My good friend Darin Freeborough passed away on Monday, the opening day of Pennsylvania firearms deer season. Darin was the owner of “Animalistics Outdoors,” a popular local sporting goods store on the East Side of Warren, PA. He was a friend to everyone, evidenced by the two-hour line hundreds of people stood in this afternoon to pay their respects. The wait was insignificant to all who endured the cold rain because Darin had time for everyone, so everyone had time for him.
His untimely death was a mystery. He accessed his deer hunting spot in his boat launched from Webbs Ferry on the Allegheny Reservoir. Apparently he was attempting to load his boat onto the trailer at the end of the day when he somehow fell into the cold water. When found, he was wearing a life jacket, and the boat was capsized. Not much is known for sure. Only one word describes what happened – accident. It's a word that tells us death can come swiftly, unexpectedly, even to the strong.
Darin was always smiling. He had a big heart. He was always looking out for others. His last public act was a Facebook post the morning of his death. He was telling hunters that what they read that morning in the local paper about bear season being open wasn’t true. Bear season was not open, and Darin hoped no one would make a mistake.
He always had good words for everyone. He was certainly one of the best coyote trappers anywhere, and excelled at catching the challenging eastern coyote. He made several top quality DVD recordings about how to trap the elusive canine. He gave me a copy of all of them, I think, and after I reviewed the first one in my newspaper column (at that time published in the local paper) he called me and said, “That’s the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me.”
Of course, that wasn’t true, but it was true to Darin. Darin was a humble guy, and considered anything anyone did for him to be an exceptionally nice gesture. He did plenty of nice things for people too, even life-changing things. Darin didn’t think he was special, but he was special. His enthusiastic, full-bore approach to sharing the outdoor lifestyle came across like it was a cure, and for some it was.
On the occasion of a good man’s death, we know he is a human with faults, but we rightly focus on his goodness, and what set him apart from others. Some people think that’s hypocritical. It’s not. Darin was a human, like the rest of us, but a better human in some important ways than most of us.
His passing leaves a huge void in the hearts and lives of his wonderful family, and many, many others, too. Darin was 52, too young for a good, healthy, active man to die. I lost my own brother when he was 48, so I’ve been there. I know that when we pass through the valley of the shadow of death, that shadow will never be completely gone and the sky will never be as bright as it was. But the sky will brighten a little, and before it does, let’s pray that we become better people. God bless the life, and somehow now the death, of that one-of-a-kind friend to us all, Darin Freeborough.