Tragedy always brings people together. It sometimes takes a tragic event for us to pick up the phone and call that long-lost friend who we simply lost contact with. It sometimes takes a tragic event to rekindle a friendship we thought would last a lifetime. It is through tragedy that we unite.
Last week, my Badger Herald colleagues past and present were brought together by the passing of Darryl Schnell. Darryl worked at the Herald from 2005-07 while he was an undergraduate here at the University of Wisconsin. He worked in our News Department, first as a reporter, then as city editor, digest editor and features editor. Darryl was most recently working for ESPN as a production assistant in Bristol, Conn. — his passing was noted last week on “SportsCenter.”
On a professional level, Darryl was a great reporter. I perused through some of his work last week, pieces I hadn’t read in years. He covered city issues for a while before writing some terrific features.
But as good a journalist as Darryl was, the biggest impact he had was in our newsroom. As a young freshman, I began my job at the Herald scared out of my mind over what to expect. But I’ll never forget the immediate impact Darryl had on me — he was one of those people who was first to introduce himself and welcome me, and we quickly became friends. We both hailed from Brookfield, albeit rivaling high schools. We had some mutual friends, all of whom spoke so very highly of Darryl. I quickly understood why.
I can honestly say Darryl was one of the nicest people I have ever known. He was genuinely friendly to everyone he met, having a positive effect on his sources and his colleagues alike. We both worked late nights my first semester — I remember him waiting around for long SSFC meetings to finish so he could edit stories about them. He was easy to talk to, easy to get along with and had the patience to get through the long, stressful days at the Herald. That’s a lesson I learned from him and have always tried to practice myself.
When I started working in the Herald News Department during the fall of 2006, Darryl was working as features editor. I was an associate news editor, one of the hardest and busiest positions at the Herald. Darryl had gone through it a year before, so he was always there to either offer advice or simply talk to after a long day of work. He deserves credit for our old Thursday night news team parties — we had a lot of fun back then after long, long weeks at work. And Darryl was always the first one to get something together. Being able to relax and simply hang out with each other was something we associate news editors relied on to get through the week, and Darryl was always there for us.
Darryl absolutely loved the Herald, making the most out of the Herald experience. He would have done anything for the paper. He always wrote “inspirational” e-mails before our Herald-Cardinal softball and football games. While we never really won those — nor do we still — he always looked forward to them and threw so much passion into them, pumping us up and rallying the troops. He was extremely proud to be associated with the Herald and, more importantly, loved the people he worked with.
At just 25 years of age, Darryl left us far too early. But it seems fitting to me that Darryl brought our extended Herald family together upon his death — because that’s exactly what he did while he was here in Madison.