Mesmerized by the thousands of lights on the Salomone concrete truck are Gemma Saum, Brayden Konz, and Brantley Link.
Brayden Konz, the grandson of Kelly Chalkley, attended a Christmas party hosted by Salomone Concrete in Wayne.
BY JUSTINA ADDICE
HEWITT — As 2016 ended and people looked forward to 2017, many reflected on the memories of the passing year.
For one Hewitt family, there was little joy this holiday season. Their beloved wife, mother, sister and grandmother, Kelly A. Vaughn Chalkley, was killed on Nov. 7 by a hit and run driver at the Mt. Laurel parking lot as she walked her dog early that evening.
In addition to the grief they were experiencing losing her, the family also is dealing with the fact that the crime has not been solved.
With the holidays closely following, her family could not find comfort in the warmth of the holiday season.
But that changed, even just for a few moments, thanks to Salomone Redi-Mix Concrete company.
Salomone's trucks are brightly decorated during the holidays with thousands of lights. Chalkley's sister, Kim Powell, works near Salomone in Wayne. One day, she brought Chalkley's three-year-old grandson, Brayden, to Salomone, asking where they could see the truck with the lights.
“(Brayden) always admires the trucks. He’s crazy about them,” said Powell.
At Salomone, Brayden had picked up a box of tissues off a desk; they were in the shape of a dump truck. He told Powell ‘I’m gonna show this to nana.’
"I got very emotional," said Powell. She quietly let them know that his nana had just been killed in a hit and run. "They knew the story."
The folks at Salomone gave Brayden a tray of cookies along with a gift bag full of prizes. They also took Powell's phone number to let her know where the truck would be the following night.
Less than 24 hours later, the company called asking for Brayden’s address.
“They explained to me they wanted to come and see him with the cement mixer," said Powell. "I couldn’t believe my ears. We had the entire family and tons of friends and neighbors to greet them when they pulled in!”
So Brayden watched as the truck pulled into the Mt. Laurel parking lot, glowing with thousands of lights.
It was a sight to be seen, as the lights seemed to dance across the surface of the vehicle and created the illusion of a night sky complete with thousands of multicolored stars.
“They played Christmas music and the truck blew bubbles like snow all over us," Powell said. "It was amazing! Not a dry eye in the house.”
At the end of the night, Powell said, they walked back to Chalkley's house and the truck drove by blowing the air horn.
"Brayden was all smiles. We met them across the street in the parking lot where Kelly was found. It was tough, but I know she was proud,” said Powell.
The family and neighbors were grateful to the Salomone company for providing them with some light and cheer at such a dark time.
The family continues to hope that the person responsible will come forward and allow them closure. They are offering a $20,000 reward to anyone with information. Contact the West Milford Police Department at 973-728-2800 or the Passaic County Prosecutors Office at 877-370-7276.