BANGOR, Maine — Empty seats were as difficult to find as dry eyes, especially while Edward Noonan was remembering his 20-year-old son in front of 700 people packed into the Bangor Baptist Church auditorium Tuesday evening.
“Like us, you have lost someone you love and we are sorry for your loss,” said the father of Clark Noonan, a sophomore student-athlete at Saint Joseph’s College killed in a car crash late Friday night.
The elder Noonan recalled his relationship with his son, how he regularly wrote letters to him, and his family’s relationship with God and Jesus Christ while he spoke at a public memorial service at the church on outer Broadway.
“The last time I saw Clark alive, I hugged him and told him I loved him,” Noonan recalled, his voice barely wavering despite visible emotion. “Those were the last words I spoke to my son.”
Noonan then urged attendees to do the same to their loved ones.
“Since Clark’s death, my life has been anything but peaceful,” Noonan said. “[Our family] and I believe you people are providing us peace with your prayers and support.”
That support was obvious, from a parking lot packed with cars — including five buses bringing almost 300 Saint Joseph’s teammates, friends, classmates and school officials from Standish — to the standing-room-only crowd inside to celebrate the life of Clark Edward Noonan.
“When I started coaching at Saint Joseph’s, I made a decision to only recruit five-tool players,” said Rob Sanicola, the Monks’ ninth-year men’s head basketball coach. “I found one in Clark.”
Sanicola’s five tools are honesty, dedication, enthusiasm, dependability and discipline.
Sanicola, who was one of several of Noonan’s coaches to speak, pointed out Noonan’s competitive fire, ability, sense of humor and humanity. Then he shared the story of the recent birth of his son.
“I was all nervous. I finally got the call from my wife that it was time,” said Sanicola, who was with the team at the time. “Clark yelled at me as I was leaving … and he said, ‘Everything’s going to be OK. It’s my birthday.’ So when my wife called all panicked wanting to know where I was, I said, ‘Don’t worry. It’s OK. It’s Clark’s birthday.’”
Sanicola’s voice trembled and he choked back emotion as he finished.
“There’s a piece of Clark in my son and I’m never going to forget his smile every time I look at my son,” Sanicola said.
Sanicola and his team then presented Ed, Clark’s mother, Christine, and Clark’s sister, Allison, with a blue Saint Joseph’s jersey bearing Clark’s number 40, saying it will never be worn again by another Monks player.
Bangor High School boys basketball coach Roger Reed and Rams boys soccer coach David Patterson also shared favorite memories of Noonan .
“I’ve never coached anyone who had as much love for playing the game,” said Reed. “It’s easy to question why, but instead, try to remember his infectious spirit and realize we are all richer for having known him.”
Patterson recalled teaching his players Irish or Gaelic football.
“It’s pretty rough and there aren’t a lot of rules. The more I described it, the more he grinned,” Patterson said. “Clark was big and pointy, with all sorts of sharp edges.”
Patterson described Noonan blasting his way down the field and through players to score a point.
“I looked back at the trail of destruction in his wake and decided if I wanted to keep my team healthy enough to get through the rest of the season, that was it for Gaelic football,” Patterson said.
Noonan’s younger sister Allison Noonan also spoke, referring to his love for jalapeno and bacon pizza and the band Barenaked Ladies while calling him her “best friend, mentor, protector — and now — my guardian angel.”
Ten people in attendance also shared favorite memories of Noonan before Pastor Jerry Mick, who began the service by saying, “There are questions on this side of heaven that we don’t have answers to,” closed by referring to Bible verse James 4:14 — “You do not know what your life will be tomorrow.”
Noonan was a passenger in a Mazda 626 sedan speeding north on Chadbourne Road, also known as Route 35, around 1:30 a.m. Saturday near the Saint Joseph’s College campus when it veered off the road, rolled over several times and became entangled in a chain-link fence. The sophomore business major died at the scene.
Speed was a factor, but few other details about the fatal crash are available, Capt. Don Goulet of the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office said Tuesday.
“The recon piece, which will be the part that will bring out any possible criminal charges, takes awhile,” the police captain said, referring to the accident reconstruction investigation.
Early indications are that fellow student Tyler Hall, 19, of Pittston, who was driving, was not drinking, but a blood test was taken just to be sure, which is required whenever there is a fatal crash, Goulet said.
“It was unclear whether the rest of the people [in the car] may or may not have been” under the influence of alcohol, the police captain said.
St. Joseph’s students James Philbrook, 20, of Auburn and Terence Cullen, 21, of Iowa also were in the car. Hall, Philbrook and Cullen were treated for injuries that were not life-threatening.
“As a general rule, it takes 15 to 30 days before it’s [fatal crash investigations] done and presented to the DA [district attorney] for review,” Goulet said.
Condolences to the family may be expressed at www.BrookingsSmith.com.
BDN writer Nok Noi Ricker contributed to this report.
An early version of this story requires clarification. Mazda's 626 is a sedan, not a sports car.