Fox wasn’t the only man whose passing made headlines in recent days. Jazz legend Teddy Charles, formerly of Greenport and lately of Riverhead, passed on last week. He was a man of two lives and two careers. First he was a jazz innovator on the vibraphone, playing with the likes of Charlie Parker and Miles Davis. Later, he captained sailing ships out of many ports, from the Caribbean to New York and Greenport. Some knew him for one and not the other and, unfortunately, his full story wasn’t fully known until he left us.
He was one of the incredible people who quietly — well, except when jamming — made this place so very special. Although he left an amazing legacy and an equally extraordinary body of work, there’s just no replacing a man like Teddy Charles.