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Straight Outta Hazelwood: Remembering Aaron Tyrone Lamont Dennis

The Homepage, published by Hazelwood Initiative

Straight Outta Hazelwood is a series of profiles written by Andrea Coleman, a lifelong Hazelwood resident and founder of the Garden of Different Abilities

By Andrea Coleman

I lost my first-born son, Aaron Tyrone Lamont Dennis five years ago this May 30, 2022. 

I am not the only mother in this community who has suffered this. I have watched the balloon releases, Happy Heavenly Birthday shout-outs on social media, and the in-person Heavenly Birthday parties.

I see these as attempts to remember, to share, and continue to release the emotions that can accompany the loss of a significant loved one.

Aaron Tyrone Lamont Dennis, 12/26/1975 - 05/30/2017.Photo courtesy of Andrea Coleman

So, in my way of coping with the loss of my son Aaron, I offer his story, “Straight Outta Hazelwood” to honor him.

Aaron was born the day after Christmas, a rough tough ordeal, and kept in ICU for three days. The third day of his life he was returned to me and my protection and care. Aaron remained slightly underweight, but this never affected his strength and energy.

He was rough and tough like his birth. He was known to the family as Scooter. He loved chocolate and peanut butter of any kind. 

He loved to talk, and had phenomenal vocabulary, penmanship and writing.

One of his favorite childhood games, “Float or Sink” started with bathtub fun and led to his fascination with science and math in adulthood. 

Aaron attended Burgwin Elementary School and Gladstone Middle School. With the disparities in Hazelwood and the city of Pittsburgh, with the economic decline, violence, drug abuse and gangs, he was caught up in truancy violations and sent to Abraxas High School, where he completed his education.

Aaron was diagnosed with depression, and with my permission, entered a research program through the University of Pittsburgh Western Psychiatric Institute. When he turned 18 years old, I was no longer included in his treatment.

I ask myself, was this his initial entrance to the school-to-prison pipeline? Yes, Aaron spent his early adult years in prison. He thrived in jail and helped many other inmates. He was an articulate businessman and pen pal in the best sense of the word.

He read avidly, and wrote his adored grandmother monthly, and attended family gatherings via his allotted phone calls from prison.

In 2015, Aaron was released on probation, and truthfully admitted, “Mom as strong as I may be or seem, my chances of making it here on the outside of prison is slim. But for my challenge on cleaning up my record, and getting my business in order, and of course you and my family…I will meet the challenge.”

At what seemed to be the best time of his life, he departed this world on Memorial Day weekend, 2017.

I created a Facebook page, “Living With Loss,” in 2019, sharing my grief with others. Here in my writing for and about Aaron, “Straight outta Hazelwood” the good the bad, and the not so good…it all mattered in his LIFE. Yes, life is short, so truth be told, even when it hurts.

Homepage publisher, Hazelwood Initiative, Inc., is a community development corporation and a registered community organization. Hazelwood Initiative, Inc., does not profit by or receive compensation from contributors or organizations for mentions or links in Homepage articles.

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The Homepage is a print newspaper delivered monthly to households in Greater Hazelwood, Glen Hazel, Greenfield, Hays, New Homestead, Lincoln Place and The Run. Hazelwood Initiative, Inc., a community-based nonprofit, publishes The Homepage through a grant from the City of Pittsburgh and advertising revenue from local businesses and organizations. The mission of Hazelwood Initiative, as a community-based development corporation, is to build a stronger Hazelwood through inclusive community development. Sonya Tilghman, Executive Director of Hazelwood Initiative, Inc. (she/her) Juliet Martinez, Managing Editor of The Homepage (they/them) Sarah Kanar, Layout and Design of The Homepage(she/her)

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