I am deeply saddened by the death yesterday morning of Timothy Hayes-El, a well-known and much-loved Newburgher who attended and spoke at virtually every City Council meeting.
His first name, Timothy, comes from the Greek meaning, “Honored by God,” and surely he was so honored, as he devoted his later years to God’s children here in Newburgh. His last name at birth was Hayes, but he adopted the suffix –El, which is one of the Hebrew names of God. God indeed suffused Timothy Hayes-El’s being; he was as striking a person as any prophet. With his tall, erect bearing he resembled a Maasai warrior, and his large, shining eyes could draw the attention of everyone in the room. His voice was as commanding as a preacher’s, and he used that voice often and well, to promote his passion: increasing job opportunities for city residents.
He first impressed me when I was working for the TH-Record under the editorship of Mike Levine, and the paper did a series called something like, “How Do We Fix Newburgh?” Timothy was part of a focus group Mike led on that subject. Timothy gave us a great quote, in which he said something like, “I’m not a ‘resident of Newburgh’; i AM Newburgh.”
He was right: Newburgh is missing a great part of itself today. His passion for this city led him to offer himself as a perpetual candidate; most recently, he ran for the Ward 1 City Council seat in November, losing to Karen Mejia. Two years ago, he ran for Mayor, losing to Judy Kennedy. His activism also inspired many young city residents to register to vote. He served time in prison as a young man but returned to Newburgh determined to keep other black youths out of trouble by helping them get jobs and by advocating for them before the City Council.
Timothy had a variety of health problems and had been on kidney dialysis. He had felt ill on Sunday and did not go to church (a rarity for him); instead, he walked the few blocks from his home on Johnston Street to St. Luke’s Hospital, where he died too soon, too soon, on Monday morning at age 52.
Rest in peace, Timothy Hayes-El, Honored by God.