The death of Alan Dankel, Jr. has turned the start of the holiday season into a very sad time on Shire Lane in Sewell, New Jersey. The Dankel's house is the brightest on the block. Inside, though, the Dankel family is enduring its darkest day.
Like many others, Leslie Dankel went out shopping Sunday, leaving her husband Alan home to put up his beloved holiday decorations. Before she left, as she done several times, she warned him:
"I said, 'Do not go on the roof,'" Leslie told Action News. " I didn't hear from him, and usually when I'm shopping, he's calling me all day. "
When Leslie pulled in the driveway some 5 hours later, thinking maybe he'd just gotten wrapped up in a football game, she found him.
"I saw the ladder on the side of the house and the garage door was up, and everything was open. I started unloading the groceries, and I saw him, laying on the driveway... and I knew, I really knew that he was gone."
Fifty-nine-year-old Alan Dankel, Jr. was "Al" to his friends, "Dad" to his two grown sons. He was hanging up one last string of lights along the roof line of the house the same way as he'd proudly done for 30 years. As best as investigators can guess, he was on the roof, leaning over, and lost his balance.
"He was, you know, always just so into our happiness and satisfaction when it came to the holidays," said Dankel's son Andrew, "he lived his life for us. He's going to be a big void."
Although the Dankel family is still very clearly dealing with its sadness, they are taking some solace in the fact that their loss will soon be followed by a gain. Just a few days ago, Al's oldest son told his father, he would soon be a grandfather
Now, Andrew, and his brother Timothy who is also expecting a child, will have only memories of their dad to share. For everyone else, they have this plea:
"You just never do it alone. There's just no reason for him to have gone up there by himself... All it has to be is one thing, and your family is without you."