Deb Roberts, 48, of Wilton will compete for the title of Mrs. Maine International on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Crooker Theater in Brunswick. (Donna M. Perry/Sun Journal)

WILTON — The mother of a merchant mariner who died in the sinking of the cargo ship El Faro continues to keep her son’s legacy alive by helping others.

Deb Roberts, 48, will compete as Mrs. Wilton International for the title of Mrs. Maine International 2018 on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The public part of the pageant is at 2 p.m. Sunday at Crooker Theater in Brunswick.

Roberts has organized community service drives to help others since her son Michael Holland, 25, of Wilton, who died Oct. 1, 2015, off the coast of the Bahamas when the El Faro sank. The ship left  Jacksonville, Florida, for Puerto Rico when it came into the path of Hurricane Joaquin.

“From that moment on, I knew my life’s mission would be to make sure his legacy is never forgotten and that in order for me to move on, I need to help others in his memory,” Roberts said.

She and family members have set up the Hollandstrong Community Foundation that “strives to provide resources to the communities” of Regional School Unit 9 in the Farmington area, RSU 73 in Jay area and SAD 52 in the Turner area. The foundation is an effort to “foster youth and give them opportunities for growth in several areas, including academics and sports. The foundation includes the Hollandstrong Memorial Scholarship that goes to a student in each of the high schools in those districts.

Among the fundraisers she has either organized or been involved with is a holiday toy drive for “less fortunate children” and a relief supplies drive for Puerto Rico following the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria last year.


“It’s about helping others,” Roberts said. “It seems to be the way I cope the best with the loss of Mike. It gives me something positive to focus on while at the same time continuing Mike’s legacy.”

The pageant promotes family, she said.

The “International Pageant system has been developed to promote today’s married women, their accomplishments and commitment to family and marriage,” according to information about the pageant.

The interview competition Saturday is private and is 50 percent of the overall score. Roberts’ platform is charity.

In the public part of the competition her husband, Robin, will escort her on stage and the winner will be crowned by her husband.

Roberts will wear a black gown with silver sequins. During the fitness wear part of the competition, the women will wear tank tops and shorts.


“Everybody wears the same thing,” Roberts said.

She and Miss Teen Wilton International, Valerianne Hinkley, recently teamed up for a fundraiser. Hinkley is competing for Miss Teen Maine International.

“We did a paint night at Cushing School in Wilton to support the Casey Cloutier Scholarship,” Roberts said.

Cloutier, of Winthrop, was 14 when he and his father, Gus, died as the result of an accident in Leeds on Dec. 30, 2014. He played ice hockey for St. Dominic Academy in Auburn and the Maine Moose Hockey program.

The fundraiser to help support the cause meant a lot to Roberts.

“I get it, having lost my son, too,” she said.

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