Train accident victim loved to make people laugh
Albert J. Marro / Staff Photo
Members of Ryan Lessard's family share stories about the 19-year-old Wednesday in their Rutland home. Lessard was killed Sunday when he was struck by a train.
By Brent Curtis
Ryan Lessard was only 19, but he had big plans for the future.
Days after the West Rutland teenager was struck and killed by a train while walking on tracks in Center Rutland, his mother, siblings and the pregnant mother of his second child recalled Ryan as a fun-loving prankster who combined an uncompromising will with a devotion to those he loved.
“You couldn't tell Ryan what to do,” said his mother, Heather Saienni. “He always said 'Mom, I want to live the life I want to live.'”
And the life he wanted to live was filled with adventure and new enterprises ranging from his dreams to sky-dive and travel the world to more rooted pursuits such as going to school for accounting and opening a small business with his girlfriend, Kayla Bernhardt. He even wanted to join the U.S. Army to serve as a Ranger — a dream cultivated after years of playing “Call of Duty” video games.
But at the heart of his life's pursuits was a dream that is only five months from delivery — the birth of a son.
“He said all his life 'When I have a son, I'll know my life is fulfilled,'” his mother said.
Bernhardt said doctors haven't determined her baby's gender yet, but she said she already knows.
“It's a boy,” she said. “I can feel it.”
Ryan was shouldering a lot of responsibility for a 19-year-old. His daughter, Isabella, was born seven months ago and he was working at Westminster Cracker Company in the Howe Center in Rutland to pay the bills.
But responsibilities didn't weigh down Ryan, who was always ready to turn any situation into a laugh, his family said.
“He was playful. He liked to go to the park and play tag. He was always funny,” said his younger sister, Jessica Saienni. “He was always funny.”
His mother and a sister closest in age to him, Breanna Lessard, said he loved to make other people laugh.
“He was the funniest person I knew,” his mother said.
“He said if he was a little more funny and a little more like Dane Cook, he would be a comedian,” Breanna Lessard added.
Ryan loved swimming and he spent plenty of time jumping from cliffs at rivers and quarries. He also had an artistic side and was known for drawing beautiful images of crosses.
Without a car to get to work, he walked most days from the home he shared with Bernhardt in West Rutland.
But anyone driving the Route 4A route between West Rutland and the city would never have seen him because Ryan preferred to stay out of sight, walking on the train tracks.
“I talked to him on the phone just the other day and asked him if he wanted to be picked up,” Bernhardt said. “I said 'I know you don't like walking,' and he said 'No, I don't like being seen walking.'”
Saienni said her son also liked to walk the tracks to get away momentarily from the rest of the world.
“It was quiet and peaceful,” she said. “I think he liked it.”
Ryan's mother also emphasized that contrary to rumors that materialized on some social media sites, her son wasn't despondent and didn't walk onto the tracks to take his own life.
“He was so excited for the baby,” she said.
While Ryan wasn't a churchgoer, his family described him as a spiritual person who spent a lot of time wondering about the meaning of life and what came after it.
“We were talking just last week and he asked me where I thought people go after they die,” Bernhardt said. “He said 'I don't know if there's a heaven or hell, but I know there's a place where people go,' and he said 'I'll love you till the day I die and if we meet in another life, I'll love you still.'”