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National Grid worker killed in Waltham crash recalled as hardworking technician, devoted to family

Roderick Jackson.Family Photo

CAMBRIDGE - The National Grid employee who was killed along with a Waltham police officer in a devastating crash was recalled Thursday as a hardworking gas operations technician who was well-known here in his city of residence, as well as a former two-sport athlete in college.

Roderick Jackson, 36, of Cambridge, joined National Grid in 2021, the utility said Thursday.

He and Waltham police Officer Paul J. Tracey, 58, were fatally struck at a detail site Wednesday afternoon in Waltham, and the driver, Peter J. Simon, 54, was ordered held without bail at arraignment Thursday on a raft of charges including manslaughter.

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“He meant everything to me,” said Jackson’s brother, Manuel Asprilla-Hassan, outside Waltham District Court following Simon’s arraignment. “He meant everything to everybody. The city of Cambridge knows who he is. When everybody forgets about him, we will remember.”

Asprilla-Hassan said he’d spoken with his brother shortly before the crash, and that the two discussed attending the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day in Pasadena, Calif.

“This is a nightmare that I’m living in,” Asprilla-Hassan said. “I woke up [wondering] what just happened? ... I can’t even explain the story to anybody. People ask me what happened, I can’t even explain it. Because the [expletive] don’t sound real.”

Jackson’s cousin, Michael Davis, 36, described him as a family man who loved his job.

Standing outside Jackson’s home Thursday, Davis softly described the positive impact he had on those who knew him.

”He was the glue that held his immediate family together,” Davis said.

He said his cousin was athletic, a diligent worker, and a father figure to his younger siblings.

”He always wanted to be at work at that plant, I never understood why,” Davis said, adding that Jackson wanted to earn an “honest living.”

National Grid on Thursday lauded Jackson for his work ethic.

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“He was a highly respected, talented and selfless teammate who worked extremely hard, took on extra duties and had built strong friendships with members on his team,” the utility said in a statement. “He was always willing to lend a hand, roll up his sleeves and help a colleague. His loss is deeply felt throughout the company, and he will be sorely missed.”

Jackson had also played basketball and football at Framingham State University, according to spokesman Dan Magazu. Jackson graduated in 2011 with a degree in business administration, Magazu said in a statement.

“The Framingham State University community is saddened to learn of the tragic passing of former student Roderick Jackson on Wednesday evening,” Magazu said. “Roderick was an outstanding student athlete at FSU and two-year starter on the basketball team after transferring here. He also played a year on the football team.”

Magazu said the university’s “thoughts and deepest sympathies go out to his family and friends during this difficult time. FSU is making resources available to any staff and faculty on campus who knew Roderick and may be in need of support.”

Darius Heywood, a former teammate of Jackson’s at Framingham State, said in a Facebook posting Thursday that “Cambridge lost a good one. ... RIP Roderick Jackson aka Kito.”

Among those who replied to Heywood’s post was former Framingham State head basketball coach Don Spellman, who had coached Jackson.

“I am heartbroken over the news,” Spellman wrote. “We never had a bad day with Kito!!”

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Said another commenter, “Never got the chance to play with him. But had the privilege of being around him and he was a real one. Great guy to be around. He will be missed. Prayers to everyone.”

Material from prior Globe stories was used in this report, and Jeremiah Manion of the Globe Staff contributed.



Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Talia Lissauer can be reached at talia.lissauer@globe.com. Follow her on Instgram @_ttphotos. Emily Sweeney can be reached at emily.sweeney@globe.com. Follow her @emilysweeney and on Instagram @emilysweeney22.