Motorcyclist killed in Sheffield was looking forward to more rides

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SHEFFIELD — John Howard used to come into the motorcycle shop and say that life was grand.

And sometimes he'd bring boxes of doughnuts just to thank everyone in the shop for working on his Harley.

"He was always the happiest guy in the world, the nicest guy in the world," said Doc D'Occhio, owner of Doc's Motorcycle Parts in Waterbury, Conn. "He'd come in and say, 'I've got nothing to complain about. I'm here, I'm happy, I'm alive, and that's what it's all about.' "

Howard, 70, of Bethlehem, Conn. was killed when an apparent drunken driver crossed the center line in his truck Wednesday afternoon and hit him on Canaan Road. Howard was thrown from his motorcycle and died at the scene.

The driver, Kristopher Laine, 39, of Southfield, has been charged with homicide. Police say he had partially consumed a 24-pack of beer in the truck, and had tested above the legal limit for alcohol in his blood.

Family members Friday morning said they were too distraught to speak to the press. Howard leaves a wife and a son.

Others who knew Howard say he was generous and had "a great sense of humor."

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D'Occhio said Howard was his customer for about 20 years, and that he had become a friend.

"Our customers are like family, and he definitely fell into that category," he said.

D'Occhio said Howard had picked up his bike about a month ago. "This year, he talked about looking forward to riding more," he said. "He didn't ride as much as he wanted to last year."

A former co-worker of Howard's at the Connecticut Department of Developmental Services cited her colleague's sense of humor and compassion, saying he truly cared about the people the department serves.

According to the Republican-American, Howard served on the local school board in the late 1990s, and was widely admired for his hard work and bright personality, a Bethlehem town official said.

D'Occhio said he is saddened when he learns of anyone dying in a motorcycle accident. This isn't the first time he has had to mourn one of his customers.

"Unfortunately, in this hobby or passion that we have, we all know that it's dangerous at times," he said. "Obviously, when it hits close to home it hits harder."

Heather Bellow can be reached at hbellow@berkshireeagle.com and on Twitter @_BEhbellow and 413-329-6871


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