AUGUSTA — The memories of Jim and Diane Gagnon’s son, Jeff, who was murdered in 1989 at the age of 25, will always be with the couple.

Today, the Augusta couple and other parents who’ve suffered the pain of losing a child to murder helped break ground on a monument to help ensure the memories of their loved ones will never be forgotten.

Arthur Jette said he hopes the planned Maine Murder Victims Memorial will serve as both a place for grieving families to find solace and a contemplative spot for anyone to think about what they can do to prevent future tragedies. Jette’s grandson, Treven Cunningham, 21 months old, was murdered in 1999 in Dexter.

“It never goes away,” Jim Gagnon says of the pain of losing a child, after he, Jette, and Gov. Paul LePage broke ground for the new monument in Holy Family Cemetery on Townsend Road in Augusta. “You learn to live with it, but it never goes away.”

Jette, leader of the Maine chapter of Parents of Murdered Children, said the memorial will provide both a place to preserve the memories of murdered loved ones, as well as a place to ponder how to bring peace to families, society, and the world.

“Whenever the life of a loved one is taken, there is an unbelievable grief, like no other,” Jette said. “Because it is such an unnatural thing, it becomes something by which we’re compelled to remember the victims. The last thing we want to do is lose the memories we have. Because we’re not going to be able to make any more.”

The Gagnons and others have worked for years to see ground broken for the memorial.

After considering several other sites, the organization settled on the Catholic Holy Family Cemetery, where Jeff Gagnon is already buried.

The memorial, for which organizers are still working to raise another $5,000 to pay for, will have the names of 400 to 500 Maine murder victims inscribed in black granite tablets. In between the tablets, a red granite centerpiece will feature the organizations’ symbol, a red ribbon.

“The pointed tips of the slabs will point toward the heavens, symbolizing hope and reunification,” Jette said.

The granite base will be unpolished, Jette said, so when it rains, “the tears of the rain will stream down on this element of the monument.”

LePage said he hopes the monument will be a place for people who have lost loved ones to violent crime to find solace from the devastation, and perhaps even a spot where a potential perpetrator of such crime could reflect and not act.

Jette said Augusta City Manager William Bridgeo helped the group search for an appropriate spot for the memorial.

“The city of Augusta is honored to be able to host this important memorial to the victims of tragedy,” Bridgeo said at the quiet yet centrally located cemetery near the Marketplace at Augusta, Augusta Civic Center and Interstate 95.

Jette said the groundbreaking ceremony was bittersweet, and noted the monument, sadly, will need to be updated. He said future murder victims’ names will be added to the monument annually, with the permission of their families.

The Rev. Frank Morin, of St. Michael Parish, offered a prayer blessing of the monument.

The national Parents of Murdered Children organization was founded in Ohio in 1978 by Charlotte and Robert Hullinger, after their daughter, Lisa, was murdered.

It is intended to offer emotional support and information about surviving the loss of a loved one to murder, education, prevention and “to provide support and assistance to all survivors of homicide victims while working to create a world free of murder,” according to its mission statement.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647
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