Harry Delmolino

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Harry Delmolino
Saturday, May 19, 2012
Age: 18

Main and Pleasant
Northhampton , MA
United States

Ghost bike recalls spirit of Harry Delmolino, bicyclist who died after downtown Northampton accident


Fred Contrada, The Republican




Harry Delmolino with his bicycle.
Submitted photo

— They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but it doesn’t tell the
whole story. It never does when we’re talking about a person’s life.

Still, the photo of Harry Delmolino with his bike is telling.

He’s on a bridge across the Connecticut River, part of the Norwottuck
Rail Trail, and he’s holding his bicycle over his head. There’s
confidence in the face of the 18-year-old, a satisfaction that he can do
just about anything with this simple machine.

And, there’s joy.

This is the image Harry Delmolino's family and friends keep in their
hearts, not the one of him pedaling into the intersection of Main and
Pleasant streets in downtown Northampton on May 19. The mind turns off
at the thought of that day.

Delmolino’s bicycle slammed into a car turning left from Main Street onto Pleasant. [rewrite-a left turning car driver crashed into Harry] He died a few days later of his injuries.

Soon after the accident, someone chained a bicycle to a utility pole at the intersection. It’s one of some 500 "ghost bikes" that have been set out at locations throughout the world where a motor vehicle accident has claimed the life of a bicyclists.


Ghost Bike at the corner of Main and Pleasant.
Dave Roback

Ghost bikes are painted white and often decorated with flowers or
mementos. The tradition is said to have begun in St. Louis, Mo., in
2003, and secrecy is inherent in the gesture.

The person responsible for Harry Delmolino’s ghost bike is reportedly a
close friend who protects his identity. Those who work nearby often see
the man bringing fresh flowers.

Susan Delmolino, Harry’s mother, has seen the ghost bike but finds it too painful to return there.

“It gives me some comfort,” she said. “It’s so respectful and, in some ways, so tender.”

John Delmolino, Harry’s father, says he is pleasantly surprised the city has allowed the memorial to remain in place so long.

Susan Delmolino, 60, and John Delmolino, 64, live in Hadley, close to
the Sunderland town line. The location of their home made it a long
ride for Harry to go anywhere on his bike. Still, it was his
transportation of choice, and he bicycled back and forth to his
information technology job at Smith College and his day job at an
Amherst bike shop called Laughing Dog and often rode the bike paths of
Northampton and Easthampton just for the fun of it.

“He’d do 40 miles a day as a lark,” his mother recalled recently.

Harry and his sister, Grace, were home-schooled from an early age and
were in and out of college by the time their peers were graduating from
high school, but their parents are reluctant to talk about this. The
Delmolinos haven't viewed their kids as prodigies but as their children,
as people, breathtakingly normal, though endlessly fascinating and
burdened by the usual growing pains which young people have.

Susan Delmolino worked as a child-abuse investigator for the state,
but left that job years ago to be home with her children. Because Harry
and Grace were so self-directed, her biggest task as their mother, she
said, was to get out of their way. It was time she would otherwise not
have spent with them, and she treasures it.

Harry Delmolino started taking classes at Greenfield Community
College when he was just 13. Grace, now 20, is working on a doctorate in
medieval Italian literature at Columbia University. That might sound
impressive, but being precocious is not the highest priority in the
Delmolino household.

“It’s not how smart you are,” said Susan Delmolino. “It’s what you do.”

John Delmolino, a retired state trooper who is in his second career
as an interior house painter, has a more concise way of putting it.

“The jails are full of smart people,” he said.

Fortunately, the Delmolinos didn’t have to worry about their kids on that count.

Harry Delmolino joined the Boy Scouts and worked his way up to Eagle
Scout. He went on an 11-day hiking trip to New Mexico with Boy Scout
Troop 504 of Amherst. He climbed Mount Monadnock in the snow. He had a
girlfriend. He fell in love with bicycling.

John Delmolino says he was taken aback by his son’s need to take
things apart and amazed by his ability to put them back together.

Harry’s bike, for instance, his father explained, was in a hundred
pieces soon after he bought it. Then, like magic, it was a bike again.
He disassembled many household appliances. At 12 he asked for a welder
for Christmas. He had barely learned to walk when he threw a hissy-fit
over some kind of digging contraption he wanted. His parents gave in.
Harry spent hours with it in the dirt pile.

As he got older, Harry Delmolino was drawn more and more to computer
science. He won a temporary job at Smith by essentially convincing the
college he could fix anything, his parents said. He was planning to take
classes at the University of Massachusetts to get a degree in computer

His attraction to bicycling was even stronger.

“Harry got into it,” said his mother. “Then he really got into it.”

The young man bought a $1,000 bike, took it apart, put it together
and then got a job at Laughing Dog where he worked on repairing other
people’s bikes.

Parker Ramspott, who owns the Amherst bike shop, said it was not
uncommon for Harry Delmolino to work on $6,000 bicycles. “He loved
bikes,” Ramspott said. “It got him real fit.”

On the morning of his accident, Harry and his mother made a couple of
trips to the house next door with Harry’s belongings. The family had
bought the house as a place for him to spend the summer before he went
to UMass.

For the Delmolinos, it was the best of both worlds. Harry would be close by, but he would have the privacy a young man craves.

“You’re spreading your wings,” said Susan Delmolino. “You want to have the freedom.”

Then, Harry rode off to work at Laughing Dog and later biked to Northampton.

The office of Northwestern district attorney David Sullivan announced
this week that its investigation found no basis upon to bring criminal
charges against the driver of the car that struck Harry Delmolino, Cesar
Avelar. The investigation determined the incident was an accident.
Delmolino was not wearing a helmet.

The city of Northampton will use some of the state funds it receives
for road and bridge repair to study the intersection of Main and
Pleasant streets with an eye towards installing a dedicated left-turn
signal for motorists entering from the east along Main from Hadley and
Amherst, as Avelar was. It is the only one of the four entry points to
the major downtown intersection where Route 9 meets Route 5 that lacks
such a signal.

Ramspott said bicyclists always have to be on the look-out when they share the road with cars.

“You’ve got to assume you’re not seen even when people look at you,” he said.

Delmolino’s loss was felt especially difficult for Boy Scout Troop 504.

“Harry was going to be an adult leader,” said John Delmolino. “He liked to work with the younger Scouts.”

Lyle Denit, who was Harry’s Scout master for a time, remembers how he
started out as a shy boy but took on more and more responsibility as he
grew older. The younger Scouts loved him.

“A lot of times the older guys don’t want to hang out with the young
kids, but Harry kind of embraced them,” Denit said. “He’d tell jokes and
stories and they really responded to that.”

The Delmolinos sent away for the Eagle stick which Harry earned and
gave it to him two weeks before he died. They also received the
Greenfield Community College diploma he never bothered to pick up.

Word has it that Harry Delmolino's ghost bike is due to disappear
soon. The Delmolino home remains filled with pictures of Harry,
including the one of him holding his bike up. Harry took it with his
iPhone, a self-portrait.