PITTSFIELD — Bright orange ribbons representing the favorite color of Nolan Berthelette covered the town on Monday morning, hanging from telephone poles, trees and street signs.

They covered Berthelette’s favorite tree outside his home on Franklin Street, along with signs and balloons, and flew in the wind outside Maine Central Institute, where Berthelette would have entered his freshman year of high school this fall.

On Sunday the 14-year-old died from a sudden brain aneurysm. The news has shook the entire town, including dozens of teens who were his classmates and friends and who joined together to hang the ribbons all over town in support of the Berthelette family.

They gathered at Warsaw Middle School, where Berthelette graduated from eighth grade and led his middle school soccer team to a league championship just a couple of months ago, to decorate the school and organize a candlelight vigil.

“It’s a huge loss for our town,” said Meghan Cookson, a classmate of Berthelette’s who has known him since first grade. “There were so many people that knew him, and we really want everyone to know how nice he was.”

More than 300 people attended the vigil Monday night, including Berthelette’s parents and members of his family, wearing orange and holding candles. Ray Berthelette, Nolan’s father, thanked the community for coming and said the family was overwhelmed by the support they’ve received.

“We’ve been in the hospital all weekend,” Berthelette said. “I was shocked and amazed at the response — the pictures, texts and social media posts, the phone calls and people showing up at the hospital. We knew Nolan was a special kid, and we told him that every day. We would just look at him and say, ‘How did you become ours?’ He was so bright and compassionate.”

Residents and friends in Pittsfield and around central Maine took the day to honor the 14-year-old boy, who was remembered as a friend to everyone and a lover of sports and music.

Devon Varney, 14, another friend of Berthelette’s, said he had called up his friend Saturday afternoon to play pickup soccer. Even though Berthelette was planning to play football in the fall at Maine Central Institute, soccer remained just one of his many passions, Varney said.

“He was a force to be reckoned with,” he said. “He was a great defender. Together we made a great team.”

In addition to soccer and track, Berthelette was active in the school’s civil rights and drama clubs, jazz band and student council, according to his friends, who were preparing to spell out his name and draw a heart with orange cups Monday outside the school.

Sixteen-year-old Lance Michaud, the vigil’s organizer, said he remembered Berthelette being interested in his disc jockey equipment at the school’s annual Fine Arts Fiesta.

“He just kept coming up to me and asking about it,” said Michaud, who was wearing an orange shirt with a picture of Berthelette playing the guitar on it. “He was really interested in it because it had to do with music. He loved everything about music.”

Others in Pittsfield echoed the support of Berthelette’s classmates and friends.

“It’s really affected the community,” said Vaughn Woodruff, a member of the community organization Heart of Pittsfield. “There are a lot of folks in Pittsfield that are heavily tied to the family. He was a leader in his class in a really tight-knit group of kids.”

At U.S. Rafting in The West Forks, where Berthelette and his father, Ray, spent weekends whitewater rafting, guides hung a sign on one of their boats dedicating the trip to Nolan on Sunday. They stopped and planted flowers in the shape of his name alongside the Kennebec River, said Bill Lyons, owner of U.S. Rafting.

“He would come up every weekend with his dad. He would help us out just like he was a guide,” Lyons said. “We called him the junior guide. The whole river community has been stopping by to offer their support. He was one of our rafting family members.”

During Monday night’s vigil, Ray Berthelette said he has been touched by the many stories people have been telling him about the kindness his son showed — something he hopes to carry on.

“One of the reasons we moved to Maine was for the feeling of a small community,” he said. “This is a perfect example of that and it’s something I want to spread. Nolan was a catalyst for good. He was all about compassion and he wanted to make the world better.”

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]


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