DIXFIELD, Maine — Tyla Thibodeau was remembered Wednesday for his friendship, sense of humor, his smile and his artistry.
Thibodeau, 15, of Dixfield died Sunday when his neck was broken after a piece of a coil of rope he was carrying got caught in the chain on an off-road, motorized mini-motorcycle he was riding, his grandmother, Gerry Thibodeau said.
He had been staying at a best friend’s house in Carthage when the accident occurred.
The two boys were making a camp and they needed a tarp and rope, she said. Tyla got the rope and jumped on the bike, which had no chain guard on it, she said.
“This guy was full of life. He was always smiling. Always willing to give a hug,” she said. “He was full of life.”
Tyla attended Dixfield schools and would have entered the 10th grade at Dirigo High School this fall.
He lived with his grandmother, who has custody of him and his two sisters.
Gerry Thibodeau credits the Dixfield school system for being there for her grandson and helping him move forward after the children came to live with her.
Tyla’s self-esteem was low. School staff did not give up on him and helped move him forward, she said. They helped build his confidence and got him into Region 9 School of Applied Technology in Mexico, she said.
His self-esteem came up and he started being more lively, she said. “It was like he blossomed.”
He always supported the underdog. He learned sign language to communicate with members of another best friend’s family who were deaf.
Tyla didn’t know what he was going to do but tried a bit of everything at Region 9.
Like most teens, he didn’t like rules, his grandmother said.
“He was very independent. He wanted to do what he wanted to do,” Thibodeau said. “He was very inventive, very curious.”
Tyla was also a talented artist. His drawing of a dog that Thibodeau held was very detailed.
“That kid could draw. He loved art,” Thibodeau said. “He was really very good at it. His artwork was his favorite pastime. He loved to draw. ”
His sisters, Autumn, 11, and Ashlie, 17, were his world.
“They had a very tight bond,” she said.
Tyla’s mother, Mandy Thibodeau, hadn’t seen her son for about 18 months. She is serving a four-year sentence at a state correctional center in Windham.
“I went to see him yesterday,” Mandy Thibodeau said as she cried on the phone. “I still can’t believe he is gone. I miss him so much. He was such a good kid. He would do anything for his sisters.”
She was allowed to go the funeral home in Rumford to see her son’s body for the last time before he was cremated.
“I will never see him again,” she said as she struggled to talk.
She laid an angel she had on his chest.
“I told him I love him and I will always be with him,” she said.
She wrote a letter to him but couldn’t read it. She left it with him.
“I talked to him a lot. I asked him why. I told him he was a good kid,” she said. “I told him I absolutely love him.”
This is her worst nightmare, losing one her children, she said.
She laughed when she remembered Tyla’s choice of school shoes. He would always pick the ugliest shoes, she said. She tried to convince him to get others but he would tell her the sneakers he had chosen would make him run faster. He would run up and down the aisles to show her how fast he could run, she said.
“He was a really good kid,” she said, and very artistic.
Tyla’s sister, Ashlie, cried as she tried to talk about her brother. Her younger sister, Autumn, wrapped her arms around her and cried as well as they stood in front of their home.
“He was my best friend. We did everything together,” Ashlie said. “He gave the best hugs. We wanted to travel and go places.”
He wanted to join the National Guard.
“I saw him last week. We went to the Blueberry Festival (in Wilton) together. He was hanging out with girls. One on each arm,” she said.
The children’s aunt Carmen Thibodeau said he was a “sweet boy.”
“He would give the shirt off his back to anyone who needed it,” she said.