AUBURN, Maine — It’s not easy to summon happy memories in a time of grief, but they got there eventually.
At Edward Little High School on Wednesday, roughly 100 people gathered inside the chorus room to remember Brooke Locke, their 21-year-old friend and former classmate, slain last week.
It was mostly sniffles and silence and soft murmurs at the start, but that’s not what Brooke would have wanted, according to those who knew her best. Brooke would have wanted them to be happy, to even laugh a little if they could.
With that in mind, her friends stepped up one by one to tell stories about Brooke, the kind that would generate smiles instead of tears.
“She used to slide down the stairs at my house when she’d had too much caffeine,” said Brooke Gagne, one of Locke’s closest friends.
Hannah Backus, a sorority sister who attended Husson University with Locke, recalled how they used to do homework together in the living room and how they’d hang out all day on the Kenduskeag River.
“It was a blessing to have her in my life,” Backus said. “I will always be grateful for that.”
Rebecca Linscott recalled how Locke would start each and every day with a large cup of coffee, an observation that made others titter because everybody knew that Brooke tended to get silly with big doses of caffeine. The laughter, nods and smiles would fade and the silence would return as they remembered that Locke was gone for good.
The third-year occupational therapy student at Husson in Bangor, Locke was found strangled last week in her Essex Street apartment. The man accused in her slaying, 21-year-old Zackery Mailloux, was indicted Wednesday by a Penobscot County grand jury.
At the vigil Wednesday night, no one talked of those matters. The friends, classmates, relatives and former teachers focused on the good stuff as much as they could.
ELHS Assistant Principal Steve Galway was visibly shaken as he recalled how, “from the get-go,” Locke had planned to be a nurse or a therapist, ready to dedicate her life to the care of others.
“She had focus,” Galway said. “She had a sense of caring. She absolutely would have been the best therapist or nurse.”
He’d get no argument from the people of Husson, who held their own vigil over the weekend.
“Brooke was my work-study student for three years,” Cecile Ferguson, the office manager for the School of Physical Therapy, told the Bangor Daily News. “I look for somebody who’s smart, has a sense of humor and doesn’t take herself too seriously. After meeting with Brooke for just a few minutes, I knew she was exactly that type of person.”
Many of those who turned out for the vigil Wednesday were college students back in town for Thanksgiving break. At the end of it, several made plans to talk some more about their friend. Others promised to post more photos of her on the Brooke Locke Remembrance Page on Facebook.
“She’s always going to be my sister,” Gagne said.
And while there were more wet eyes and more sniffling at the end of the meeting, mostly they did their best to remain upbeat. There were more happy memories to share and more funny stories about Brooke Locke and her beloved coffee.
“That,” said ELHS 2010 Class President Chris Camire, who organized the event, “is what Brooke would have wanted.”