BANGOR, Maine — Brittany Hopkins was born the year Charlie Howard died.
Hopkins of Bangor grew up in Sanford knowing little about the openly gay man who died at age 23 after he was attacked 26 years ago by three teenagers and thrown into Kenduskeag Stream in downtown Bangor.
She was one of about 20 people who walked Sunday from the Unitarian Universalist Church on Park Street to the State Street bridge to mark Howard’s death on July 7, 1984. Hopkins and the others tossed flowers into the stream as a remembrance near where Howard drowned.
Howard is buried in Kittery.
Patience Berounsky, Howard’s mother, of Portsmouth, N.H., “will never come to Bangor again,” Lois Reed of Carmel said Sunday as she prepared to toss a white rose, surrounded by a spray of baby’s breath and tied with a lavender and white ribbon, into Kenduskeag Stream. “She made this request of me 25 years ago. This is from her to Charlie.”
Reed knew Howard when both were members of the Unitarian Church, now the Brick Church, at the corner of Union and First streets. That church merged in 1995 with the Universalist Church on Park Street.
“As we leave this place, let us be mindful of what Charlie’s mother said in a letter to me after his death: ‘Be careful of the crazies out there and those with closed minds,’” Lois Reed said as she tossed the white rose into the still water.
Reed also spoke at a worship service before the participants marched to the bridge. She described the homophobia and hatred of gays and lesbians that played a role in Howard’s death as “a malevolent iceberg.”
“Each time we remember Charlie Howard and mourn his death, I sense the iceberg gets smaller and smaller,” Reed said.
She also told worshippers that the insults hurled at her and others during the first, second and third memorials for Howard faded over the ensuing years. More recently, it is not unusual, she said, to hear cheers and horns honking in support, although none was heard Sunday morning.
“I came to the service to learn more about Charlie Howard and the community that formed around him,” Hopkins said after the event.
She also said that she and her partner feel safe on the streets of Bangor.
This year’s service was low-key compared with events held in 2009, the 25th anniversary of Howard’s death. A week of activities last summer culminated with the dedication of a granite memorial next to Kenduskeag Stream.
Engraved on the stone near the spot where Howard died are the words: “May we, the citizens of Bangor, continue to change the world around us until hatred becomes peacemaking and ignorance becomes understanding.”