RUMFORD — Municipal business took a backseat early into Thursday night’s board meeting as some selectmen expressed both pride in the community and condolences in the wake of Tuesday’s services for Mountain Valley High School junior Daniel J. Garneau.
The 17-year-old Lewiston native died of leukemia on April 29 at Maine Medical Center in Portland. Services were held at the high school’s Muskie Auditorium.
“A week ago, a lot of people in town got awoken by a phone call early in the morning with the news that Danny Garneau had passed away from complications from leukemia,” Selectman Jeff Sterling said.
“It hit this community very hard in walking around on Thursday and Friday. … It was a tough blow.”
Sterling said that on Tuesday, the community gathered together one last time at the high school “to honor Danny’s courage in his fight and to honor the Garneau family with their inspirational fight against the disease that ultimately took Danny.”
The service, he said, “was outstanding.”
“Coming out of that, I think the community started to feel a little bit more uplifted with the effort that Danny and his family put into the fight for the last nine months,” Sterling said.
“In the past four or five years, this community has not been looked upon very favorably — whether it be the press or whatever — and some of it deservedly so and some of it not so deservedly.
“But it seems to me that the real character of this community was shown in the last nine months when this community adopted Danny as their son, and adopted the Garneau family as their family, and fought a fight that I had never seen a community come together to fight before.”
He recognized people who made spaghetti for the spaghetti suppers, those who made raffle items to raffle off, those who worked football games and basketball games — all trying to raise money to help — and “those who said a few words before the difficult night, that all people in this community did.”
“To me, that’s the true character of this town, and is what this community’s all about in coming together as one and fighting the fight that ultimately, maybe this time wasn’t successful, but the next time it will be,” Sterling said.
“I am so proud to sit here as a representative of this community at this time, knowing what the true character of this community really is.”
Chairman Adley and Selectman Frank DiConzo both thanked Sterling.
“Well said,” Adley said.
Later, Adley expressed his condolences to the Garneau family when it was his turn to speak during the Selectmen’s Report segment of the agenda.
“I was never more proud to be a Rumford selectman than to see that Muskie Auditorium filled,” Adley said. “It was awesome. You could have heard a pin drop and you couldn’t have put another person in. It was phenomenal.”
“When I left, the one thing I do remember the most is, where they put his urn, there was a T-shirt with just two words on it, that ‘Cancer sucks,’ and that’s true, cancer sucks,” said Adley, whose son and Sterling’s son and Danny Garneau were all in the same class.
“It’s been a tough week for us, but we’re dealing with it,” Adley added.