It’s coming up on a year that Crystal Lancaster Mulherin lost her aunt to domestic violence.

Marie Lancaster-Hale Photo courtesy of Crystal Lancaster Mulherin

It has been a long year of grieving, thinking about what she and other family members could have done differently to recognize the signs and perhaps prevent her death. A year of asking “What if?”

Mulherin’s aunt, Marie Lancaster-Hale, was shot and killed by her husband, William Hale, on March 31, 2018, in their Norridgewock home on U.S. Route 2.

She was 58. He also shot and killed the family dog, Baby, and himself.

It was a terrible time, and the pain for Mulherin’s large, close-knit family was unfathomable.

“Everyone says it never gets any easier. You just get better at coping,” Mulherin said. “It still doesn’t seem real. You never expect that to happen, especially to a family member or somebody that close.

“She was my father’s sister. Dad was one of six, and she was the second youngest. She was my Dad’s absolute best friend. They did everything together. They worked together at Madison Paper, they went shopping together, they were inseparable. She was, of course, my favorite aunt.”

Mulherin, now 26, remembers her with great fondness. She and her cousins referred to her as “Dee” because when they were little it was easier to say “Dee” than “Marie.” The name stuck.

“I saw her at every family occasion,” Mulherin said. “She took me shopping. We would just go anywhere. We both absolutely loved animals. We loved cats, and she helped me get my first cat, Duncan. She gave me my first lesson on proper cat care. I was 14 or 15. To me, it was a huge responsibility. My parents’ dog had just passed away. She came over, and she just taught me how to be the best cat owner.”

Her aunt grew up in Mount Vernon and graduated from Jay High School in 1978 before eventually settling in Norridgewock. After Mulherin, who also grew up in Mount Vernon, went away to college, she saw less of her, but they got together when she was home on visits.

“Honestly, we never ran by a schedule. She would come, I’d hear her truck horn and she’d say, ‘Get in — we’re going!’ We’d go anywhere. It was usually a surprise, and I loved that.”

Those memories. They become more dear, more precious, as time goes on.

Crystal Lancaster Mulherin, left, wants to keep the memory of her aunt Marie Lancaster-Hale alive a year after she was killed in a domestic violence incident. Mulherin plans to take part in a 5K walk-run in Lewiston June 1 and to raise $1,500 before then to benefit Safe Voices, which provides emergency and support services to victims of domestic violence. Photo courtesy of Crystal Lancaster Mulherin

Mulherin remembers her aunt was only about 5 feet tall, but she was fearless, had a personality larger than life and was generous to a fault. She had worked at Sappi and Madison Paper Industries a total of about 30 years. She was a crafter, carpenter, logger, women’s activist and devoted union member. She was incredibly caring.

“She never once ever thought about herself,” she said. “Her laugh was absolutely contagious, and her smile was just beautiful. She lit up a room.”

Mulherin graduated from Maranacook High School in 2010, earned a bachelor’s degree in health science from University of Southern Maine in 2015 and married her college sweetheart, Kevin Mulherin, much to her aunt’s delight.

The couple bought their first house in Lewiston, and Dee was there to cheer them on. She did not live long enough to see her niece earn her master’s in business administration from Southern New Hampshire University in May, or to celebrate when she landed a job as an analyst at that institution — life events most aunts and nieces who are very close celebrate together.

Mulherin now lives with her husband in Manchester, New Hampshire, but the memories traveled with her. As the anniversary of her aunt’s death draws closer, she yearns to make a difference in the lives of others affected by domestic violence.

She wants people to remember Marie “Dee” Lancaster-Hale.

So on June 1, she is going to walk in a 5K race in Lewiston that starts at 9 a.m. from Bates College, and her goal is to raise $1,500 before then to benefit Safe Voices, which provides emergency and support services to victims of domestic violence. Safe Voices promotes ways to foster healthy relationships, educates the community about domestic violence and helps victims heal. The nonprofit organization, with offices in Farmington, Lewiston, Norway and Rumford, also has a 24-hour helpline, 1-800-559-2927.

Mulherin says she thinks her aunt would want her to support Safe Voices to help others who are struggling.

“I just want to make sure that people remember her, and when the one-year mark comes, they don’t forget her and celebrate her.”

In the spirit of her aunt’s giving, Mulherin is spreading the word that there are resources available to those affected by domestic violence.

“You’re never alone. You just need to know where to go,” she said.

Taking part in the 5K is a way for Mulherin to honor her aunt and ensure her legacy lives on.

“I just don’t want her to be another statistic, another number on a piece of paper.”

 

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 31 years. Her columns appear here Mondays. She may be reached at [email protected]. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to centralmaine.com.

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