His daughters called him “Daddy-O.”

The girls’ softball team called him “Coach.”

His love of fishing earned him the nickname “Catfish.”

And his buddies at the American Legion post in Gray called him “Santa Claus” for his big white beard.

But Dennis Brackley’s favorite name was “Papa” – the one given to him by his grandchildren, Alexa and Gavin Goad.

“Being a papa was his everything,” said Melanie Craig, a longtime family friend.

Brackley, of New Gloucester, was driving with his grandchildren on Route 202 in Windham on Friday afternoon when his minivan crossed the centerline and hit an SUV head-on. The 65-year-old man died at the scene of the crash, and 4-year-old Gavin Goad died Saturday morning from his injuries. Alexa Goad, 5, is being treated at Maine Medical Center and Craig said she is recovering from her injuries.

“She has a very long road, but the doctors are optimistic she is going to make a recovery,” Craig said.

Windham police are still unsure what caused Brackley to cross the centerline. Adrian King and Samantha-Jo Brink, who were in the SUV, also are being treated at Maine Medical Center. The hospital said they were in satisfactory condition as of Tuesday afternoon.

Friends of all the crash victims are raising money to help with their individual expenses, but in the midst of grief and injury, their families are also planning a joint fundraiser. The details are still being finalized, but Craig said they hope to raise enough money to make a donation to the Windham police and fire departments to thank them for saving Alexa Goad, King and Brink.

“The two communities are coming together,” she said.

GENEROUS ‘GENTLE GIANT’

Brackley was known for his own generosity.

He coached his daughters, Kasandra and Katelyn, and their friends on the Little League softball team. He made famous breakfast sandwiches, which he would hand out in paper towels decorated with hearts. He was a U.S. Army veteran of the Vietnam War, and he volunteered as an executive officer at the American Legion post in Gray. When Kasandra’s children were born, he often looked after them so his daughter could work during the day. He and the girls’ mother, Lucinda, divorced, but Craig said they raised their daughters to give back to others.

“Anything you needed, you could give Dennis Brackley a call and he’d be there,” Craig said. “It could be a day they didn’t have two nickels to rub together, but if you needed the shirt off their back, Dennis and Lu would give it to you.”

Adjutant Jason Hall remembered when Brackley offered to be a designated driver for American Legion members from across the state at a weekend convention.

“He was a gentle giant,” Hall said. “He didn’t have a lot. But what he did have, he gave as much as he could.”

Brackley stopped by the post every couple days, Hall said, but he never stayed long. He was usually on his way to see his grandchildren.

“His grandkids were the light of his life,” Hall said.

And even though Gavin Goad was just 4, he already had his grandfather’s personality. Craig described him as “a mini Dennis.” When he died, his family agreed to donate his organs.

“He absolutely worshiped the ground that his grandparents walked on,” she said. “Even though he and Alexa were a year apart, they might have been twins.”

Those injured in the crash have a long recovery ahead of them.

DONATIONS NEEDED

King, 33, lives in Windham and works at Messer Truck Equipment. Brink, his girlfriend, is a special education teacher at Windham Middle School. A fundraising page for their expenses had raised more than $3,300 as of Tuesday evening. A message to the organizer was not returned Tuesday, but the page describes the young couple as “two of the kindest souls you’ll ever meet.”

“Please consider donating because these two would be the first to support and encourage anyone faced with a challenge,” the page states. “Now Sam and Adrian find themselves needing your support.”

Alexa Goad had her first meeting with a hospital physical therapist Monday. A fundraising page for her family has raised more than $16,000 since the weekend. Services for Brackley and his grandson likely will be arranged next week. First, Craig said Alexa Goad’s mother, Kasandra, and grandmother, Lucinda, are focusing on her recovery.

“She is definitely a Brackley gal,” Craig said. “If you know the Brackley women, they are very strong and they are very feisty.”

As the family sat in the waiting room, the little girl walked her IV out to see her family.

“She’s asking for Papa and Gavin,” Craig said.

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