Kennebunk high school student with rare disease dies, remembered for ‘courage in the face of adversity’
KENNEBUNK, Maine — Jacob Gould, a member of the Kennebunk High School Class of 2016, died at his home in Lower Village Monday, with his family and dog by his side.
Gould, 16, had Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
Family members said Jacob enjoyed hiking in his wheelchair, playing UNO with his friends and family, his dog Scooby Doo, and sports — particularly the New England Patriots and professional wrestling.
Jacob’s brother, Dan Gould, remembered him being a fierce competitor at the card game UNO.
“Jake was always the first to call out — he’d yell, ‘You didn’t say UNO!’ He was always on top of us like that,” he said.
Jacob’s former baseball coach, Gary Connor, remembered his sense of humor as well.
“As he was transitioning from using his walker to being in his chair, he would hit the baseball and I would pick him up and run to first base with him,” Connor said. “One day he didn’t hit the ball too hard, I picked him up and started to run up the line. The catcher ran in front of me and over him I went — right on top of Jacob. I was convinced that I had completely crushed him. A brief hospital visit later proved that he was unhurt, but Jake tortured me about it for three years after.”
Jacob was also a people person, family members said, always sociable and smiling, and he loved talking and meeting others.
That continued during his time at Kennebunk High School, Principal Sue Cressey said, which is why so many staff members and students are still struggling with his loss.
“We are all so sad at KHS. He was a special part of our school. We admired his courage in the face of adversity, and, most of all, we loved the way Jake brightened our days,” Cressey said. “He would enter through Gym C in the morning, which is a gathering spot for students before school. Jake would visit each table to check in with his friends before going on to his first block class.”
Jacob’s mother, Kim Gould, shared a fond memory of her son from middle school.
“I had taken Jake to a middle school dance, and watched for a while before I left. Jake often felt like he wasn’t noticed by others,” she said. “He was dancing around in his wheelchair when one of his favorite songs came on, and as I watched in the background, without Jacob’s knowledge, all the students at the dance shouted ‘Jacob!’ and rushed over and danced ’round his wheelchair with him.”
Cressey said Gould’s medical condition did not hold him back from anything at KHS.
“Jake would participate in everything, even the homecoming parade, decorating his wheelchair with the school colors,” she said.
Jacob’s sister Samantha Gould remembered her baby brother being the rock of the family.
“While he was going through all of his medical treatments through the years he still had a smile on his face and always joked with us,” she said. “He was the one that was strong for all of us.”
Jacob’s brother, Staff Sgt. Michael Gould, came home on emergency leave from the Air Force to be with his brother in his final hours.
“Everything good in my life is because of him,” he said.
Jacob’s grandparents, known as “Mom-Mom” and “Pop-Pop” Wampler, live with the Gould family.
“Jacob and Pop-Pop were inseparable,” Kim Gould said.
“He was my best buddy,” “Pop-Pop” Wampler said with tears in his eyes.
Jacob’s father, Mike Gould, shared his favorite memory with Jake.
“It was several Christmases ago when Jake went to visit Santa. He was very excited and nervous,” he recalled. “We told him to ask Santa for only one thing — something he wanted the most — thinking we were all set because we had already bought his favorite toy. Instead, Jacob asked Santa for something out of the blue. He said he wanted a real sled dog named Scooby Doo. We scrambled around right before Christmas to find one, and when we had just about given up hope, our last phone call led us to 4-month-old Scooby Doo, just in time for Christmas. It was meant to be.”
Scooby Doo is now 10 and is missing Jacob terribly, the family said.
“Scooby Doo went in and licked Jacob’s hand with a gentle kiss right before he passed,” Kim Gould said. “Then he whined all night for him, looking for him in his bed.”
One thing the Gould family would like everyone to remember is that despite everything he was going through, Jacob had faith.
“He never stopped dreaming,” his dad said.
Kim Gould added, “His motto was ‘Be strong, never give up and fight until the very end’ and he did.”
For information on Jacob Gould’s services or to leave a memory or note for the family, go to bibbermemorial.com/book-of-memories/1768876/Gould-Jacob/service-details.php.