"Our hero has gone..."
Harlem is in mourning today as a man who mentored countless young people has died. Beloved community activist and youth basketball coach Floyd "Skip" Branch Jr. was killed in a freak motorcycle crash on Saturday, June 10, 2019.
According to the New York Daily News, Branch was riding along Harlem River Drive just before 3:00 p.m. when he lost control of his 2017 Honda CBR while avoiding traffic. He hit the center concrete divider, was thrown into a light pole and killed instantly. The Honda continued down the road until it rear-ended a car.
Branch's untimely death sent shockwaves through the community over the weekend. In 1995, Branch—a commanding figure and grandfather who didn't drink, smoke, or eat red meat—founded NYC Bombsquad Classic, a non-profit that worked to keep kids off the street and teach them discipline and respect. Through his work with NYC Bombsquad, Branch saved countless lives and helped many children find a path to a better life.
"He was teaching young people how to play basketball and helped mentor thousands of young people," said Dr. Kent Branch, a pastor in Georgia and Branch's brother. "He helped mentor them and father them . . . It’s all a reflection of his selflessness. I lost my only brother," Branch added. “Numb. Totally numb. It’s still unreal."
"Basketball, God and motorcycle riding were his greatest joys in life,” Branch added. "He loved people and he was a protector and provider."
Branch's riding friends remember him as an incredibly conscientious and safe rider, a man you could trust with your life.
“I follow him everywhere because he’s that safe of a rider,” said longtime friend Marc Callahan. “He’s not popping no wheelies, not cutting no cars. . . When I'm on my bike, I trust him with my life."
200 mourners gathered outside of Branch's home in Harlem Sunday night to pay homage to their friend, mentor, and fellow rider. Branch is survived by his wife, children, grandchildren, and siblings.
If you can today, and if you're so inclined, pour one out for Coach Branch. I didn't know him, but he did a lot of good work and helped a lot of people in his life. We should all be so lucky, at the end of our road, to have served our community so well.