Danville community mourns in a time of social distancing

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DANVILLE, Vt. (WCAX) It was a bitter end of March for the Mackay family following the death of Randy Mackay-- a son, husband and father-- to pancreatic cancer. Unable to hold a traditional funeral, memorial service or even a celebration of life because of coronavirus concerns, the Danville family and community came up with an alternative.

Danville residents wanted to honor lifelong community member Randy Mackay, so they decided to create a car train to let the Mackay family know that they are in the thoughts of their neighbors.

Danville resident Dawn Pastula is one of the creators of the event and said the idea for the drive-by parade just came from a small conversation between her and another mourning community member.

"We wanted to show our love and support and we got to laughing and thinking, 'well, let's do a drive-by'," she said. "We'll drive by and we'll wave and we'll honk and we'll make noise and we'll let her know we're here. Plus, Randy deserves it, everybody really adored him and this has hit everybody very hard."

Since families stayed in their vehicles, Vermont State Police were able to maintain CDC guidelines and help coordinate the event.

Tpr. Jason Danielsen said he was happy to help.

"There's no other options at this time with the coronavirus," he said. "To help them still be able to have a funeral for a man who passed is a good thing."

It was clear when the cars showed up to the Mackay household, that the feelings of the community had reached the family.

"Danville and St. Johnsbury are our communities," said Jacque-Lynn, Randy's wife. "My husband has been well-loved by many, many people in our community."

Randy's daughter, Michele Hawley, was also very touched by the actions of the Danville community, and she says that she is happy that many people thought so highly of her father.

"It's so great that he has been able to touch so many lives," she said.

Although COVID-19 has kept people at more than an arm's distance, a local community was able to reach a mourning family, and bring the town of Danville together during a time of distance.