Andrew Dys

‘Like a kick in the gut.’ Beloved Winthrop custodian Sir Lawrence Darby dies in Chester crash

Sir Lawrence Darby
Sir Lawrence Darby

His real first name was Sir. He called everybody “Sir.” And everybody who met him at Winthrop Coliseum – the fans, players, coaches and anyone who wanted to be a part of the magic of sports – loved Sir Lawrence Darby.

But after the news broke that Darby, 53, was one of three people to die in a Chester County car crash early Sunday, there were no words in that huge sports arena.

Just sobs.

Before so many practices and games, during the lonely hours of an athlete’s attempt to succeed and improve, Darby was out on the court, shooting baskets with the first players to show up. He told every young man and woman they could be anything they wanted – if they tried their best.

“It feels like a kick in the gut,” said Kevin Cook, Winthrop women’s basketball coach. “This was not a custodian. This man was a friend. He loved our team, our players, and we loved him. To lose this man is to lose a brother.”

Darby was riding with another man home from a DJ gig early Sunday when another car crossed the center line and smashed into Darby’s truck. Both Darby and Willie James Perry, 76, died. A passenger in the other car, Anthony Roof, 46, also died. The driver of the other vehicle, Joseph Dewayne Knox, 42, survived. Charges are pending against Knox, police said. The investigation is still ongoing.

Darby was the cook for the Winthrop women’s basketball team’s barbecue every year and he soared with wins and kept spirits up after losses, Cook said.

“He was a huge fan and a huge-hearted person,” Cook said.

Darby’s job was to keep the cavernous building spotless, but his calling was to be a part of Winthrop’s heart and soul. Darby was the biggest fan of the soccer teams and many other teams, and his connection to all of them was heartfelt and real.

Darby, who worked at the school for 16 years, never missed a home game and he never missed cheering for his Eagles. He was instrumental in the athletic department working with the Samaritan’s Feet project that collected shoes for kids that needed them.

Darby was set to be the DJ at Winthrop homecoming events in November.

Both the men’s and women’s basketball teams open play for their 2016-2017 seasons next month. A tribute to Darby will be part of the season-opening plans.

Pat Kelsey, men’s basketball coach at Winthrop, said he and his players are “just broken-hearted” and despondent over the news that Sir Lawrence died.

“He was a great person, a giving person,” Kelsey said. “He was there for all of us, every day. Mr. Darby was a member of the Winthrop family. We loved him and we will never forget him.”