BANGOR, Maine — Jayne Blackington’s friends want people to remember her as a person they loved.
The 48-year-old homeless woman died outside on April 29, the victim of chronic alcoholism and hypothermia.
Her 15-year-old daughter, Abby, who had not seen her mom in two years, is still reeling from losing her dad under similar circumstances nearly a decade ago.
“She tried really hard” to break free from her addiction to alcohol, Abby said. “She went through AA [Alcoholics Anonymous]. I don’t know how many times. She would get better and then would get really bad and then would get better.”
Blackington never was able to break free of alcohol’s grip, and Abby was raised by her sister. The teen now is under the care of her father’s sister, Kathy Larabee, and her husband, Dave, who opened their Union home to her last October.
“Homeless people have families, too,” Abby said, the pain obvious in her voice. “They have feelings. Some did try and work and stuff, and they are not always lazy, bad people.”
Her mom spent years working at hotels in the Camden area where she grew up. She made her way to Bangor a couple of years ago to work for a local family, her daughter said.
Blackington’s friends put up a small makeshift memorial for her a few days ago, with a handmade white cross, plastic flower pots, freshly picked flowers, and solar lights, surrounded by a small white plastic picket fence.
“This spot is where she was found,” Matt Prewitt, 50, said Wednesday, while standing over the memorial.
“We’re all homeless,” he said, standing with Hugh “Frenchy” French, 53, and Jody Webber, 42, who all said they considered Blackington their friend. “We have little or nothing, but look” at what can be accomplished by pitching in and working together.
Blackington’s body was found around 7:20 a.m. April 29 by another homeless person just yards away from the Acadia Recovery Community, known as the ARC, which she listed as her address.
Formerly known as Hope House, the ARC is a program of Acadia Hospital that provides emergency shelter, treatment and transitional housing for homeless people with alcohol and drug addictions.
“I think it was alcohol poisoning,” Prewitt said. “She had been out in worse weather.”
The temperature on the night before her body was found dipped into the low 30s. It had rained. An autopsy determined she died from hypothermia and chronic alcoholism.
“She is going to be missed by everybody,” said Bob Owen, 70, a homeless man who met Blackington at the Bangor Area Homeless Shelter a couple years ago.
Blackington and others “were having a little get-together up there and she got disorientated and fell down and they just left her,” he said. “She didn’t even have a coat on.”
Owen and French said Blackington’s daughter, Abby, was a common subject during their many talks over the years. Blackington talked about Abby “all the time,” he said. “She said she was in good care with her sister.”
“She cared about her daughter a lot,” French said.
The woman’s sister was granted guardianship of Abby when she was 8 years old.
“My mother has been an alcoholic pretty much my entire life,” the teenager said. “It didn’t really affect me much when she wasn’t around. Out of sight, out of mind.”
On her Facebook page she showed her tough side, while revealing the underlying pain of losing both parents to alcoholism. “To everyone who gets at least one [expletive] decent parent, be glad,” she wrote. “Be very, very [expletive] glad.”
Her dad, Warren, died inside a shed on Jan 16, 2001. Abby was 6 years old at the time.
He died “pretty much kind of the same exact way as Jayne,” said Larabee. “I’m not good about talking about it because he was my baby brother.”
Because of her family history, “she’s terrified of addiction,” she said, referring to Abby. “I don’t worry about her drinking or doing drugs. She’s so scared she’ll end up like her parents.”
Even though the two weren’t extremely close, Abby was still heartbroken when she heard her mom had died. “I was pretty upset,” she said. “She’s still my mother.”
A memorial service is planned for May 16 in Camden, but details are not yet available. Blackington’s friends are hoping to hold a local ceremony at the memorial they set up, but details about when that will happen also have not been set.