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Daniel A. Emery, 53, was killed Tuesday in an accident at Recycling and Disposal Solutions.
Friday, August 30, 2013
At the time of his death, the man killed in Tuesday’s accident at a Roanoke County recycling plant was apparently building the most stable life he had experienced in years.
Roanoke County police said Thursday that Daniel A. Emery, 53, was killed in the accident at Recycling and Disposal Solutions. They reported Tuesday that he fell into a recycling baler machine, which is used to compact aluminum cans, plastic bottles and other recyclable items.
Emery had worked at the Enon Drive plant since May, a month after he showed up on the doorstep of the Salvation Army’s Red Shield Lodge in downtown Roanoke, said Mike Moffitt, the shelter’s program director. Emery was a well-liked resident of the lodge who had been transient but didn’t suffer from the all-too-typical demons of alcoholism or drug addiction, Moffitt said.
Resident Sam White, who said he and Emery became close friends, said the chubby-cheeked man had a way of turning things around.
“His smile changed your day,” White said.
And over his time in Roanoke, he had been turning himself around.
An Army veteran, Emery hailed from Vermont but had been roaming the South for years, which White said had imbued his voice with a hint of country twang. Moffitt said Emery had been estranged from his family, including a 20-year-old son he hadn’t seen since the boy was 2.
“He had kind of been a wanderer,” Moffitt said. “He would just go where he thought he might find work.”
After a stay in Concord, N.C., Emery ended up in Roanoke.
At the Red Shield Lodge, Moffitt said, he seemed to find firm footing. He landed the job at Recycling and Disposal Solutions and moved from the emergency shelter to the lodge’s transitional housing program, where he shared an apartment with John Lutz.
The pair of early risers built a morning routine, Lutz said, that became a bond. Before both men set off for work, they would sit down for coffee and an impromptu Bible study.
“Sometimes when we’re going through trials and tribulations in life it’s hard to get to know other people,” Lutz said. “But we just immediately meshed.”
Lutz said Emery worked as a machine operator at Recycling and Disposal Solutions. Emery’s job at the plant, which is in northern Roanoke County, required significant effort and discipline just to show up, Moffitt said.
The program director saw Emery’s barrel-chested 5-foot-10-inch frame toned by his daily commute: He would ride his bicycle from the lodge to the bus station, then take the bus to a Food Lion at the intersection of Hollins Road and Plantation Road. From there, he would pedal the rest of the way — about 3 miles — to the recycling plant. He lost 40 pounds in the process.
Emery eventually made enough money to purchase a pickup truck. Just last weekend, Lutz ferried him to acquire insurance and DMV papers for the truck.
“He was really proud of himself for being able to accomplish that,” Lutz said.
White said the truck was a fixer-upper and Emery had been working on it on Sunday. He never got to drive the truck, White said.
“He was so ready to get that thing on the road,” White said.
Tuesday’s accident, which is being investigated by officials from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, ended Emery’s urgent march toward a better life.
“He had a lot of goals he wanted to meet, but they were attainable goals,” Lutz said, noting Emery’s hope of eventually finding a more fulfilling line of work that offered more pay and benefits.
Staying at the shelter, which Moffitt said was designed to bring stability to men’s lives, Emery had found progress. Moffitt said the residents of the lodge and anyone else who wishes to memorialize Emery are welcome to attend a memorial service at the Salvation Army’s local headquarters on Dale Avenue at 2 p.m. Monday.
“He was estranged from his family,” Moffitt said, “but he was happy here. He found a job, found friends. It’s just real sad.”
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