HARTFORD — First came her nursing license, then the new job. She’d set her hopes on her very own lawn, and finally made the move with her three children to the country. There was a barbecue, freedom, and a new, fulfilling relationship.
Her birthday had just flashed by and Nichole Byron was happy. It was a year of accomplishments.
Life was on the up. Then it was gone.
Nichole Anne Ramona Byron, 30, was on the way to pick up her son when her car crossed the centerline on Route 117 in Buckfield on Sunday and struck a tractor-trailer head-on. She died instantly.
Jenny Byron said her sister possessed a well of empathy for all who knew her. Nichole was the first person at Jenny’s bedside at the hospital after a motorcycle accident, and on happier days could be found chaperoning gaggles of children at the beach, where she loved to swim. When her stepfather needed her, she was there, smiling.
“She didn’t blink an eye when anyone needed her,” Jenny Byron said.
Those close to her called her Nikki. Her Facebook photos show her beaming, sitting atop a friend’s flashy motorcycle, posing in a cowboy hat, on rocks with the ocean in the background and holding her infant son close.
Family member Michelle Garnett said Nichole had a magnetic personality that drew everyone’s attention.
“Anytime you saw her, even if she was having a terrible day, she’d smile and brighten everyone’s day,” Garnett said.
Byron is survived by her children, 12-year-old Lexi Poisson, 10-year-old Logan Poisson and 2-year-old Luke Byron. She leaves behind five brothers and sisters: Michele Parker, Jason Giguere, Jenny Byron, Paul Pettengill and Amanda Pettengill.
Suzanne Currier said family meant everything to her daughter, and she shared her zest for life in hugs and smiles. It showed in little ways, too. At barbecues she was renowned for supplying a spread fit for an army: pies, hamburgers, hot dogs, chips, cupcakes, dips, veggie platters — she overlooked nothing.
“I can hear her voice now asking me if I want to have a barbecue,” Jenny Byron said.
Nichole Byron was born in Virginia and grew up in Turner. When Nichole wasn’t camping — the messier the s’mores, the better — or swimming, Currier said, her home resounded with Nikki teasing her sisters about their clothes or shoes.
When Nichole saw the kind of financial security a nursing license could bring, Amanda Pettengill, also a nurse, said her sister saw a way out of Auburn and bar-tending.
Juggling children, working six days a week and going to school, Amanda said Nichole never missed a beat. Pettengill said her sister was working on a tattoo of a heart with her children’s names in it.
“Her goal was to make her children’s lives better than hers. I think she accomplished it by far,” she said.
In June, Byron began working as an assistant field manager for Complete Home Health Care of New England in Turner. She had four clients, whom she’d visit every day. Celeste Hill, the company’s chief executive officer, said Byron was on her way to a promotion.
“You have to love what you do to do this job,” Hill said. “Clients adored her. She brought a smile to their faces.”
About the same time her new job started, Byron moved to a trailer in Hartford. Family and co-workers said she was determined to raise her children out of the city. Home decorations were apple-themed.
“Her life was changing so much for the better. She was in a good place,” Currier said.
Pettengill said her sister was free-spirited and never missed the Redneck Blank, formerly the Redneck Olympics, in Hebron. The day before the accident, Nichole donned a cowboy hat and cheered with her siblings as trucks tore through the mud pits, beaming even as a wave of mud splashed down.
“I think she liked it because it’s a new atmosphere. You can meet new people. I saw a smile on her face the whole time,” Pettengill said.
A funeral service will be held from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, Aug. 8, at Funeral Alternatives at 25 Tampa St. in Lewiston. Friends and family are welcome.