LANCASTER – More than 100 co-workers and loved ones gathered at Desert Haven Friday afternoon to say their final goodbyes to a 58-year-old man killed in a car crash this past summer.
Daniel Clayton Black was killed on July 15 when the vehicle he was riding in wrapped around a utility pool on Business Center Parkway and Avenue K-10 in Lancaster. (Read more here).
“It was just an unfortunate circumstance of a fatigued driver apparently,” said Lancaster Station Traffic Sergeant Paul Pfrehm. “The driver was not doing anything else reckless, but it’s a tragic reminder that we need to be driving safely.”
Black was a passenger in the vehicle, along with his partner of more than two decades, Robyn Atherton Gonzalez, 52. Gonzalez was critically injured and has been in the hospital since the accident, said her mother Fern Lintemoot.
The developmentally disabled couple had been getting a ride back from the Sunday flea market when the accident occurred.
Black and Gonzalez lived a full life together in Lancaster, and had leaned on each other to overcome their challenges, Lintemoot said.
“Danny did all cooking, Robyn took care of the two dogs and they were happy with each other,” said Lintemoot. “Together they could lead a normal life.”
The couple worked at Desert Haven, a nonprofit organization that provides employment opportunities for persons with disabilities. At the time of his death, Black had been employed through Desert Haven as a maintenance worker at Edwards Air Force Base.
“Danny loved to work, loved to stay busy, loved to get dirty, he didn’t care what it was, he wanted to help,” said Alberto Saldivar, Director for Landscape Services at Desert Haven, who supervised Black for more than 10 years.
Saldivar said Black was very strong, and would often be called on for special crews because of his strength and willingness to work. He was also a “Gentle Giant” with a big heart, who was easy to talk to both inside and outside the workplace, Saldivar said.
“He’d always recognize my kids, even if I wasn’t with them, he’d recognize them and always say hi to them,” Saldivar said. “That’s just the kind of guy he was.”
Black has no known relatives in California or his native Ohio, so no one was able to claim his body, Lintemoot said. Lintemoot fought to claim Black’s body but was unsuccessful because she is not a relative.
“I had a plot for him, and I would have been buying everything for him [for the funeral],” Lintemoot said.
In lieu of a funeral, Lintemoot coordinated a memorial service for Daniel’s loved ones, most of them, his coworkers at Desert Haven.
Desert Haven workers were bused in early from their job sites Friday afternoon. They were given friendship bracelets, candy and a program with a picture of their friend and coworker before the service. Some burst into tears before they could enter the memorial service, which was conducted by Pastor Jim DeVore of Cornerstone Church of Littlerock. After DeVore’s message, coworkers were given a chance to speak about their friend.
“We miss him and we love him and we wish it never would have happened to him,” said best friend and coworker, Robert Eyre. “A lot of people were very very upset when they found out he passed on and Robyn was injured in the hospital… it’s been hard but basically you got to go through it because he would have wanted us to remember him for who he was and what he did and then continue on.”
Lintemoot said the memorial service was her way of helping Black’s loved ones to continue on.
“We needed closure for all these people here,” Lintemoot said. “This is our way of showing Danny that we care and that we will always remember his soul and his memory.”