Apr. 9—On a recent route, Marietta Daily Journal carrier Gideon Alawine found an elderly subscriber who'd locked himself out of his house.
Alawine called a locksmith and offered to stick around to make sure everything went smoothly. The man declined the offer, but they exchanged numbers and kept in touch.
On Monday, the man called Alawine's cellphone to check in and also to point out his paper was late Saturday.
Alawine's wife, Essie Alawine, picked up. Her husband had died in a wreck delivering papers Saturday morning, she told the man.
According to Cobb police, at around 2:20 a.m. Alawine was rear-ended by a drunk driver while driving on Macland Road, west of McEachern Manor. Essie Alawine was contacted by police later that morning, and has spent the days since juggling the making of arrangements and the flood of calls and visits from friends and relatives.
In an interview Thursday, she shared her husband's life story with the MDJ.
Alawine was born June 15, 1970, in Carthage, Mississippi. His father was in the military, and the family moved often, eventually settling in Seattle when Alawine was 12.
At 17, he was baptized as a Jehovah's Witness. Four years later, he went to work at the denomination's world headquarters in Brooklyn, where Essie worked as a "Bethelite," creating literature describing the teachings of the Bible as understood by Jehovah's Witnesses.
Alawine worked there in a supporting role, in which he learned how to build "basically, high-rise construction access equipment," his wife said.
A picture taken during his time in New York shows a young Alawine sitting on a beam hundreds of feet above ground, smiling at the camera, the Brooklyn Bridge and Twin Towers behind him. He shared that picture on Facebook.
"Dan Gangler and me taking glamour shots on the roof that day," he wrote in a comment. "Oh youth!"
His friend and coworker Gilbert Urbina Jr. took the picture. Both assigned to the headquarters' support team, they became fast friends, spending time together outside of work.
"The fascinating thing about our job was, we had the best views in the city," Urbina said. "The opportunity to take that shot was incredible."
It was at the Jehovah's Witness world headquarters that he also met Essie. They married in 1993, and moved around, spending two years in Washington State (to be close to his parents) before moving to Florida (to be close to her parents).
They eventually settled in Powder Springs, where he joined the MDJ's parent company, Times Journal, Inc.
Alawine delivered Neighbor newspapers, metro Atlanta weeklies owned by Times Journal, Inc., for at least nine years, his manager Glenn Galmish, said. He had been delivering the Marietta Daily Journal for several months.
"He'd do anything for anybody," Galmish said. "He was always running extra routes for guys who were out sick or something like that and never wanting anything in return. ... He's just an easygoing guy. Gentle giant."
"People (might) leave their keys in their door, and he'll find a way to call them and let them know," Essie said, "(or) they'll leave their purse in the back of the car and he'll find a way to get them their purse without trying to scare them half to death, because he was a big guy, and, you know, he could look intimidating. But there was nothing intimidating about Gideon."
The night of the wreck, Essie, who prepared papers of delivery at their Powder Springs home, grew nervous after he didn't respond to one of her text messages. A diabetic, Alawine had gone into diabetic shock while out on a route in the past, and she was worried it had happened again, that he may have been in a wreck. She left her home and followed his route, driving past the scene of the wreck. When she got home and saw he hadn't picked up his next batch of newspapers, she was certain something was wrong.
She left again and, while she was out, received a call from Cobb police, asking her to come home. They had some bad news.
According to investigators, Alawine was driving a blue 2005 Dodge Grand Caravan west on Macland Road at about 2:20 a.m. when he was rear-ended by a silver 2015 Ford F-150. Alawine's car "rotated clockwise and came to final uncontrolled rest on its roof."
Police arrested Thomas W. Thompson, 40, of Powder Springs. Thompson was charged with homicide by vehicle in the first degree and tampering with evidence, both felonies. He was also charged with following too closely, speeding, driving under the influence and having an open container, all misdemeanors.
Urbina, who now lives in Texas, teaches a class for Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
"The whole meaning of teaching these classes has changed for me now," he said.
A fundraiser was established to support Essie Alawine and, as of Thursday, has raised more than $1,000. Essie, who said she is disabled and cannot work, said her husband was the breadwinner and that her tight-knit congregation will likely support her going forward. In the meantime, her faith as a Jehovah's Witness has helped her manage her grief.
"Our belief is, according to the Scriptures, in the future, after all wickedness has been removed from the earth, we are going to work to make the earth a paradise, just like it was in the beginning with the Garden of Eden," she said. "And we'll spread it all over the world. And then, after paradise is established, God is going to bring back to life those who have died.
"As a Jehovah's Witness, we know the true condition of the dead — they're unconscious, they're asleep, basically," she continued. "So we know he's at rest, we know he's not in pain, we know he's not, you know, in heaven looking down and seeing me suffer until he's reunited with me again. And so we know that what's going to happen (is), it's going to feel like to him a split second. He was asleep, and now he's awake, and he'll be in a paradise Earth, and all his friends and family will be there."
Essie Alawine said a virtual service will be held for her husband over Zoom, with a specific date and time to be announced on his Facebook page.