He was probably five, maybe six. He was running, and he was fast. He darted through trees around a wooded town square, somewhere in upstate New York, playing tag and outpacing the rest, looking back to his pursuers with a smile, a twinkle, and a laugh.
But he looked back for a second too long, and for all his agility, he hit a tree, the resulting wound on the side of his face a stark marker of his speed.
His boundless charisma and warmth charmed us. He elevated affability to an art. He was inspiringly loving and steadfastly loyal. He was motivated by environmentalism from a young age. He found music and, with it, great joy in his guitar. He found hidden jazz clubs in foreign cities. And his speed never left him. He dazzled on a football field. He skied a glade with effortless grace, ever darting between the trees.
He was full of inspiration and full of dreams. He was ever running into the future toward the next idea, the next ideal to create.
He was reacquainted with a childhood classmate, whom he loved and respected, and who helped him continue through the trees. And they spent ten years together as best friends.
But he was still running. Ever running. From New Jersey and New York, through Hawaii, and eventually to South Carolina. And there he came up against another tree that, for all his speed and all his finesse, even he could not get around. This time the impact was too great. And those of us he left behind will hold on dearly to our memory of that smile, that twinkle, and that laugh.
Austin Hood, of Watchung, New Jersey, was born on December 26, 1980. He died on October 22, 2023. He is survived by his mother, Mary; his father, Tom; his brother Judd; countless loving friends and relatives; and two adoring cousins for whom Thanksgiving will never be the same.
A memorial will be held at noon on November 18th, 2023, at St. Mary’s – Stony Hill Roman Catholic Church, 225 Mountain Boulevard, Watchung, NJ 07069.