AUBURN — More than 300 mourners gathered Saturday to remember Amanda Dempsey, who inspired the creation of the Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope & Healing with her 17-year battle with cancer and her indefatigable passion for living.

“Celebrate your best memories of her,” son Patrick Dempsey asked friends and family. “That’s what she would have wanted. That’s what life is all about.”

In a modest, hourlong ceremony, people remembered Amanda Dempsey as a woman who never complained about her illness. She persevered and worked to help others, often volunteering quietly at the center named for her famous son.

She died Monday at 79. 

Her memorial, held at Saint Dominic Academy in Auburn, included a slide show of photos, a live performance of “Amazing Grace” by local singers and speakers including her three children: Patrick, Mary and Alicia, and Peter Chalke, president and CEO of Central Maine Healthcare.

“There are those who leave this world having given more than they have taken,” Chalke said. “Amanda is one of those people. When news of her death was first released, the high traffic to both Dempsey websites caused them to crash for the first time in history. The impact of her presence and of her passing is immeasurable and will forever resonate through this community. And although we are all saddened by this loss, our grief brings a renewed resolve to continue the important work for which Amanda was the impetus.”

In 2007, Amanda and her three children approached Chalke and the hospital group with their idea for a place where those touched by cancer could find support and resources. Amanda had been treated for ovarian cancer and the ordeal convinced them of the need.

When the center spawned the Dempsey Challenge, she led its survivor walk with poise. But she avoided public attention. One year during the challenge’s closing ceremonies, Patrick addressed the crowd and tossed his microphone to his mother, hoping she’d inspire folks, Chalke said.

Instead, she simply said, “Thank you for coming. Drive safe.”

The words were printed on the back of the memorial program.

Her children spoke of their mother’s love of the outdoors, her sewing and cooking and her stoic demeanor.

Patrick Dempsey talked about wandering the woods on skis with his mother during snow days from school. And he recalled seeing her days before her death, noting how frail she looked and holding her hand.

She gripped his hand back, shocking him with the strength she still commanded.

“She wouldn’t let go,” he said. “She fought and fought and fought.”

Lissa Bradford, the chaplain at Androscoggin Home Care and Hospice, described Amanda Dempsey’s long ordeal with cancer — through 12 occurrences — as her success. She survived, and she helped many others survive.

“That is her victory,” Bradford said. “That is her legacy.”

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