In memory of a neighbor

Earlier this month, I learned a pedestrian named James had been hit and killed by a vehicle here in Broomfield. As soon as I heard the news, I checked my iPhone for more details from local media. I searched broadcast media, and public radio and local newspaper sites — without success.

I checked again with my original source, who had heard secondhand that members of a local social media app had posted about the incident. However, as a non-member, I didn’t have access to those posts. All I had to go on was a first name, a date and the location of the accident. (It turned out the latter two pieces of information were inaccurate.) After half an hour of searching, the police department confirmed a few things for me, but they couldn’t release their unfinished incident report.

My conclusion — and I’d be happy to be proved wrong — was (and is) this: James’s death received no news coverage at least in part because he was “unhoused,” aka “homeless.”

I later learned that one of James’s friends found him at the scene of the incident and identified his body. That friend helped me write the following short eulogy:

“James Matthew Wasielewski, Sr., 59, was hit and killed by a vehicle late on Wednesday, June 5. Jim was an Army veteran and a Broomfield High School graduate from the class of 1978. He had been unhoused in Broomfield for about six months.”

Since all indications pointed to James being estranged from his surviving family, we held a memorial service for him at the Refuge yesterday. We printed his profile picture from Facebook and framed it beneath a lit candle, and a dozen of his friends and neighbors offered prayers, recited the Beatitudes and shared stories about him.

Of course, our short eulogy and the little we all knew about James fail to fully encapsulate his life or who he was as a person. But I did learn a few things about James, as he was known by those who were present:

  • He met one couple and their kids at a local park and treated them with kindness.
  • He made a friend at a local McDonald’s.
  • He struggled with alcoholism and had run-ins with local authorities.
  • He liked Santana and the movie Tombstone.
  • He had a sense of humor — his Facebook page listed him as a “Secret Agent.”
  • According to multiple friends, his most infamous phrase was “Get out of Dodge!”

James, we never met, but may you rest in peace.

Note: As of June 17, biographical details had been removed from James’s Facebook profile.

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