Patrick Donaghue on Sept. 16, 2018, while moving into his dorm at Southern Maine Community College in South Portland. It is the family’s last known photo of him. Photo courtesy of the Donaghue family

The stories never came from Patrick Donaghue himself, but his parents heard them anyway.

The time Patrick got caught stealing food from the cafeteria in elementary school so his classmate would have enough to eat at home. The time he protected a middle school classmate from bullying. The time he gave a pair of brand new shoes to a homeless man with none. The time he showed up in a storm to help a friend who totaled his car.

The stories never came from Patrick, but his parents heard them from teachers and parents and classmates and friends, some while their son was alive and many after he died. Patrick was just 20 years old when he was killed in a car crash at Bug Light Park in South Portland in 2018, but his parents said he displayed character early and often.

So Tom and Margaret Donaghue, of Wilton, thought about what their son would have wanted for the driver who was charged with manslaughter, and they decided to ask for mercy.

“Nothing was going to give us what we really wanted, which was to have our son back,” Margaret Donaghue said. “I just couldn’t see destroying a young man’s life because he made a stupid choice of going too fast or showing off.”

William Blanchard of Gorham, who was 18 at the time of the crash, pleaded guilty in November to reckless conduct as part of a deferred disposition. The conviction is a Class D crime, which is a misdemeanor. The court ordered him to make a $3,000 donation to a cause chosen by the Donaghues and complete 350 hours of community service. In two years, if he has not been charged with any new crimes or violated a list of conditions, the case will be discharged. The Cumberland County District Attorney’s Office said he also admitted to a civil motor vehicle violation for causing a death, so his driver’s license will be suspended for three years.

Defense attorney Thomas Marjerison responded to a reporter’s inquiry on his client’s behalf and said the Donaghue family was “very kind in how they handled this.”

“This is a tragic case,” Marjerison said. “This is a result that allows my client to move on with his life and try to make amends for what happened here.”

A fall 2017 selfie of Patrick Donaghue at Kineowatha Park in Wilton Photo courtesy of the Donaghue family

The case resolved shortly before what would have been Patrick’s 23rd birthday on New Year’s Eve. His parents spoke with the Portland Press Herald about their son and the case for the first time last week.

They described Patrick as an outgoing jokester, a budding entrepreneur and a friend to many. Growing up in Wilton, he and his older sister played every sport, but Patrick struggled to find a favorite.

“He was a very gifted athlete,” his father said. “He did not have a competitive bone in his body.”

Then he took his first snowboarding lesson at Titcomb Mountain. He was soon zipping down the mountain and nailing tricks, competing in local events and teaching classes on the mountain when he was just 13 years old.

Off the mountain, his passion was cars. As a kid, Patrick and his dad would drive around to dealerships when they were closed on Sundays, scanning the lots. When he was just 14, his mom agreed to let him help her sell her own car if he could get her a better offer than the dealer. He doubled it, and then he began buying and flipping cars, before he even had a driver’s license. Once he could drive on his own, he always kept tow straps and jumper cables in his car in case a friend needed help on the side of the road. He loved working with his hands, his parents said, and they thought he would own his own business someday.

“At one point, I did the math, and he had owned more vehicles just when he was in high school than I’ve owned in my life,” Tom Donaghue said.

Patrick graduated from Mt. Blue High School in Farmington in 2017. He took some time to work and decide on his path. He adopted a husky puppy and named him Frank. Then he enrolled in the automotive technology program at Southern Maine Community College. His parents remembered the day he moved to South Portland to start school, when he installed a new car radio in the parking lot and attracted new friends just as he had at home.

“Within 30 minutes, there was a crowd of car guys, leaning over, looking in, just like we used to see in the driveway,” Tom Donaghue said.

Margaret Donaghue remembered her last conversation with her son. They talked on the phone about his new dorm room and their plans to meet for dinner the following day. They said, “I love you,” as they hung up the call. But later than night, Patrick took a break with a fellow student to drive around the area, and he was in the passenger seat of his classmate’s car when they crashed. Police said later that speed appeared to be a factor. His parents said Patrick was a skilled driver, but they also believed the roles could have been reversed.

“We kept thinking, what would Patrick want out of this?” his father said. “Would he want retribution and anger and jail time?”

“How would I want Pat treated if that had been him?” his mother added.

The Donaghues are making arrangements to put the restitution money and other donations in Patrick’s name toward snowboarding lessons at Titcomb Mountain for kids who can’t afford the fee. They talked about setting up an annual fundraising event. They look after Patrick’s dog, and his father takes Frank on runs in the places his son loved to go. At the memorial service, his parents said they only recognized half the room, which was full of their son’s friends they had known for years and others they had never met.

They all had stories about Patrick.

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