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Three men remembered for the way they lived

One was a Harvard-trained neurologist and brain researcher who somehow found time to run a Catholic theater company. Another was a recent immigrant who held down two jobs until his wife and 3-year-old son could join him from Brazil. The third was a longtime construction worker who lived with his ailing mother in central Massachusetts.

In an instant Monday afternoon, the three men -- Michael Tsan Ty, Romildo Silva, and Robert Beane -- died together in one of the worst industrial accidents in recent Boston history. The scaffold that Beane and Silva were dismantling gave way near the top of a 14-story building, crashing down on a car driven by Ty, still wearing his scrubs from a shift at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital.

Yesterday, friends and family remembered the three for the way they lived, rather than their deaths, underscoring that each man had deeply held dreams that he was working hard to reach.

Dr. Michael Tsan Ty was in the midst of the 80-hour work weeks that go with being a neurology resident, a doctor in training. In addition to treating patients, he continued to do brain research with his friend Nathan Wilson, a postdoctoral fellow at MIT. The weekend before Ty's death, the two had put the finishing touches on a scientific paper about the way brain cells recover after they are damaged by disease or injury.

''If he had lived longer, he would have done something fundamental," Wilson said, pointing out that Ty already had helped develop a new technique of growing brain cells in a petri dish for research.

At 28, Ty had an impressive academic resume: He was a member of Phi Beta Kappa at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, where he received a degree in neuroscience in 1999, and was a graduate of both Harvard Medical School and the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology.

''He always wanted to be the very, very best," said Dorothy P. Vasquez, Ty's Latin teacher for four years at the prestigious Menlo School in Atherton, Calif., where Ty grew up.

But Ty, a devout Catholic, was also deeply concerned with ethical issues raised by the march of science, including the kind of research he was doing. After medical school, he studied ethics and theology at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome, where Wilson said he once played the organ in St. Peter's Basilica. He also met the woman who became his wife, Robin Crotty, a fellow student at the school, according to the National Catholic Reporter.

Back in the United States in 2002, the couple formed a Catholic theater company, Fiat Productions, to follow Pope John Paul II's 1998 appeal to artists to use their talents in the service of God. The pope gave his blessing to their 2004 production of ''Edith Stein," a play about a Carmelite nun killed in a Nazi concentration camp because of her Jewish heritage. She was later recognized as a saint.

Wilson was amazed at the scope of Ty's ambition, but he said Ty always seemed light-hearted and modest. The last time he visited Ty's home, he said that Ty was busily treating his front lawn because, he joked, he didn't want his lawn to look bad compared with the grass at a nearby golf course.

Silva, 27, had a passion of his own: He wanted to buy a hair salon in his native Brazil. He lived in a third-floor apartment with his wife, son, and three cousins and held two jobs, construction by day and hair dresser by night, in hope of saving enough to return to his homeland by the end of 2006, said his cousin, Ana Paula.

Silva grew up relatively poor in the town of Alpercata, the second of four sons, with a father who worked on a farm. He worked in a hair salon in Brazil, but he soon realized that he would have to leave Brazil to save significantly, said Marciano da Silva of Milford, who once lived across the street from Silva in Alpercata. After Silva's mother died five years ago, family members say, he increasingly set his sights on coming to the United States.

In 2004, Silva moved to Massachusetts, planning to work as a hairdresser until he had raised enough money to relocate his new wife and young son here. Then he would begin saving for his dream. But cutting hair did not bring in enough income, so Silva started working in construction. His family joined him last October, da Silva said. ''He didn't like construction, but he did it to provide for his family."

Yesterday, Silva's 21-year-old wife, Edilane, remained in seclusion at the family home.

Robert Beane, 41, worked so hard at his construction job that ''it seemed like it beat the snot out of him," said Edward Page, who lived with Beane for five years in the Baldwinville section of Templeton during the 1990s. ''He had a really tough, tough life. . . . In the summers, he would take 2 or 3 gallons of water with him, and he'd drink it all."

Mike Travaglini, who grew up with Beane in Baldwinville, said his friend turned to construction full time after he dropped out of Northeastern University's engineering program about 20 years ago.

''We're the same age, so I know he must have had a lot of aches and pains doing construction," said Travaglini. ''But I do know he wasn't the kind of guy to sit back while others did the heavy lifting."

Beane, who stood 6 feet 4 inches tall and weighed 260 pounds, ''came across as a grizzly bear" in his job as a construction foreman, ''but he was really a teddy bear," said Dave Bolognese, a foreman who worked with Beane for Bostonian Masonry. ''We worked hand in hand on numerous jobs together."

Beane dated but never married, instead, remaining in Baldwinville with his mother, Ida Beane, who has been hospitalized repeatedly with heart problems, friends said. But he seemed happy with his lot, playing catcher for a softball team and following sports fanatically.

''He is far and away the best friend I ever had," Page said. ''He was tough and big, and had an air of invincibility to him. I never would conceive of him passing this way."

Donovan Slack of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Scott Allen can be reached at

scaffolding collapse
 Family files suit in scaffold collapse (Boston Globe, 4/13/06)
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