EASTON, Maine — Like everyone else who knew 11-year-old Paige Lento of Easton, Maeghan Swanson was shocked when she learned on Saturday that the youngster had died after a long struggle with a genetic disorder.
“She was my children’s playmate, and she had such a special connection with my son, who has autism,” Swanson said Thursday. “I just knew I had to do something to honor her.”
With Christmas just around the corner, the first thing that came to her mind was a famous line from the holiday classic movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
“I kept thinking of that line … ‘Every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings,’” she said. “So I decided we should have a special tree with bells decorated just for Paige. She was an angel, and those bells ringing should ring just for her.”
The Christmas tree is located in the gazebo next to the Little School on Station Road, and it is already fully decorated with bells, notes and ornaments with Paige’s name on them, Swanson said.
Paige was born with Jeune syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that affects the way a child’s cartilage and bones develop. She successfully underwent a liver and kidney transplant at Boston Children’s Hospital in 2013 and seemed to be thriving, but she died in her sleep at home on Saturday, her parents, Pete and Kristina Lento announced in a written statement on Facebook that same day.
“Death is a difficult subject for any child to understand,” said Swanson. “But especially the children around here, because Paige was such a huge part of this community. She was so kind, so giving, and so much a part of the Easton School. When I took my son to see the tree, he had to ring each and every single bell for her.”
An obituary published Wednesday in the Bangor Daily News indicates that visiting hours will be 1-3 p.m. Friday at the Presque Isle Wesleyan Church. A service will begin at 3 p.m. with a reception to follow.
In lieu of flowers, friends and family can make donations in Paige’s name to Duncan-Graves Funeral Home, 30 Church Street, Presque Isle, ME 04769.
Jamie Guerrette of Presque Isle also knew Paige since she was young and said she was stunned by her death.
“It was just such a surprise,” she said. “She just came out of that transplant so well and seemed to be making strides. Paige loved all things Girl Scouts, so I know that when they have the funeral Friday, all of the Girl Scouts who attend are going to wear their vests to honor her in that way. She was such a hopeful, giving child. She was an angel to everyone in this community, so we are all feeling the loss in our hearts for this very special little girl.”