Residents of all ages were in shock and utter disbelief on Sunday because one of the biggest beating hearts in our community stopped too soon.
A drive down Bridge Avenue will never be the same for some because a little part of a lot of people who loved Darren Arms died with him this week. I know because it happened to me.
There are no words to describe this moment or mood in our town, so allow me to describe this amazing friend to Point Pleasant.
Darren Arms, 50, showed us by example what the definition of a real "FAN" is. This husband, father, brother, son, friend, successful local businessman, fan of local kids and "his" New York Giants would say, "Your day, week and year can only get better if you make it your business to be a fan of someone or something! Who are we celebrating today?!" Darren didn't just say it; he lived this tenet by simply being himself.
The "Darren Stories" getting shared block-by-block right now are fantastic and humbling! One memory seems more remarkable than the next including the Jan 14th post on the Point Pleasant Patch that mentions the quiet generosity Darren showed residents in Sunshine Harbor when he arrived with a truck full of cooked food during Superstorm Sandy recovery efforts.
Yes, this one singular example does a great job describing the Darren so many of us knew for decades. Many thanks to the neighbor who shared it!
Darren's gorgeous and gifted wife Lisa grew up east of the railroad tracks on Forman Avenue right up the street from where I lived during my teenage years in Point Beach.
She would become my younger sister's, Maggie Zuhowski's, best friend. It was Lisa who led me to Colonial Ranch Market 28 years ago!
I'd show up with my own bowls and pans in hand in a hysterical attempt to fool my then-boyfriend Harry into thinking I was a really great cook! I couldn't cook or bake to save my life and so Darren and our families would scream with laughter over what happened next.
He, his beautiful late mother, Mary, and wonderful dad, Lenny, filled my pans to the rim with the special of the day and everybody's favorite red potato salad. Before I left the store I'd pull out a sliced egg, parsley and some paprika so I could claim Darren's delicious creations as my own at my next destination.
One day the gig was up! We were all at an Elk's event catered in part by Colonial Market and the secret was out - Darren Arms' potato salad tasted just like Aunt Tish Ferguson's! LOL - I was caught!
Fortunately, what I learned from this experience is that talented entrepreneurs who love to cater love customers who cannot cook so it was easy for me to become a loyal repeat customer of Colonial Ranch Market and Darren Arms for the rest of my life!!
Darren affectionately dubbed me "Tish-the-Catered Dish;" the Arms children would adopt me as their honorary "Aunt" and I'd dance through life with two titles to cherish. Oh and I'm happy to report Harry Ferguson married me AND Darren Arms' cooking in 1986 and we all lived happily ever after. That was until Sunday…
For 28 years every single engagement, christening, anniversary, birthday, fundraiser, Irish Celebration on the Point Beach Boardwalk, house warming party, retirement celebration, motorized float party, Halloween salute, multi-state bus trip, & Idle Hour Giants Road trip were bolstered by Darren's positive energy and unforgettable feasts created and shared with perfection.
Every effort represented the highest form of love of family, friends, sports and community which made every event more enjoyable.
How do we plan another celebration or gathering without the big guy on Bridge Avenue who taught us how to leverage food to help people recover, see light in the middle of darkness, enhance their celebration and raise awareness to important causes?
Darren grew up knowing that a focus on the stomach could leave any heart feeling full. Between 1995 and 1998 when my husband and I moved our family to Bayonne to be closer to our jobs in New York City, Darren Arms packed up trays of his homemade Colonial Ranch specials and delivered them to us 50 miles away during the Christmas Holiday.
This man took time from a business high season to make sure a homesick friend wouldn't feel too far removed from the wonders of Point Pleasant - that place we all called home no matter where our lives had taken us.
With tears flowing freely this week, I can tell you that this one act-of-kindness was the most precious and thoughtful Christmas gift I ever received. I'll never forget it.
Former Point Boro football players who are now grown men cried Sunday for Darren Arms and for his family and for a very good reason. They respected Darren because he worked to keep them motivated and inspired at every turn when they were kids.
For more than two decades these student athletes started their Thanksgiving and Championship Game Weekends at the business Darren and the Arms Family built. A barbeque celebrating excellence was on the menu every time! The definition of community spirit and caring lived inside this guy with the tough exterior, rip-roaring sense of humor, and heart of gold.
Darren was a hard-driving community servant with a remarkable old-school work ethic who insisted on no headlines, no billing or recognition or credit or mention of his name as he stood quietly & firmly and consistently behind Point Pleasant Borough High School All-Sport Boosters, Black & Gold events, graduation awards ceremonies, homecoming parades, the Elk's, sports fundraisers in all forms.
He was that man - the fan for all seasons with respect for people of all ages. You knew he loved his family, local kids, football, his community, country and life itself because those messages were etched in his glorious smile and hardy laugh; only to be outdone by the magnificent sparkle in his eyes! That's the man we knew behind our meat counter and the dear friend we're left to miss for the rest of our lives.
If you were lucky enough to be part of his inner circle or simply someone who honored his life's work by becoming a regular customer at his store, I can tell you this - Darren Arms appreciated you! The ultra-quiet legacy of giving back was Darren's way of thanking all those individuals and local businesses that supported the dreams, goals and successes of his dad former Point Pleasant Mayor Lenny Arms, his incredible mother Mary and his entire family.
Blessed are the parents who raise a son like Darren who grows up driven to honor his community in their name. No parent or community could ask for more.