Sep 12, 2006
A tribute to lasting friendships
by Marcelo Quarantotto, Life! Editor
Tragic events have taken the lives of four Liberty students over the summer. This week, the Champion will focus on the lives of two of these students—Dusty Boyce, who was to be a sophomore, and Samuel Danso, who would now be a senior—and what they have meant to their Liberty family. Boyce died in a car accident and is survived by his parents and two sisters. Danso died in his Lynchburg apartment of unknown causes and is survived by his parents, brother, sisters and a woman he became engaged to last winter. These are their stories.
Dr. Yaw Adu-Gyamfi, typically known as Dr. Yaw, greets his visitor with a broad smile and a handshake. He leans back in his chair and introduces himself in a dialect reminiscent to his native tongue—all the while continuing his grin. One of the university’s English professors, Yaw earned his Ph.D. from the University of Saskatchewan, Canada, and is originally from Ghana, Africa—the same country Danso claimed as his home.
Ghana is located in the western part of Africa, and is the continent’s first country to gain independence.
“It is a relatively peaceful, democratic African country, so you never see it in the news that much,” says Yaw with a hearty laugh.
Samuel came to the United States, with the aid and encouragement from his older brother Ernest, as a freshman at Liberty Univ-ersity, and was directed towards Yaw. Yaw previously attended school with Ernest, and helped Samuel get assimilated into the Lynch-burg area by working with him on university paperwork and finding an apartment.
Although Samuel had already completed his education at a nursing school in Ghana, he wanted to further his knowledge by getting another nursing degree from LU.
“He was a very diligent student,” says Yaw. “I really admired him for his hard work. You have to earn your way into the nursing program at Liberty and he worked very hard. He got As and Bs, and was able to get admission to the nursing program easily.”
In addition to being hard-working in academics, Yaw attributes him to being very helpful in other areas such as assisting Yaw with fulfilling the needs of new international students.
A few days prior to Samuel’s death, Yaw stopped over to his apartment to ask for help in unloading a U-haul filled with the belongings of another Ghanaian who was new to Liberty.
Yaw says, “That was the kind of person he was: willing to help people. If he needed to sacrifice whatever, he would. He was kind, helpful, hardworking, smart and every positive thing you could possibly think of; he was all of those tings. And he was a good Christian too. In fact, last semester we had established a prayer group. More or less, he was the person that organized people and called people to come.”
Despite Samuel’s growing up in a country that spoke English and offered exposure to western culture, there were still a few things about American culture that took some getting used to. At one point, he wrote Yaw a narrative essay that portrayed his transition to the United States. In the work, he describes how he was given food on the plane that was without salt and pepper—staples in Ghanaian cuisine.
Yaw retells another story about Samuel’s life in America: “When he arrived here in Virginia, he saw a lot of deer hit by vehicles lying by the roadside and [that] nobody was getting those deer and roasting them up.” Yaw explains that this struck Samuel as odd “because in Ghana, when people hit a deer or another animal, they will quickly get it for meat. So he was shocked that nobody was getting it, and I laughed and told him no, that there is plenty of food around and nobody is really interested in the dead animals by the roadside.”
At about 1 a.m. on August 1, 2006, one of Samuel’s roommates drove to Wal-Mart to pick him up. Samuel’s car earned a flat tire and was stranded in the vast parking lot.
Once they arrived back at their apartment, they watched TV and made plans to wake up at 7 a.m. and go put a spare tire on Samuel’s car. After some time, Danso fell asleep in the living room.
As planned, his roommate woke him up at the designated time. “He actually woke up,” says Yaw, “and then when the roommate went back [after walking into another room], he found [Samuel] lying on the floor. The roommate thought that he had went back to sleep so he decided to leave him to catch up on a little more sleep.”
During this point of the summer, there was a third person staying in the apartment who was only visiting from Ghana. Yaw says that this individual “found Samuel at 9 o’clock. He went to the living room and he had found that Samuel had turned blue, dark blue and was stiff, so he called the ambulance. The ambulance tried to revive him but was unsuccessful.”
Shortly after calling for help, he called Dr. Yaw to inform him of Samuel’s condition. As soon as Yaw knew of Samuel’s whereabouts, he rushed to the hospital to see if there was anything that he could do, but they informed him that they were unable to revive him.
“The autopsy showed that he was a perfectly healthy person with a strong heart and capable of everything—he was perfect. So they just decided to do some blood work to see if they could find anything, but nobody really knows the cause of death,” says Yaw.
Upon hearing the news, Yaw called Samuel’s older brother to say words that no older brother should have to hear.
On Aug. 12, a memorial service was held at Whitten Funeral Home for Samuel Danso, and it was well attended. Not only did other international students come to pay their respects, but people affiliated with the nursing program and his coworkers at the Reber-Thomas Dining Hall were present as well. His mother happened to be in America at the time and was able to attend the funeral, as well as his brother and some friends from the Washington D.C. area.
Dr. Yaw spins his chair in order to access his IBM laptop computer. To his visitor, he presents one of his favorite pictures of Danso, taken during one of the activities at the opening of Thomas Road’s new building at what is called “the healing fields.”
