PALERMO — Hayley Blowers’ mom on Friday disputed rumors bullying caused her 16-year-old daughter’s April 4 suicide.

“She had self-esteem issues, she had other things going on,” Raini Perry said Friday from the family’s Palermo farm. “But I don’t want to share them because they’re personal.”

Perry was meeting her daughter’s friends and readying herself for today’s 11 a.m. memorial service at Palermo Christian Church.

“I didn’t think it would come to this,” she said.

Perry said Blowers was a normal teen: bright, happy one minute and moody other times — mostly at home.

“She was not exemplary; she was an average teen who just loved her friends, loved to bake and make candy, and share that and make people happy,” Perry said.

Blowers had aspirations of becoming a pastry chef, Perry said, until she tried and loved the plumbing and heating trade.

She was enrolled at Erskine Academy in China and spent part of her day studying at Capital Area Technical Center in Augusta.

The 5-foot-3 blonde loved pink, her mother said.

“She used to describe herself as ‘a pink girl in a sea of gray and black,'” Perry said.

The manner of Blowers’ death was confirmed a suicide this week by the state Office of the Medical Examiner. But friends and acquaintances of Blowers, a transplant from Massachusetts, had been speaking of her death for weeks as a result of online bullying.

The explanation doesn’t fit, Perry said. “Hayley would stand up for other kids. She might not like things, but she would stand up for herself.”

Michael McQuarrie, headmaster at Erskine, where Blowers was a junior, agreed attributing Blowers’ death to cyberbullying alone is inaccurate.

“This issue is far more deeply rooted,” he said. “It’s too complex and profoundly sad than to say it was simply cyberbullying.

“We’ve absolutely had a tragedy. We had been working with this young woman who had received support for both inside- and outside-school issues.”

But he said the Internet played a role.

“This young woman clearly lived in this Facebook world,” he said. “Clearly there has been a link that has been drawn between this tragedy and Facebook behavior and other digital forms of communication.”

The content of what might have been said to Blowers is unclear.

Among the mourners gathered today to remember Blowers will be two of her friends who want her death to help bring about changes in awareness of bullying and cyber-bullying.

Lexi Ross, 15, of Whitefield, and Courtnee Roberts, 15, of Dresden — both Hall-Dale High School ninth-graders — met Blowers last summer at the Windsor Fair.

They all bonded quickly as friends.

Ross said Blowers was bothered by Facebook postings “that were rude and disrespectful.”

So Ross posted messages asking the bullies to back down.

“It just kind of made a bigger mess,” she said.

In the wake of the tragedy, Ross and Roberts went to one of their teachers at Hall-Dale, and they decided to gather signatures asking people to cooperate in combating bullying.

“People don’t think words hurt, but they do,” the petition reads. “Please sign if you want to stop bullying; in schools, online, and in everyday life.”

On Thursday, the girls took their petition with 356 signatures, to the State House, where legislators are considering two anti-bullying bills:

* LD 1237, which requires school administrative units to adopt a harassment, intimidation and bullying prevention policy by August 15, 2012, which emphasizes “positive character traits and values, including the importance of civil and respectful speech and conduct and the responsibility of students to comply with the policy; and

* LD 980, which requires school boards “to adopt policies prohibiting offensive student or organizational behavior, including injurious hazing, harassment, bullying and cyberbullying” and makes violations a civil offense, carrying a fine of up to $500. Cyberbullying defined as bullying carried out through technology or electronic devices, including computers, telephones, text messaging devices, and personal digital assistants.

“Our letter is mostly about face-to-face bullying,” Roberts said. “We want to get a support system out there.”

Ross added, “Treat people the way you want to be treated.”

“I’m really proud of these girls for doing that,” Perry said.

Perry said she urges people to speak to parents, teachers or peers if they’re troubled. But she wanted to be clear that neither she nor others in the family believe bullying was behind Blowers’ suicide.

McQuarrie noted that Facebook and other forms of electronic communication can be positive, as well.

“I learned from people who have posted and processed (Blowers’ death) through Facebook,” he said. “It has heightened people’s sensitivities to how things are communicated.”

McQuarrie said he’s seen innuendos and direct comments that are “unpleasant and mean-spirited” and even alliances of students squaring off in a form of cybercombat.

Erskine has been addressing the issue for a while, he said.

Weeks before Blowers’ death, the school hosted “Rachel’s Challenge” a presentation by the uncle of Rachel Joy Scott, the first student killed at Columbine High School massacre in 1999.

“It challenges kids to adopt kindness, manners and anti-violence,” McQuarrie said. “We had that educational program simply for awareness and to take stock of our community.”

McQuarrie challenged the students to learn from Hayley’s death — and to strengthen their resolve to practice the attitudes and behaviors learned in Rachel’s Challenge.

Kindness, anti-violence, acceptance, inclusiveness and compassion.

“When you have a tragedy like this, people and the human mind try to made sense of it and try to attribute it like cause and effect,” McQuarrie said. “It leaves everybody scratching their head and wondering, ‘what if?'”

Her mother said Blowers had attempted suicide before.

“She had told me she wouldn’t do it again,” Perry said. “There were so many red flags I should have known.”

Rather than a rallying point for anti-bullying messages, Perry said, “Hayley would be the poster child for teen suicide.”

Blowers once had talked of starting Princess Plumbing business, and having a pink business van.

She moved to Maine with her family when she was about 10, her mother said.

“When she was up here, she wanted to be in Massachusetts; when she was in Massachusetts, she wanted to be up here,” Perry said. “There was hardly ever a phone call that ended without an ‘I love you’ to each other.”

Blowers spent ninth grade living with Perry’s sister and attending a vocational school in Massachusetts.

Back in Palermo, Blowers helped care for the alpacas, the goats, the chickens.

“She hated farm chores, but she liked the animals,” Perry said.

Junie, a very friendly alpaca, was Blowers’ favorite.

“I was told I could never sell her,” Perry said.

Blowers liked hanging out with friends and loved going to fairs.

When someone invited her to spend this summer in Massachusetts, Blowers told her mother she would have to be back by mid-August for the Windsor Fair, where the family sets up an educational booth about fiber animals and where Blowers had met Ross and Roberts.

In the days since her daughter’s death, meanwhile, Perry said she has found solace in talking with her daughter’s friends.

“It’s amazing how many people she touched in her life,” Perry said. “She made so many people happy.”

Betty Adams — 621-5631

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