FAIRFIELD — More than 200 mourners, including dozens of law enforcement agents from various departments, gathered Saturday to pay their respects to Karen Nightingale, formerly O’Donnell, of Gardiner, who died Tuesday of injuries from a motorcycle accident.

Nightingale, 53, had been married to her husband, Jared Nightingale, for only 54 days before she died.

The service, held at the Williamson Auditorium in Fairfield’s Lawrence High School, included addresses from the various groups that were important to Nightingale before her death — members of law enforcement, her family, friends, teachers from the high school where she used to work as a school resource officer and fellow motorcycle enthusiasts.

Like many who spoke to the crowd, her husband painted a picture of a woman who was kind to her friends but whose identity as a police officer was never far beneath the surface, a personality trait that often expressed itself in humorous ways.

He recalled the beginning of their romance, which stemmed from the time he asked her out four years ago, when they were both attending First Baptist Church of Hallowell.

“She looked at me,” he said. “She didn’t say yes. She didn’t say no. She said, ‘I’ll get back to you.’ That was Saturday. She called me on Monday and said, ‘I’ll go out with you.’ It wasn’t until later that I learned she decided she needed to run a background check on me.”

He said he would miss her strength.

“I really could use Karen at this moment to take charge,” he said.

Nightingale spent two decades working in law enforcement, including 12 years as the school resource officer at Lawrence High, before taking a job last year as an investigator for the Department of Health and Human Services.

Nightingale’s son, Michael Pomerleau, recounted a time when he was 15 and his mother took him out in a police car for a ride-along.

“I remember she got on (Interstate) 95 and the song ‘Turn the Beat Around’ came on the radio. She turned toward me and said ‘Do you want to see how fast this cruiser goes?'”

Pomerleau also recalled many of the times that his mother had made sacrifices in order to ensure that he and his sister had opportunities to succeed in life.

“She could be kind and caring when needed, but she also never took any guff,” he said.

Fairfield police officer Shanna Blodgett noted that the two had been hired within a month of each other at the department, touching off 12 years of being co-workers and friends.

As police officers, Blodgett said, “We deal with death differently. It’s almost like a switch that we have to turn on.”

When she learned of Nightingale’s death, she said, “I was praying that switch would turn on, if only to stop the ache.”

Blodgett said that Nightingale was in the school while more than 2,000 students passed through.

“The students loved her. The staff respected her,” she said.

Fairfield Town Council member Aaron Rowden also addressed the crowd on behalf of the council, during which he urged those in attendance to take up the cause of caring and justice that had been so much a part of Nightingale’s life.

Before taking a job with DHHS, Nightingale held jobs with the U.S. Border Patrol in Houlton, Waterville Police Department and Skowhegan Police Department.

On July 6, Nightingale’s motorcycle struck a pothole on Western Avenue in Augusta. She was rushed to the hospital but never regained consciousness before her death.

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling — 861-9287

[email protected]

Twitter: @hh_matt

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