WILLIAMSTOWN — Last Sunday, I joined a gathering of friends and family of the late Charles L. Hayford in a celebration of his life.
Charlie died on Dec. 21, at Berkshire Medical Center, of complications of the COVID-19 virus. A native of Pittsfield, he was 67 and had been living in Adams. He spent most of his working life in the food service industry.
“His outgoing and charming personality made him a successful and popular bartender, working in many establishments as diverse as the former La Cocina [in Pittsfield] and the Mill on the Floss [in New Ashford,]” his obituary reads. “Over his career, Charlie served as the bar manager for many restaurants and nightclubs in Pittsfield and Atlanta, where he lived for 10 years. He was last employed by Devonshire Estates in Lenox.”
Charlie’s “real” life’s work, though, was as an artist.
“Calligraphy was his main love, but over his life he drew, painted, sculpted, played music, sang, told great stories and built friendships everywhere he went,” the obit continues. “Charlie loved the natural world and enjoyed outdoor activities. He also was an avid game player. An early adopter of Dungeons and Dragons, his creative thinking amazed his fellow gamers.”
Charlie leaves a son, two grandsons, a brother, two sisters, scores of friends, and his close companion, Joan Smith, of Pittsfield.
Next month, I’ll be at a similar gathering to honor the memory of another friend.
Dennis S. Dostie was one of the first Berkshire County residents to die from complications of COVID-19. Dennis, who lived in North Adams with his wife, Marilyn “Tilla” (Cole) Dostie, was 67 when he died at BMC on March 26, 2020.
A 1972 graduate of McCann Technical School, he worked in the telecommunications field for 40 years, beginning in 1974 with Berkshire Telecable. Following his retirement, he joined Burnham Gold Real Estate installing smoke and fire detectors. He also worked at Countryside Landscaping and tended bar part time at the Greylock Community Club in North Adams.
Dennis loved to help. He was a man of many talents: scores of people turned to him when they were baffled by the assembly and operation of both old and newfangled gadgets of all types. Possessed of seemingly infinite stores of patience, he’d stay on the case until he had the things up and running.
“You’re back in business,” he’d say before turning away offers of pay for his work. “Buy me a beer sometime.”
People of all walks of life and a succession of cats were beneficiaries of Dennis’s patience, persistence, generosity and good humor. His distinctive laugh always could be heard above the din of parties.
He was a tireless volunteer, giving his time to organizations including the Sons of the American Legion and the East Mountain Sportsman’s Club. In the early 1980s, he appeared in productions of the Williamstown Community Theatre. One of his roles was in “A Man For All Seasons.”
Charlie and Dennis inhabited different social circles, which is not uncommon in the Balkanized Berkshires (Charlie was a Pittsfield guy and Dennis a North County guy) but they would have gotten along well.
Like many people of a Certain Age they were young at heart. This enviable condition allows the holding of health troubles at arm’s length, arms still well capable of delivering all the joyous fuels of fun.
Neither man would walk away from a good argument; they derived pleasure from spirited exchanges of views.
Ray Gargan, a longtime friend of Charlie’s who helped organize the celebration at the Bounti Fare Restaurant, recalled Charlie’s habit of taking the position precisely opposite the one espoused by whomever he was arguing with.
“He really enjoyed that,” Gargan said.
Once, aiming to confound Charlie, Gargan agreed with everything he said. It didn’t take Charlie long to catch on, but the point was made.
There’s no doubt that, had they lived to see them, the COVID-19 vaccines would have been debated by and nearby Charlie and Dennis. I knew those guys for a combined total of nearly 50 years, and I’m certain they would have followed the science straight to the nearest vaccination site.
They lived to do their best by their families, their friends and their communities. The politics be damned.