You probably have never heard of Daryl Chappelle, but he has touched the hearts of many senators, staffers, reporters and visitors on Capitol Hill.
For 41 years, Chappelle has worked in the Senate, starting in the night labor division of the Senate Superintendents office in 1972. Since 1986, Chappelle has worked as a mechanic and driver of the trains that run between the Capitol and Russell Senate Office Building, always sporting a giant smile and waving a big hello as the train cars whizzed by.
Chappelle is retiring today - prompting senators to offer touching tributes to the train driver on the Senate floor.
After 41 years in the senate my friend Daryl Chappelle is retiring! We'll miss you homie pic.twitter.com/WecsTz3Kq9
- john r stanton (@dcbigjohn) April 30, 2014
"He showed all of us the power of the small gesture. He reminded us that when it's all said and done what really matters is how we deal with each other," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said.
"He has a smile that just covers his whole face. He has a voice that's infectious. You can hear him and he laughs," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said.
"His legendary smile has warmed my spirits on days when I was really down in the dumps. he just always has that happy smile, wishing you well, making your day just a little bit better," Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said. "Daryl, I want to thank you, time and time again, even on days when you weren't so upbeat, you made a point of adding to a positive feeling of everyone, not just senators and staff, but visitors as well. You have been a great part of our Senate family. I wish you the very best on your retirement. We're going to miss you on that rickety old train that runs back and forth between the Russell building and the Capitol.:
"There are certain people in life who just brighten your day and on every occasion that I have encountered Darryl during the work day, that's been my experience," Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., said.
Happy retirement to Senate train operator Daryl Chappelle after 41 years on the job. pic.twitter.com/oFfnDfQn4O
- Bill Clark (@clarkshadows) May 1, 2014
The train cars between the Capitol and the Russell building have been noticeably crowded this week as staffers and senators tried to squeeze in one last ride and goodbye with Chappelle. As McConnell described the scene, "It was like a rolling party down there all week long."
"Today we thank him - for warming this place up every day. And for helping our image around here - because Congress may not have a very high approval rating these days, but nobody who ever had the pleasure of riding Daryl's train could ever leave Washington without feeling just a little bit better about this place," McConnell said.
"Daryl, you may not have had any major pieces of legislation named after you during your years here. Reporters may not have snapped photographs of you when you walked down the hall. But at the beginning or the end of the day, you lifted our spirits," he added. "You brought us all back to earth. And it's hard to think of this place without you."