Justus Booze of Schenectady was engaged to be married. He helped watch over his fiancée’s three children. He also had a regular job waiting for him as a driver so he could help his new family, those who knew him recalled Thursday.
Those who knew Booze said the 23-year-old took an apparently temporary job with a tree- trimming service.
Just after 1 p.m. Wednesday — his first day on that job — an accident involving a tree grinding machine took his life.
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“He was just a genuinely nice kid,” longtime family friend Marcus Ramundo said of Booze. “He had a mind to make other people happy. He was always there for others who needed him.”
The investigation into what led to Booze’s death continued Thursday, Guilderland police said.
Booze died while working on a crew removing large trees in front of 215 Placid Drive for a company identified by police as Countryside Tree Service in Guilderland. Police confirmed it was Booze’s first day on the job.
One of his co-workers alerted others to the accident, police spokesman Deputy Chief Curtis Cox said. Cox did not know if the co-worker was with Booze at the time or whether Booze was alone at the machine, but Booze became entangled in the machine and died at the scene.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is leading the investigation, Cox said.
“OSHA is here today and they’re working on it,” Cox said Thursday.
A message left with a similarly named Guilderland-based tree company Thursday was not returned.
On Thursday evening, a GoFundMe page posted to help with funeral costs and other unforeseen expenses topped $2,500 in donations in 21 hours from 78 different people.
The page, titled “In loving memory of Justus Booze,” recalled Booze as “a young man so full of laughter and joy.”
“Justus was a ray of sunshine and always did whatever he could to help anyone who needed it. His passing has left us all deeply shocked and saddened,” the page reads.
Booze spent much of his life locally.
For nearly a year, his fiancée’s children have attended the Schenectady after-school organization QUEST, program founder and executive director Judy Atchinson said. Booze once attended the program in a difficult youth, Atchinson said.
“Big smile. Big smile,” Atchinson said of Booze. “No temper. No anger.”
She said he had been recently looking for work and was about to get a job as a driver for a food vendor that serves the organization. He had interviewed for the job and the company owner was impressed with him, Atchinson said.
“It’s just awful,” she said.
Ramundo, 19, got to know Booze well through school and his older brother. Booze even lived with the family — Ramundo’s grandparents — for about a year late in high school. He graduated from Schalmont High School in 2011 and attended some college in Cobleskill.
In March, Ramundo helped Booze and his fiancée move to a new apartment.
Ramundo said he can’t believe that Booze is gone.
“He was a great kid, no ifs, ands or buts about it,” Ramundo said. “He was hard-working, motivated. He was a family man just trying to do the right thing.”