“He was really fascinated by the flags in the background,” Yaw says while pointing to the numerous American flags in the picture with Danso in the foreground. “The picture helps me heal from his sudden death and helps me realize that he is in a better place…he left a good legacy.”
Aubrey Tyler and his cousin Samantha Williams sit across the table from each other and exchange glances in a way that makes it seem as if they are having a wordless conversation. This story is hard, and when it becomes too hard for one of them to continue answering the question, the other interjects and finishes the response before the silence becomes awkward.
Aubrey, a new student at Liberty, and Samantha, a returning undergraduate, have known William Dustin Allen Boyce, better known as Dusty, since infancy and have many memories from Tangier Island, Va., and Pocomoke, Md., places where Dusty had resided.
Dusty came from what Samantha lauds as a very loving, Christian family. His dad is a teacher and a preacher, and his mother is also a teacher. For Dusty, family was of the utmost importance and he had his two young sisters’ names tattooed on the back of his arms.
Aubrey lifts up his shirt to expose a tattoo he recently had done on his chest in memory of his late friend. The artwork displays Dusty’s name and an R.I.P inscription, as well as rosary beads and hands clasped in a praying position.
Things are a bit unsettling for Aubrey. He lives across the hall from the room that his best friend was supposed to live in. Dusty, who would have been a sophomore psychology major this year, encouraged Aubrey to come to join him at Liberty.
“It’s weird now that he ain’t around,” says Aubrey. I wasn’t planning to come after it happened, but he had put on his Myspace that one of the greatest moments of his life is when I got accepted to Liberty.”
Both friends recall him as being a person who spent his time playing basketball or making friends, but usually both at the same time. “He always hugged you, like great, big, tight hugs…he was just friendly,” says Samantha. “He didn’t care who you were, he’d just walk right up to you and introduce himself.”
Aubrey says, “He was friends with everybody on the whole eastern shore. He was really into making new friends.” Apparently they all came to his funeral, as over 1,100 people showed up.
For the past few summers, Dusty and Aubrey had worked together at a place where they would run go-carts. “It was a fun job,” says Aubrey. “Barely any work in it, really. We were together everyday this summer—that’s how close we were.”
Usually, the friends work-ed out their schedule so that they would clock in and out together, but on June 25, Aubrey was scheduled to work in the morning and Dusty at night.
“So, he came in for me at 4,” says Aubrey. “So, that was kind of weird, and then he had his accident that night.”
Dusty left work that night shortly after 11 p.m. During this time Aubrey was at a movie theater and received a call from Dusty at eight minutes past the hour, but was unable to pick up the phone for obvious reasons. The accident took place between 11:13 and 11:18, so before the conclusion of the flick, everything had already happened.
“When [Dusty] came in and took my place, he was like, ‘I’ll call you after work,’ and I said, ‘All right then.’” When the pair usually clocked out together from work after 11 p.m., they would usually stay out until about two in the morning.
Driving home from work, Dusty was in the northbound lane. Along the particular part of the roadway that he was driving on, there was a place where tractor trailer drivers commonly slept before enduring long journeys. “And they usually pull out between 11, 12 and one [o’clock]. When they pull out, they take up both right lanes and the turning lane. One pulled out in front of Dusty and he had nowhere to go, so he swerved into the southbound lane and got t-boned.
He flew out of the back window and crushed everything back here,” says Aubrey, touching the lower part of his head and the back of his neck. “He basically died there,” he says, his cheeks growing bright red and his speech becoming more deliberate.
By the time Aubrey stepped out of the theater, the time had reached about 11:30, and he looked at his phone to discover that he had 14 missed calls. He called one of his friends back and learned of Dusty’s crash. The theater he was attending is in Salisbury, Md., as well as the hospital Dusty was rushed to.
“When I got there his mom was already there, and they just basically told me,” says Aubrey.
The next day, Samantha received a phone call from a friend who shared the egregious news with her. “I went up to the hospital and stayed there for like two or three days,” says Samantha. “They kept him on life support for what seemed like forever, because he was an organ donor.”
Dusty Boyce was prounced dead on Tuesday, Jun. 27.
“Months down the road, the moms are still going to be grieving,” says Tyler Falwell, friend of another student who died this summer.
For those directly influenced by the deaths of these individuals, the grieving process has had a sobering effect.
“It makes you think about your friendships different,” says Aubrey Tyler. “It makes you realized how you take them for granted.
“It has really made everybody realize how mortal we are, how short life is, how anything can happen and how one ought to be prepared because you know not the hour or the time,” says Yaw.
“Because I had never thought for a moment that he would go. He was a healthy guy, nothing wrong with him, and to make things worse, we don’t know why or how—it is a mystery. And I guess for me it has helped me put things in perspective. And the students that I meet everyday and those that come around me everyday; I think the best time I can spend with them I do, and I always encourage them to live a good life because you never know, you never know.”
Contact Marcelo at firstname.lastname@example.org.
» Blue Ridge Pregnancy Center aims for change
» Liberty alumni lead mission trip
» Yale grad to visit for ‘Alumni Lecture Series’
» Plein Air Painters: Nothing “Plein” about it
» Bird song vs. the Big Bang: Creation and Engineering Guest Lecturer
» Scaremare returns to thrill audiences
» Daniel Chapman, the gold-sequin hat guy