Notably Norwich: Tragic accident around the holidays requires that big hearts help out
Here's hoping everyone enjoyed a warm, bountiful and appreciative Thanksgiving.
As the post-Thanksgiving glow begins to fade, however, and the Christmas shopping crunch is upon us, please take a moment to consider the tragic plight of the Baker family of Dayville and, in the truest spirit of the holidays, do whatever you can to help them.
Andrew "Drew" Baker, a handsome, 26-year-old U.S. Army veteran who served as an MP, was a driver for Frito Lay, where he was a popular and well-liked employee among his colleagues. A 2014 graduate of Killingly High School, he married the love of his life, Gabrielle, earlier this year on a beach in Westerly.
The happy couple was looking forward to the birth of their first child, Elizabeth, in December. Pictures of them portray true love and youthful exuberance straight out of Normal Rockwell.
On Nov. 7, they were driving east on Route 6 in Brooklyn, a notoriously dangerous state road. Their Chevrolet Colorado pickup collided with a westbound Jeep Wrangler that had crossed the center line and struck them head-on, according to State Police, who are still investigating.
Drew and his unborn daughter, Elizabeth, were killed. Gabby was critically injured and has improved somewhat after initially being placed on life support with a brain injury. Doctors performed an emergency C-section but were unable to save baby Elizabeth.
On Saturday, Nov. 19, Drew and the unborn daughter he would never know in this life, were laid to rest the day after many hundreds of mourners - friends, loved ones, members of the military, first responders and even strangers who had read or heard about the tragedy - came from throughout the region to comfort Drew's parents, siblings and grandparents.
Drew was buried with full military honors.
The funeral and medical expenses will be staggering. A GoFundMe initiative set up by Drew's cousin, Ainsley Grey, had raised $42,686 as of this writing from 653 contributions. You can contribute there.
Those who, like me, are technologically challenged or anxious about electronic money exchange, can help the old-fashioned way: write a check payable to Drew's father, Jeremy Baker, and mail it to Ainsley Grey, 144 Mechanics St., Putnam, CT, 06260.
"I can assure you and your readers that all donations, heartfelt condolences, and continued prayers have been heard, and we continue to feel the warmth and love of this community," Ainsley told me in an email.
Some of you may be wondering what any of this has to do with Norwich. Well, it has nothing and everything to do with Norwich and the good people who live and work here.
Let me first say in the way of a disclaimer that I have never met the Bakers or their relatives. Having read Drew's obituary, however, and learned more about the gripping circumstances of his death, I was like everyone else - heartbroken.
This could have happened to any of our loved ones, but by the grace of God, it didn't. Having been born and raised in Norwich, I know people here have big hearts and strong faith and will join me in supporting the Baker family who will live with this horrible memory for the rest of their lives, especially around the holidays.
Think of what we have to be thankful for and of the grief that will stay with the Bakers forever at what should be a joyful time. Help them out with whatever you can spare. You'll be doing a good thing, and that's what this time of year is all about, right?
Bill Stanley, a retired vice president at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital, grew up in Norwich.