FARMINGTON — The family of Jamie Beth Shible is remembering the Mt. Blue High School cheerleader on the 20th anniversary of her death this Memorial Day.

On Memorial Day weekend in 1997 the 17-year-old went to her junior prom on Saturday night and became ill within hours. Bacterial meningitis dealt a final blow to her immune system, already suppressed by lupus, a chronic inflammatory disease that occurs when the body’s immune system attacks tissues and organs. She died at 5 a.m. Monday, May 26, her father, Stephen Shible, said.

The theme that year was Never Say Goodbye.

“I never expected to see this day,” Shible said. “At the time, I said, ‘I can’t believe the time will come when we’ll be without her for as long as we’ve had her,'” he said.
 
There are still plenty of “what-ifs,” he said. Would she have followed her dream to go into sports broadcasting? At 37, would she be married and have children?
 
Keeping her memory alive has been healing, he said. 
 
Cheerleaders at Mt. Blue know about Jamie through an annual scholarship Shible and his wife, Julie, started with donations given in lieu of flowers at her funeral. About 30 girls have been helped in pursuing higher education, he said.

Cheerleaders from across the state also know her through an annual award presented in her memory at the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference championships. It is awarded to the schools that showed the most improvement from the preceding year in each class, he said.

During the three years Jamie cheered at Mt. Blue, the cheerleaders improved significantly, earning them the first callback in the school’s history to perform their routine at the championships.

It was a feat that was pretty special to Jamie, Shible said.

Jamie was one of the first two freshmen cheerleaders to cheer for football and get her varsity letter. As her health permitted, she cheered through high school and continued to support the cheerleaders when she could not. She was co-captain of the team her junior year.

Her cheering started for the local Packers and Chiefs in the lower grades. She later conducted cheering workshops for young cheerleaders.

Jamie also enjoyed dancing and country music, especially singer Garth Brooks. She saw him in concert in Portland the year before she died. Waiting in line, her bubbly personality was noticed and she was chosen for front-row seats, her father said.

She had just learned to drive, taken a job at a local grocery store and was preparing to go to Girls State that summer.

The death of a child is devastating, especially to parents, Shible said.

“Julie and I, we’re doing OK,” he said, but admitted, “We are still dealing with it.”

The couple channeled their hurt to helping others. They attended Camp Ray of Hope in the Waterville area, a retreat for grieving families. Julie continued going each year as a counselor to help other grieving parents, her husband said.
 
As an extension of his job as director of Farmington Parks and Recreation, he knew a lot of children and families. Shible would show up at funerals for children to let the parents know he was there if they wanted to talk. He got involved in memorializing Jamie through the trophies, awards and scholarships given in her name.
 
“This is a fantastic school and community,” he said. “So many remember my daughter and support the efforts to keep her memory alive. I love this town,” he said.
 
Despite their loss, the family is growing in other ways, he said. They enjoy time with their grandsons, Jayden and Riley, and their son, Ryan, is planning to marry Iliana Corey this summer.
 
 
 

Jamie Beth Shible

Jamie Beth Shible


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