News of Daryl Hawks passing cast a pall over the Chicago sports world, and the NBCChicago newsroom.
The 38-year-old sports anchor went too soon, and his death hit with force.
When Station Manager and Vice President of News Frank Whittaker gathered the staff around 11:20 a.m. Thursday to make the heartbreaking announcement that we'd lost a family member, each of us felt a pang of grief. Tears welled up and confused emotions began to mingle.
We are, after all, a newsroom and this story needed to be told. But we'd also lost a friend and needed time for sadness.
Thursday ticked by with a weighted minute hand as we prepared our newscasts. It felt as though our newsroom were located at the bottom of an ocean, all muted sound and no oxygen.
No one is grieving as deeply as Daryl's family, and our thoughts continue to be with them in this time of terrible tragedy and pain. We offer our full support to help their wounds heal.
Here are some thoughts from our staff and their stories of Daryl, a true family man, consummate professional and sports fanatic. Not everyone is ready to contribute, but we'll add their sentiments as they come.
Jeff Lauksmen, a photographer with NBCChicago, traveled with Hawks to Atlanta to cover the game. The two men had dinner the night before and planned to meet up the following morning. Lauksmen was waiting for Daryl to come down from his hotel to cover a Bulls shoot-around when it became clear something was wrong. After paramedics arrived, they contacted Lauksmen to come to the hospital, where Daryl was hooked up to a ventilator. Lauksmen fielded a phone call from Hawks' wife and stayed in communication with the newsroom throughout the ordeal. Here's what he remembers most about working with Hawks.
Daryl was never mad. I never saw him upset. Of all the people I worked with here he probably cared more about his spots than any camera man. No story was a blow off to him, he was always professional.
I seemed to always do cold-weather things with him. One night, we were doing a preview piece before the winter classic at Wrigley Field, it was below zero and snowing.
It was so cold that his eyes would tear up and freeze to his face. I usually don't have the heart to stop someone during a stand up, but I stopped him and told him he had tears on his face and asked if he wanted to re-do it. He said he did, but it kept happening. We must have re-shot it a dozen times out there in the cold.
I said "hey you're from Buffalo, you should be used to this." And he smiled. That was Daryl, always professional and a perfectionist like me.
But all the other times up against the clock he was the same way. Sometimes it can get a little heated with deadlines, but he was never in your face, always very professional.
Sports Producer Dave Breyer sat directly across from Hawks in the newsroom and produced his liveshots regularly:
What I remember about Daryl more than anything was that family always came first. Every single night between the 6 p.m. show and the 10 p.m. show he would make sure to call his two young kids to put them to bed. Sometimes he would even Skype them on his phone.
Daryl loved sports but family always came first.
Last night after the Bulls won I thought about how normally I would have been calling him to congratulate him on his live shot, but something was missing.
Reporter Mary Ann Ahern was also touched by Hawks' focus on family.
Daryl was focused on his work but also on melding into Chicago. We'd all go together to the Auto Show or another charity event and all he'd want to talk about was how was my family. That's one special guy.
Ambar Gilmore, a news coordinator for Telemundo, would often work late while Hawks was in the office. She grew to know because Hawks was interested in teaching his daughter Spanish.
He would always tell me "go home" since I usually work late. He would always tease me
with that, but he was always smiling and would always say hello and bye-- something that I always do, so we were so much alike on that sense.
He told me that his daughter was learning Spanish, she was taking Spanish at school and they were learning together so I would always tell him something in Spanish and I would say " tell that to your daughter- and he would say "yes I will "
I remember mentioning this phrase not too long ago: "Que descanses," which roughly mean it rest on peace or to have a peaceful night- and I wrote that on a sticky note and today I saw that same sticky note on his desk- and I wrote "que descanses." What a coincidence I say that and wrote it and now he is no longer with us.
Just wanted to share that, he will indeed be remembered on our hearts and our souls and that desk will always be Daryl's desk, his spirit will always be around each other lives.
Lauren Jiggetts, a reporter with NBCChicago shared weekend duty with Daryl, and got to know his passion for sports during those weekend days at the station.
I used to work with Daryl on the weekends and during the newscast you'd sometimes hear him yelling at the TV in the sports area during a game.
Someone would have to run back to his desk to ask him to "keep it down!"
His love for sports was obvious from the day he joined NBC 5- a true sports fanatic. From serving as a Marine, to playing football and working with Real Men Cook, Daryl lived his life to the fullest and it makes me realize how important it is to appreciate every moment we have on this earth.
Most important, his immense love for his wife and children. I remember sitting on a float with Daryl and his family a few years ago and the love he expressed for them was touching. We will miss Daryl and I will always remember the smile he had on his face and the energy he brought with him every time he walked into the newsroom.
Paula Faris delivered a heartfelt goodbye to Hawks, her counterpart at NBCChicago, during the evening broadcast Thursday. Here's a sample of what she said.
I am in complete and utter shock. I am in denial. I was walking over here asking how do I report a story on someone who was so close to me. Daryl and I sat two feet from each other on a daily basis. He called his kids and his wife every night to say he loved them.
Daryl lived every day like it was his last.
The real tragedy in all of this is two young kids, Jazmine and CJ. Not a day went by that they did not know that there dad loved him. Same with his wife. ... They did everything as a family unit.
I remember when we hired Daryl three years ago. We looked at his tape and he jumped off the screen. There are a lot of phonies in this business, but Daryl is not one of them, he absolutely loved his job.
Dick Johnson, a reporter and anchor at NBCChicago, remembers Hawks as a true sports evangelist, someone who could make even the most focused newsman care about the game.
For most of the time Daryl was with us at NBCChicago I sat next to his cubicle. I often referred to it as sitting in a library next to a frat house during the Final Four or the Super Bowl. Daryl led the cheers, periodically inducing heart stoppage as I tried to bury my attention in the news of the day. But his enthusiasm was so infectious, I eventually caved in, switched the channel on my TV and joined the "frat house" rowdiness "next door"!
We often bet. Food bets. We both loved a good meal and often spent the Sunday evening dinner hour together. He'd proudly display some fabulous homemade concoction Sandy (his wife) had prepared for him or a steak he whipped up himself, while I went through carry-out angst. Pockets or Pompei tonight?
What I most admired though was his devotion to family. They were first in his life. For a young man it's not always the coolest thing to proclaim to anyone who would listen. But it's the signature of maturity and wisdom this lovely man brought to his game, every day of his life! I'm honored to have been a friend and colleague.
Chris Pena, NBCChicago's Assistant News Director, has too many memories of Daryl to share, but like everyone here, remembers him as a real family man.
It’s hard to recall a single moment in which I saw Daryl in a bad mood. Our greeting was standard – he would say “hey C.P.,” and we would do a fist bump. Daryl’s smile was genuine and his positive nature was contagious. He had a zest for life, family and sports.
I will always remember Daryl’s love for his family. He would beam when talking about Sandy and the kids. Theirs was a true love story, and the love and affection was evident when you saw them together.
He was a great young man, and a loving father and husband.
Adored by all, Daryl will not be forgotten and our world is a lesser place.