Out with 2006 and in with a happier 2007

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We start 2007 today and wish a good riddance to 2006. The year ended badly, with too many families grieving too many people who died too soon. Death just seemed to loom over Androscoggin and Oxford counties.

It started in April with Kenny Jellison of Auburn dead on a street in Lewiston, the victim of a high-speed crash. He was a senior at Edward Little High School, and his death rocked his class just before their graduation.

In June, Lewiston High School students Nick Babcock, Shannon Fortier and Teisha Loesberg were killed in a plane wreck while attending an ROTC training camp in Gilead. Killed along with the students was pilot Charlie Weir, an Embry-Riddle student who planned to graduate in August; the cause of the crash may be available next month.

Two days before Thanksgiving, Madison Dillingham of Sabattus died in a crash in Minot. Her family struggled through their meal of thanksgiving, as did Kathy Pratte, who suffered two broken legs in the wreck.

Ryan Moore of Auburn was killed in December in a head-on crash in Lisbon. The 17-year-old was devoted to his church and its school, the Calvary Christian Academy in Turner.

Then, on Christmas Eve, Steve Walton, Laura Caron, Michael Cournoyer, Jacob Roy, Robert Bruce and Matthew Manley were all killed in an early-morning crash blamed – preliminarily – on black ice on rural Route 122 in Poland.

Others died in 2006, including James Whitehurst, Julie Bullard, Selby Bullard and Cynthia Beaton, all slain in Newry over the Labor Day weekend. Roland Poirier of Lewiston died in November after being shot while attending his own 65th birthday party. Megan Ripley of Paris was shot and killed by a hunter in early December. Suspects are awaiting trials in each of these cases.

And, Sgt. Corey A. Dan was laid to rest on his family’s property in Norway after he was killed in Iraq.

Twenty people dead. A tremendous load for their families to bear.

As deadly as the year was, it was not all bad. There have been shining spots of good news in our communities that are worth remembering.

John Bagnulo successfully ascended Mount Everest, while his friend Bill Yeo climbed with him as far as the so-called Death Zone at 26,000 feet.

Business got pretty sweet for Eminger’s Berries after it was featured on the Food Network.

The NewBalance Foundation donated more than $600,000 for recreational projects in the western mountains and foothills.

Poland Spring broke ground on its long-awaited expansion plant in Franklin County.

Adam Stone and Maggi Milligan rescued Amber, a tan-and-white pit bull, after it was hit on the Maine Turnpike in Sabattus.

In Rumford, crafters created 1,000 tiny caps to send to premature babies in Third World countries; others donated more than $1,000 to buy food for homeless cats and dogs.

Seth Wescott brought home an Olympic gold medal.

Brian and Alan Johnson earned a spot in the Stormtrooper army scheduled to march in today’s Rose Bowl Parade.

The Auburn Fire Department donated enough money to double the number of scholarships available to summer campers at Central Maine Community College.

Mike Brooks sweated through a six-day, 300-mile road race in Queens, N.Y., to raise money for Camp Sunshine, just another marathon in his run of charitable giving.

The past year was grim. But it was also good, filled with the consistent neighborliness, generosity, decency and compassion of Maine people that sustains our communities. May 2007 be a better year for us all.

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