It is being held this Friday (November 2nd) at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, 10 Lincoln Street, Worcester at 8 PM. Admission is $25 in advance or $30 at the door. There will be hors d’ouevres, a cash bar, dancing and a silent auction.
Those that can can’t go can still send a check made out to the “Katie Hewson Memorial Fund” which can be sent to: Rebecca Almont, 126 Brook Street, Brighton, MA 02135 OR to Stacey Szeidler, 66 Mast Road #2, Lee, NH 03861.
If anyone has any questions about the scholarship, please contact Jaime Hewson Wood at firstname.lastname@example.org. If there any questions about or if you’d like to donate something to the silent auction, please contact Laurie Gillis at email@example.com.
Here is a link to the evite (please feel free to pass this on to anyone who you think might be interested – even if they didn’t know Katie, this is a great cause and a way to remember and honor someone who truly loved life.)
If you have time, please read the article about Katie below that was published in last week’s (October 18) edition of The Landmark.
Celebrating Katie’s life of love, laughter
BY JIM KEOGH EDITOR@THELANDMARK.COM
STERLING – Fifteen years ago, Katie Hewson’s grandmother Kay Drechsel passed away. For many years, Kay had kept a journal detailing her family’s daily activities, and the day after her death Katie opened the book with strawberries and daisies on the cover, writing the following under her grandmother’s last entry: “August 13, 1992. Graney passed away. I’m now the record book keeper & writer.”
Thirteen-year-old Katie describes her best memories of her grandmother, and how she loved to make her Graney laugh. “I’ll always miss her, but she’ll always be in my heart. I would just like to say I love you, Graney, and I will always be proud to have you as my grandmother.”
Flash forward. A spiral-bound booklet is delivered to Katie’s mother, Dee Hewson. The artwork on the cover depicts an empty hammock strung between two palm trees with an ocean view. The simple lined pages inside also are decorated with palm trees at the corners, and the lines are filled with remembrances. This time, the heartfelt thoughts are not penned by Katie, but instead are about her. This passage is typical:
“Your glorious wholesome child will be hugely missed. Her contribution to all that is decent and loving to St. John and mankind is a testimony to how you raised her, and to the universal spirit that spawned us all.”
On February 7, 2007, Katie Hewson, 27, a Sterling kid, Wachusett grad and the connective tissue to an enviable network of friends and family, was killed on St. John in the Virgin Islands in a freak accident. Her “universal spirit” will be recalled and honored at a November 2 cocktail event/silent auction to raise money for scholarships that will go to Wachusett Regional High School students interested in foreign travel and study.
Katie loved life, says her older sister Jamie. She had a big heart, with a special fondness for children and the elderly. When Katie attended the University of Central Florida, she volunteered in the Meals on Wheels program, growing so close to her clients she made certain to have her photo taken with each of them before she returned home to finish her studies at Northeastern University. (She referred to them as her “Bun Buns,” a term of affection she also used for the children she babysat.)
“She was gregarious; she made people laugh,” Jamie says. “Katie had a great sense of humor, and she wasn’t afraid to make a goof of herself. When she walked into a room, she made her presence known, and people were excited to see her.”
Katie was intrigued by the world beyond her hometown. She studied international business, meeting students from Europe and Haiti. She traveled to South Africa to work in orphanages with AIDS babies, and when she graduated she landed a job in Boston for a company that supplied technical support outsourcing in Northern Ireland for U.S. firms. Trips to Wales, Scotland, England and Ireland gave her a deeper world view.
Katie enjoyed the job, but it kept her desk-bound and she grew restless. In January 2006, after a year and a half, she quit and went to live on St. John in the Virgin Islands, where she tended bar and quickly became a fixture in her Coral Bay neighborhood.
“She was trying to figure out what she was going to do,” says her mother.
Katie stayed on the island until June 2006, but bad news brought her home. Her father, Charlie, was dying of Non-Hodgkins lymphoma, and was spending his final days at the family summer house in Jefferson, Maine on the shores of Damariscotta Lake. Charlie, who’d been divorced from Dee for several years, had beaten cancer 11 years earlier. But after receiving treatments in Florida in recent months, he learned his condition was terminal.
Charlie adored his three children – son Jeff, Jamie and Katie – and they him, says Dee. In those final weeks in Maine, Katie took charge of caring for her dad right up until his death in late August.
Katie stuck close to home before returning to St. John in November. Her father’s death had hit her hard, and returning to the island’s sunny beauty and easy ways were like a balm. She was also considering a new career, says Jamie, perhaps something in the field of health and nutrition. Katie had talked about returning to school and was eyeing Portsmouth, N.H. as a place to relocate.
“There was never a definite plan with Katie but still, she was also well grounded,” says her sister.
On the night of February 7, 2007, at about 7 p.m., Katie was preparing to head out for the evening. She drove her car from the house where she rented an apartment, opened the gate at the end of the driveway, and parked her car on the inclined road just beyond it.
As Katie got out to close the gate, the car began to roll backwards. A neighbor would later say he saw Katie trying to hold back the car, but the vehicle had too much weight and momentum. It rumbled into the driveway, pinning Katie between the vehicle and her landlord’s parked car, the impact crushing her lungs.
Neighbors ran to her aid as Katie managed to stand. “Are you hurt?” they asked. “Yes,” she said, “badly.” Then she collapsed.
A 911 call was made, but it was too late. Katie died enroute to the hospital.
Her funeral at First Church in Sterling was fashioned around Katie’s go-for-broke personality, with a dose of irreverence and out-of-the-box touches. The music was culled from her voluminous CD collection (the Israel Kamakawiwo’ole version of “Over the Rainbow” concluded the ceremony), and friends offered treasured memories. One read a poem Katie had written while a student at Wachusett, an ode in praise of the gummy candy “Swedish Fish.” It was her father’s favorite poem; the original was found among his papers after he died.
Capture her spirit
The scholarship fund was the result of much discussion about how best to celebrate Katie’s life. It was decided that helping kids see the world captured perfectly the spirit of a young woman who loved her home, yet longed to explore the globe. Substantial contributions have already been made, including $1,500 from friends and neighbors of Katie’s on St. John.
Dee Hewson likes to tell the story of how Katie got her name. She was born prematurely, weighing a scant 2 lbs., 8 oz. She was supposed to inherit her grandmother’s name, Katherine Elizabeth. But Dee took one look at her newborn and decided the name was too long for such a tiny infant, and instead retitled her Kathleen, shortened further to Katie.
Dee says the helpless preemie who grew into a confident woman who embraced life wherever she went never stops inspiring laughter and tears from those who knew her.
“No parent should have to lose a child; it’s an exclusive club nobody wants to join,” she says. “But in some ways I have it easy. My child is not coming home in a body bag from a war I don’t believe in; she wasn’t one of the Virginia Tech students. Katie left us with so many tangibles to hold onto.
“I was amazed at how many people came up to me at her funeral and said, ‘Katie was my best friend,'” says Dee. “Katie had a lot of ‘best’ friends. She was a happy person who made people feel good.”