Paul Cote Jr., left, talks about Taylor McQueeney, his niece, with other family members on the porch of his father’s home on Birch Street in Lewiston on Monday night. Next to him is his sister, Rebecca Cote, mother of Taylor. Next to her is Isabelle Vazquez, 10, and two of Rebecca’s other sisters, Lena Cote, right, and Amy Cote, background middle.

Fearless and fun.

A social butterfly who loved to be around family.

A tomboy who loved fishing, but harbored a hidden girly side.

These are some of the ways family members described 9-year-old Taylor McQueeney as they gathered on the porch of the youngster’s grandparents’ apartment Monday night. The moment and memories served as a brief break from the pain and mourning family members experienced throughout the day since learning of the young girl’s death in an early morning fire that gutted a River Street apartment building.

“Everyone knew her and she knew everyone,” said McQueeney’s mother, Rebecca Cote. “She was always happy.”

Rebecca Cote said her daughter was looking forward to entering the fourth grade at Martel Elementary School in just a couple weeks.

Cote and other family members gathered at her parents Birch Street apartment as neighbors, friends and extended family came and went throughout the day. The 29-year-old mother of four said people offered everything from prayers and sympathy to financial assistance for her oldest child’s funeral expenses.

All were appreciated, but none would return the lost daughter’s smile and energetic bounce back into her mother’s arms.

“She was like a twinkle, a twinkle in an eye,” Lena Cote said of her niece.

Lena Cote said Taylor could have been a sister to any one of her cousins. The close family consists of four sisters and “Cool Uncle Paul,” as the Cote girls described their brother. Both Rebecca and Lena Cote said Paul Cote Jr. was very close with all his nieces and nephews, especially McQueeney who loved spending time with her favorite uncle.

Paul Cote Jr., meanwhile, sat smiling with a video camera in hand, showing footage from a hike he took with McQueeney and her brother not too long ago.

“She really liked to explore. She was always looking for adventures,” Paul Cote Jr. said. “She was pretty fearless.”

Paul’s father, Paul Cote Sr., added with a chuckle that his granddaughter “. . . wasn’t afraid of nobody. Even if a kid was 2 feet taller than her, Taylor wasn’t backing down.”

Rebecca Cote said her three younger children are having difficulty comprehending that their big sister isn’t coming home. Family support was key for everyone as they gathered throughout the day.

“We’re all pretty close. This is where everyone meets up,” Lena Cote said of her parents’ apartment.

Family members said Taylor McQueeney loved to go fishing with her grandfather, uncle and cousins. Always one to try and either keep up with the boys or keep them in line, they laughed at the little girl’s demand and desire to have her opinions heard and respected.

But each good memory brought with it one very painful reminder for Taylor’s tight-knit family.

“The hardest part is going to be missing her,” said Paul Cote Sr., holding back tears as he stood on the steps of his porch surrounded by his surviving children and grandchildren.

“Yeah, we didn’t even get to say goodbye,” added his daughter and Taylor’s aunt, Amy Cote, staring off into the distance toward lower downtown Lewiston and Little Canada.

The scene infront of the apartment building on River Street in Lewiston where Taylor McQueeney died early Monday morning.

The scene infront of the apartment building on River Street in Lewiston where Taylor McQueeney died early Monday morning.

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