BANGOR, Maine — Ashley Drew, the Scarborough musician and University of Maine graduate who underwent a double lung transplant last year, died Thursday at the age of 26, according to her loved ones.
“This morning, our sweet Ashley, peacefully passed away into the arms of Jesus,” her family posted Thursday on Air for Ashley, the Facebook page on which Drew chronicled her life’s journey, before and after her transplant procedure, which took place on June 8, 2012, at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
“Our hearts are heavy, but our faith is strong and we know she is with her Lord and Savior. Our family wants to thank everyone for their love, support, prayers and words of encouragement. We will post more information later as arrangements are made. God Bless!” the post said.
Drew made headlines around Maine as she prepared to undergo the double lung transplant, which she needed because her own lungs were scarred by cystic fibrosis, a genetic condition she battled her whole life.
Drew’s family said that her death was preceded by a period of declining health that included a stroke and bleeding in her brain.
Drew graduated from UMaine in spring 2009 summa cum laude with a 3.7 GPA and a bachelor’s degree in music education, according the previous stories in the Bangor Daily News archives. She began working toward a master’s degree when her health worsened to the point that she was no longer able to continue her studies.
A master of several different instruments, she played horn UMaine’s pep band, piccolo in the symphonic band and tenor saxophone in the jazz band, among other things.
On Thursday, Jack Burt, UMaine professor of trumpet and a professional trumpet player and leader of the university’s jazz band, remembered Drew as one of his star players and as an inspiration to others.
“She did everything. She was amazing,” he said.
“Ashley was amazing to me even before I knew she was sick,” he said, adding that he did not know the extent of her medical problems until her last year of college.
“She pretty much kept it secret for as long as she could because she didn’t want anyone to give her any slack. She gave no one else slack. She was a tough little girl. She was the disciplinarian of my band.
“I always used to say that she was a 60-year-old black man in the body of a 90-pound white girl because she played jazz like a pro,” he said.
He said that raising awareness about the importance of organ donations is another of Drew’s legacies.
Christopher White, director of the UMaine Symphonic Band, Pride of Maine Black Bear Marching Band and the Screamin’ Black Bear Pep Band, remembered Drew as a remarkable young woman.
“I think she epitomizes courage and perseverance under incredible odds. That’s something that I’ll always remember about her my whole life. She arranged pieces for the pep band that we still play to this day,” said White, who also teaches percussion methods, marching techniques, conducting and undergraduate studio percussion and is the director of the Maine Summer Youth Music camp, which Drew attended as a high school student.
“She was full of energy. If you didn’t know her well, you’d never be able to tell [the seriousness of her illness]. She was wonderful even when she wasn’t feeling well or was tired. She was a model student, a model musician. The kind of person you like to have in your group or in your class,” White said.
Burt and White said Drew grew up in a musical family. Her father, Tom Drew, played in a band while in high school and her mother, Joy Drew, is a music educator in southern Maine. Her brother, Justin Drew, is a professional musician in Maryland.