Christmas morning tragedy hits close to home

Mother, son die in freak tree accident in N.J.
Christmas morning should be a time for unwrapping presents, preparing for an afternoon meal, and enjoying the company of close family and friends. This year, the peace of those special hours came to a sudden halt when a terrible overnight accident claimed the lives of two beloved members of Boston’s tight-knit Haitian American community.
Joel Baudouin, 42, of Arlington, and his mother, Marie Vernet, 70, of Dorchester, were killed at 1 a.m. on Christmas morning as they drove to visit relatives in New Jersey. A tree toppled along the side of the road and came crashing down upon Baudouin’s car as it moved along the center lane of the Garden State Parkway. A state highway official characterized it as a freak accident, something that would be impossible to replicate. Joel’s two young daughters in the back seat were spared, although the older of the two girls, 13 year-old Rachelle, remained hospitalized.
The mother and son were buried in Dorchester’s Cedar Grove cemetery on Jan. 2 after an overflow crowd assembled for their dual funeral service at Temple Salem Seventh Day Adventist Church.
As news of the double tragedy spread through the Haitian community on Dec. 25, the Lower Mills home of Joel’s younger brother, Edouard and his wife Kenya, soon became the epicenter of mourning. All day Christmas, and in the days since, their apartment was filled with well-wishers bearing food and condolences and prayers.
Together, they cheered themselves with fresh memories of Joel, who celebrated his 42nd birthday on Thanksgiving with family and friends in this same Lower Mills apartment. A well-known photographer in the Haitian-American community, Joel worked as a manager at Children’s Hospital. He loved to cook, paint and share his artist’s eye for photography with friends. More than anything, though, he loved his daughters — and they loved him. Mrs. Vernet was a former nurse’s aide and devout member of Dorchester’s Temple Salem Seventh Day Adventist Church who was renowned for her talents in the kitchen. She was devoted to her grandchildren, as well as her own four adult kids and was beloved by her neighbors in Grove Hall.
The family was en route to a traditional Christmas week gathering at the New Jersey home of Joel’s older brother Neil’s home on the night in question. The group had just stopped for food at a rest area on the Garden State Parkway and was just minutes from their exit when the tree toppled, striking the front of the car where the roof and windshield meet. The car then veered off the road. The impact of the tree killed Joel and Marie and left young Rachelle with serious injuries to her leg.
Joseph Orlando, a spokesman for the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, told the Star-Ledger newspaper that wind likely played a factor in the tree falling.
The mysteries of life — and of our own mortality — came crashing down on Christmas Day. The nature of this freak accident just added to the surreal loss. How could it be that two vital, loving and caring people could be taken from us in such a way, and on this of all days? More than one was heard to ask, ‘Why would God do this?’
There is, of course, no good answer. It is left to us —as a community, a neighborhood— to rally around our friends and provide an embrace that eases a pain too great for words and beyond the grasp of reason. In doing so, we seek a balm for our own wounds and relief for this awful reminder that we, too, are just visitors to this place.

Marie Andree (Joseph) Vernet, 70, of Dorchester, died unexpectedly in an accident in New Jersey on Dec. 25, 2008. A native of Croix-des-Bouquets, Haiti, she was the daughter of Therese Bruno and Meseus Joseph and the sister of Miralda Pauyo. She was a loving mother to Joel Baudouin, who
also died in the accident on Dec. 25; Neil Baudouin and his wife Jouselie Baudouin of New Jersey; Ruth (Baudouin) Auguste and her husband Pierre Auguste of Los Angeles; and Edouard Baudouin Jr. and his wife Kenya Baudouin of Dorchester. Marie leaves behind her former husband Edouard Baudouin Sr. of
She was a devoted grandmother to Rachele and Cassie Baudouin and also leaves behind their mother Chantal Baudouin. She is survived also by Ashleigh and Melissa Baudouin. She was a loving aunt to Wilner Theagene (and his children), Simone Dargenson Nemourin (and her children). Marie was a devoted member of Temple Salem Seventh Day Adevntist Church in Dorchester. She was a former Nurse’s Assistant, a generous individual who enjoyed politics, cooking and feeding everyone. Sign guestbook at

Joel Baudouin, 42, of Arlington, died suddenly in a car accident in New Jersey on Dec. 25, 2008. Born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Joel was a graduate of Seminaire Adventiste Franco Haitien and Cambridge College and was working on a Masters degree. Joel worked as a manager at Children’s Hospital and was a professional photographer, who enjoyed painting and music. His greatest joys in life were his two daughters, Rachele and Cassandre, whom he leaves behind. He was a loving son to Marie Andree (Joseph) Vernet, who also died in the accident on Dec. 25. Joel is survived by his loving siblings and their
spouses: Neil Baudouin and his wife Jouselie Baudouin; Ruth (Baudouin) Auguste her husband Pierre Auguste; Edouard Baudouin Jr. and his wife Kenya Baudouin; Jean-Marie Cantave, Anne-Marie, Poupette and Mireille Baudouin. Sign guestbook at