‘We all matter’: Longtime Charlotte pastor remembered for community work

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A longtime Charlotte community leader and pastor died suddenly Saturday night, Channel 9 has learned.

Reverend Darryl Gaston was the pastor at Smallwood Presbyterian Church on Beatties Ford Road.

Church leaders said Gaston died after dinner Saturday.

Gaston was known for his tireless work in the community to improve the North End, Druid Hills and the Statesville Avenue corridor.

Channel 9 has interviewed him several times about his community work.

“I matter. You matter, and we all matter.”

That was more than Rev. Gaston’s catchphrase. It’s also how he is being remembered.

Many community advocates, like Judith Brown, knew Gaston from his outreach and learned the news of his death online.

“It was a very hard way to find out, you know, that someone so important had been lost,” she told Channel 9.

Brown is the executive director of Project70Forward, an organization that supports people with disabilities. She and Gaston first worked together last year on ensuring at least eight different underserved neighborhoods in Charlotte filled out the census.

“To look back and see his enthusiasm ... it brought a tear to my eye,” Brown said.

His smile was contagious. His personality, electric. All while fighting for important things, including social justice, education and affordable housing.

“You know, people are very passionate about what they’re doing, but he was always a person of peace. A person of ‘let’s come together, let’s be unified,’” Brown said.

Gaston was well known as the pastor of his church, but he was also recognized for his community work to improve the North End, Druid Hills and the Statesville Avenue corridor. His death is a huge loss for Charlotte, with many saying he will never be replaced.

Gaston would have turned 60 on June 24. His family is planning a celebration of life on that day at Camp North End, to allow for COVID-19 protocols.

A family spokesperson told Channel 9 that they are committed to carrying on his legacy.

“I hope they live up to his legacy of peace,” Brown said.