WATERVILLE — Students of Mount Merici Academy gathered outside with a few dozen other people Tuesday morning to mark the passage of two years since 17-year-old Cassidy Charette was killed in a hayride crash at Harvest Hill Farm in Mechanic Falls.

Donna Russo, assistant principal and upper wing teacher at Mount Merici, began at the remembrance ceremony Tuesday by saying: “Six-thousand, two-hundred and fifty days. That is precious little time to have achieved greatness, but somehow Cassidy managed to do just that.”

Russo spoke to the crowd — which was wearing Cassidy’s favorite color, blue — and facing a memorial plaque the school had placed under a young tree. Several people standing behind the students teared up during the ceremony.

“I believe the answer lies in Cassidy’s way of being in the world,” Russo said. “I believe her greatness was found in how she treated everyone as a person. She was present in a way that made us feel loved.”

Charette, of Oakland, was on the hayride wagon that tipped over Oct. 11, 2014, killing the Oakland teenager and injuring 22 others. Late last month, David Brown, the South Paris man who was driving the Jeep towing the hayride, was acquitted of a reckless conduct charge in connection with the crash.

Since that night two years ago, Cassidy’s memory has inspired people in communities around central Maine to continue her service work with charities and to make donations in her name.

A Big Brothers Big Sisters program was set up in 2015 at the Alfond Youth Center in Waterville in Charette’s honor. Messalonskee High School started a scholarship in her name, funded by students’ T-shirt and ornament sales. A “Shine on Cass” service award now is presented annually to students who exemplify Charette’s spirit of community service.

Mount Merici students volunteered at the Waterville Area Humane Society’s open house in Charette’s honor. The Hart-to-Hart Farm in Albion built Cassidy’s Kitchen to memorialize Charette’s love of the farm as well as provide another educational resource for its campers.

Monica Charette, Cassidy’s mother, said in a statement after the Mount Merici event Tuesday that she wants people to know “how very appreciative we are that our community continues to find ways to remember Cass.”

Cassidy was a four-time honor roll student at Messalonskee High School, a member of the varsity soccer team, a volunteer dog-walker at the Waterville Area Humane Society and a volunteer for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Mid-Maine.

Meanwhile, the Messalonskee boys and girls soccer teams honored Charette before the boys’ last home game later Tuesday afternoon. Team members formed the number 11 — Charette’s number when she played on the team — and held a moment of silence to mark the passing of two years since she died.

Colby Charette, Cassidy’s brother, was among those participating in the ceremony at Messalonskee.

Also, Sea Dog Brewing Co. celebrated its grand opening in Camden with a Shine on Cass Day, with proceeds being donated to the Big Brothers Big Sisters program of Mid-Maine in honor of Charette.

A card handed out during the Mount Merici ceremony says that Cassidy “epitomized Serviam, ‘I Will Serve.'” To honor her commitment to community service, eighth-graders at Mount Merici Academy now choose and carry out yearlong service projects.

As part of the ceremony, a few eighth-graders spoke about what projects they chose and why: cards for veterans, helping children with soccer after school and volunteering at the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce were among some of the projects.

After students spoke, each placed a white rose down in the mulch around Cassidy’s memorial plaque and tree.

Charges were brought against multiple people involved in the fatal hayride in October 2014, and Harvest Hill Farm has filed for bankruptcy.

Investigators determined that the 1979 Jeep CJ-7 did not have enough brake fluid in its system to stop the loaded vehicle. While Brown, the driver, was acquitted of a criminal charge, the farm mechanic, Philip Theberge, was indicted on the same charge and the farm was indicted on manslaughter and other charges.

However, Brown, along with Theberge and Peter Bolduc, who owns the farm, are named in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the Charette family that alleges all three knew or should have known about the defective brakes, and also that the Jeep was operating beyond its 2,000-pound towing capacity. The wagon that night was estimated to weigh about 5,400 pounds when it tipped over while going downhill during the hayride.

Charette’s parents have said they hope to raise more awareness about safety for these kinds of activities, and possibly spur state regulation.

At the end of the Mount Merici ceremony, which began the day of remembrance, Cassidy’s “little buddy” Zane, who was partnered with her in a buddy program when he was in kindergarten at Mount Merici, read the 10 steps to living a full life that Cassidy had written for him.

Among the steps were reminders to look on the bright side of things, never give up and be kind and patient.

“May Cassidy’s life be an inspiration to all of us,” Russo said.

Madeline St. Amour — 861-9239

[email protected]

Twitter: @madelinestamour


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