President Biden and first lady Jill Biden pause Friday afternoon in front of Schemengees Bar & Grille on Lincoln Street in Lewiston after placing a bouquet of flowers. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

LEWISTON — Twenty-three members of Arthur Strout’s family sat around two round tables in the corner of the Geiger Elementary School gymnasium Friday.

Among them: Arthur’s parents, some of his siblings, his wife, daughter and stepchildren. Arthur’s 13-year-old daughter, Brianna, wore a blue dress her best friend had given her. She had her nails painted blue, too. They matched her mom, Kristy’s.

Arthur Strout with his wife, Kristy. Courtesy of Maria Wilson

Other families, each grieving the loss of a loved one, sat around their own tables awaiting the president’s arrival. They sipped cans of Brisk iced tea and picked at plates of fruit and cheese.

It was quiet as President Biden walked in and immediately sat with one of the families. He spent at least 15 minutes with each family, speaking quietly with individual members. He sometimes dabbed at his eyes with a tissue while he spoke.

Biden’s meetings with the families were private and closed to the press. But the Strout family wanted a Portland Press Herald reporter to be with them, and Biden’s staff didn’t object.

Arthur Strout was one of the 18 people killed in Lewiston last week. He was playing pool at Schemengees Bar & Grill Restaurant when he was shot. He died at the scene.


He was 42 years old. A Lewiston native and family man who always took care of all his children.

At the Strout family’s tables inside the school gym Friday, Arthur’s teenage nieces and nephews whispered to one another about whether the president might let them take a photo with him. Brianna traced patterns with her blue nails against her mother’s palm.

When Biden arrived at their table, he apologized for the wait. His wife, Jill Biden, hugged Kristy and Brianna. The president asked to speak with Artie’s mother, then spent about 15 minutes with the family, talking and taking photos.

Arthur Barnard, Artie’s father, said the visit from the president felt meaningful. “I liked the way he explained how he got by after his own losses. He told us that there’s gonna come a time when you’ll smile before you cry,” said Barnard.

“At the beginning when he came in, Biden told us it didn’t feel real. And it doesn’t. It still doesn’t,” he said.

Kristy Strout, Arthur’s wife, said the president’s visit helped a little. “It doesn’t change anything, but it helps to know he cared enough to come out and meet the families,” she said.

After the president left, members of Maine’s congressional delegation came into the gym. They greeted the Strouts and chatted with family members for nearly 20 minutes before the family left the gym.

Kristy Strout said she hopes the president and delegation will be motivated to act on gun control after seeing the families’ grief.

“I don’t want this to ever happen to a family ever again. I don’t want a family to ever feel what I have felt,” she said. “The conversations I’ve had this week, what I’m going through, what my daughter is going through. Never again.”

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