Oscar Gerry III fought hard to survive while lying in a Portland hospital bed with multiple internal injuries from a recent motorcycle crash that occurred in Freeport.

Oscar Gerry III Contributed photo

He started moving his fingers, looking around, smiling and responding to prompts, according to his wife, Kim Gerry.

“He held my hand. He squeezed my hand,” she said. “He was getting better.”

But the injuries ultimately were too severe for Oscar Gerry, 49, of Oakland. He had a heart attack and then several small strokes. He died six days later, on Aug. 27, sending his family and friends into mourning.

An employee of Pan Am Railways in Waterville for 17 years, Oscar Gerry for the last few years was safety manager for the railroad’s northeast division. He was also studying for a bachelor’s degree in safety management and was adjutant for the American Legion in Oakland, according to his wife.

“Our anniversary is next week, on the 9th,” she said. “It will be 13 years.”

When they married, she said, they merged their families to include seven children and then together they had Brian, who now is 12.

“They were best friends — I mean, really best friends,” Kim Gerry said of their son. “He always, always made time for Brian and played football with him and practiced with him. He never missed a game.”

She recalled the day of her husband’s crash, saying he and 20 other motorcyclists were heading to Portland to visit a motorcycle club and were on Interstate 295 in Freeport.

Shannon Moss, spokesperson for the Maine Department of Public Safety, said in an email Friday that Maine State Police responded to the crash about 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 21, when a large group of motorcyclists were traveling south on I-295 and came upon traffic that had abruptly slowed and stopped in the left lane.

The lead motorcyclist swerved around a car, which had also slowed down and come to a stop in front of the motorcyclists, Moss said.

“Oscar Gerry and Robert Heron were toward the rear of the group. Gerry did not react in time and laid his motorcycle down. Heron laid his motorcycle down attempting to avoid Gerry (no contact made between Heron and Gerry),” Moss said. “Gerry was transported to the Maine Medical Center for two collapsed lungs and a spinal injury. Heron was also transported to the hospital for an arm injury.”

All motorcycle riders were wearing state Department of Transportation-approved helmets, according to Moss.

“The crash is still under investigation as a single-vehicle fatal crash,” she said.

Kim Gerry said her husband went head first into a guardrail. At the scene he was talking but couldn’t feel his legs, she said.

“His injuries were all internal,” she said. “His spine literally exploded. There were bone fragments throughout. They couldn’t even get at them. He had two collapsed lungs. He had surgery that night, immediately. The surgeon was amazing. They were very, very nice people there at Maine Medical Center.”

But then, within hours of the strokes he suffered, he was gone, she said. “They just thought he was fighting really hard and really fast and his body was just so broken and so tired.”

His death has been hard, she said, particularly at times such as lunch and after work, when he would come home.

“I’m still expecting him,” she said.

Oscar Gerry was a U.S. Army veteran who was in the news a few years ago, because he had not received medals he was due. U.S. Sen. Angus King’s office got involved and presented them in a ceremony, according to his wife.

A celebration of his life will be held Saturday at his motorcycle club. The club doesn’t want its location to be publicized, but Kim Gerry said it is open to anybody and those wanting more information may contact her or her daughter, Shelby Foley, on their Facebook pages. She said people have been putting out jars in stores for donations to help her family, and the American Legion in Augusta is planning a benefit at 11 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 26, at 396 Eastern Ave. in that city.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8835 also plans a benefit dance and auction at 8 p.m. Oct. 15 and Terri Jones, a longtime family friend and owner of 465 Nutrition on Kennedy Memorial Drive in Oakland, is hosting a fundraiser at her business.

An outpouring of support from the community has helped ease the pain, Kim Gerry said.

“I knew he was well liked and respected, but oh my word, unbelievable support — unbelievable,” she said. “The guys from the club come over and hang out with Brian and show up at football practice.”

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