Canoeist thanks rescuers

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LINCOLN (AP) – There were plenty of hugs, tears and smiles as Scott Valente and his family paid a thank-you visit to the couple who pulled him from the icy, choppy waters of Chamberlain Lake after his canoe capsized on Memorial Day.

The reunion Friday at the home of Robert and Susan Murchison was the first meeting between the family from Raymond and Valente’s rescuers, one in which gratitude mingled with grief for the two men in the boating party who did not survive.

Kevin Grant, 40, of Houlton and Douglas Harmon, 44, of Scarborough died of hypothermia, which very nearly killed Valente.

“How are you?” Susan Murchison asked as she rushed toward Valente.

“Well, I’m still kicking!” Valente replied brightly as they hugged. “I’m good, really, really good.”

Valente’s wife Nancy and their daughter, Clare, 13, met the Murchisons in their front yard while the Valentes’ son, 14-year-old Elliott, stayed in his family’s SUV, unsure of how to express the enormous love and gratitude to strangers who saved his father’s life and to reconcile that gratitude with sorrow for the two lives lost.

“I just don’t know how to get through this,” said Elliott from inside the SUV. “My dad has been struggling very hard with it, and it scares me to see him this way. He has been through a lot in his life, but this whole thing just takes the cake.”

Nancy Valente acknowledged that it was hard to feel grateful amid so much grief.

“Theres my cousin, and she is only 32, and she had been married to Kevin for only three years. Its so hard to balance,” she said.

The Valentes brought gifts and the Murchisons served lunch. Among other things, Robert Murchison received the same type of waterproof gear bag that helped keep Valente afloat in the water before the Murchisons spotted him.

Nancy Valente presented Susan Murchison with a gold necklace with a pendant shaped like an angel, a gift that brought tears to the recipient’s eyes.

The families recalled the dramatic rescue that began when Susan Murchison spied the badly weakened and dazed Scott Valente as much as 100 yards from his partys overturned canoe and floating debris and how she held onto Valente in the water despite arthritic hands that make it difficult for her to hold a pencil.

Valente said he still has no feeling in either foot. “If thats the only permanent damage I get with this, I am fine with it,” he said.

Robert Murchison said Valente looked a lot better than he did that day.

“When I first saw him, I thought he was a 60-year-old man,” Murchison said. “He looked so old and white in the water.”

Valente has been undergoing eye movement desensitization and reprocessing treatment, a psychotherapy intended to relieve and resolve symptoms and improperly processed memories of traumatic or distressing events. He said its helping him.

So did Fridays meeting.

“You couldn’t be rescued, in all the world, by better people,” Valente said. “I have made lifetime friends.”

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