~ Contributed by Peter Ricci
Five years ago, on August 24, 2017, I was traveling with my family and a small group of older Scouts in Canada. The roads were undulating through the mountains when I got a text from Alexis Weisz. “I know you are away, and I don’t know if you heard, but Chris was in a motorcycle accident.” My first reaction was, looks like when I get back home, I’ll be yelling at Chris about his safety. My next thought and I spoke it out loud to my wife, Becky, (a bit irreverent- but if you understood our relationship, you get it) “I’m gonna tell him I’ll help him out but I ain’t giving him no sponge bath!”
I texted back and asked how he was. Up and down the mountainous roads, the reception was spotty. Then came the worst news. “He didn’t survive,” Alexis replied.
With my two kids in the seat behind us, luckily occupied, I looked at my wife, she knew by my face what the reply was.
My best friend was dead, and I was hundreds of miles away.
Reflecting on the fact it has been so long now but seems like yesterday, I came across this quote: “No matter how much time passes, no matter what takes place in the interim, there are some things we can never assign to oblivion, memories we can never rub away.” – Haruki Murakami
This quote brings me some joy, in the fact that the happy memories of my friend are still there.
Chris and I bonded through the Scouting program in Bedford. Chris was an outdoor enthusiast and wanted to share this with his children. His two boys were in the Cub Scouts when we met. His older one was my daughter’s age, and younger one was my son’s age. As we started to hang around, I could see him include his young daughter in some outdoor backyard adventures as well. Like me, he had embraced Scouting as a youth. He now was giving back to the program.
Chris became our Pinewood Derby guru, having the mind of an engineer, and the skills of a wood craftsman. I first noticed how alike but so different we were. We had the same dedication, intent, problem-solving, and craftsman skills. He DID NOT have the same focus or time concerns. Midnight, on the night of the first Pinewood Derby we ran together, he was fixing the timing mechanism. I had asked him about two weeks prior, and he assured me would be fixed prior to the event. Thirty minutes before start, the timer was working. He looked at me with what had become his trademark chuckle and grin. That was the start of his famous quote to me. “Peter, I don’t worry…that’s what I have you for…you can worry for me.”
The last communication I had with Chris was him texting me. I didn’t reply because of my location – lack of signal. He had appropriately texted me a picture of a coyote in Oregon where he was traveling – he noted, “Interestingly it’s a lot smaller than the ones out east.” Six days later was his last text. “Home. You didn’t like my coyote picture?” His wife Alexis would tell me later that he mentioned he had not heard from me and it was weird. She reminded him we were camping in Acadia and Canada, and the reason Chris hadn’t gone on the Scouting trip was because of their conflicting family trip out west. She told him not to worry, he would see me soon. We never saw each other in person again. But remember, Chris didn’t worry, that’s what he had me for.
In the five years since he was killed by a driver under the influence, unfortunately his family never got all the answers or a sense of overall justice. The woman whose actions set the accident in motion did get jail time but has since been released early. My final strong memory of the trial was at the sentencing. Ms. DeWolfe had supporters who shouted out as she was sentenced, in what I took as, in regard to the unfairness of the sentence, while Chris’ wife and three youthful children looked on. The court officers moved to silence them. I couldn’t fathom this. One can understand there are two sides with support systems, but this overt act was disrespectful, and created another painful memory for his family.
Like many who have been affected by a preventable tragedy, I do not wish my friend’s memory to fade into history, and I wish that all can learn something from his death and modify behaviors. Below are some important talking points, and I hope those who read this will consider the actions, lessons, and where change should and could occur.
As reported in the Lowell Sun May 3, 2018:
“State Police have confirmed that Lynn Dewolfe, 51, of Tyngsboro — a hairdresser twice convicted of intoxicated driving who court documents show had an interlock-device restriction on her license to prevent her from driving while drunk — had been involved in another crash in Burlington that same morning, but a trooper let her drive away from the scene because he did not detect any impairment. But Dewolfe was also “the subject of multiple concerned motorists’ calls to 911 dispatch regarding erratic operation,” court records state.”
As reported in The Boston Globe on July 10, 2018:
“State Police Colonel Kerry Gilpin ordered an outside investigation in May of the department’s handling of the crash after the Globe revealed a trooper let DeWolfe go following another crash minutes earlier.”
As reported and updated in The Boston Globe on May 29, 2019:
“The State Police conducted an internal investigation that concluded that Hanafin — the son of a retired lieutenant colonel — didn’t have probable cause to arrest DeWolfe but should have written a report about the earlier crash, records show.
State Police concluded that Benevento violated regulations by failing to broadcast or log the 911 call. Both men were docked a day’s pay.”
In the time passing, Chris has missed two children’s graduation from high school and his daughter’s development to an amazing athlete. I think of the many more life events we will not be able to share
In memory of my friend Chris, one of the most intelligent men I have ever met, who was killed at 42 years old, enjoying his motorcycle, driving to work to support his family. He has missed my 50th birthday, which we joked about, and my son’s Eagle Scout ceremony, about which he would have been so proud.