Terry O’Brien and Maxine Quigg. Photo provided by Northern New York Community Foundation.

“My mom and Terry were integral parts of our community and bright stars in the lives of everyone they met. Their tragic deaths do not define their lives.” — Kennedy Quigg

“Our community will grieve, and we will eventually heal but our lives will never be the same. We will get through this together.” — Lelan O’Brien

Too often in life, the tragedies we experience and our response to them become defining moments in our collective history and memory. On Saturday, May 1, friends, colleagues, and citizens gathered in the wake of the tragic deaths of Maxine Quigg and Terry O’Brien earlier that week. Numb and brokenhearted and filled with pain, hundreds filled Watertown’s Public Square to express what they were feeling in a spirit of solidarity and caring. They were there to offer support for the families who were feeling the most intense grief. They were there to comfort one another.

The feelings of shared sorrow and sense of loss were palpable. The heaviness of the moment was real and raw. For that hour, as various family and community members gave testimony to the lives lived and lost, a quietness settled over the crossroads of our city. As the sun set on this historic space where countless community gatherings had taken place, the words spoken had a common theme. Maxine and Terry lived their lives with leadership by example. They went above and beyond in the many ways they shared their time, talents, and treasure in service to our community, its organizations, and its people.

We will long question how something like this could happen here. However, as we embrace the things that matter most, our friendships, and relationships, we are provided with a path forward to begin to heal. In the years I’ve written here, the theme is consistent.

We live in a special place. We live with special people. When they leave us, we feel the emptiness.

How do we best honor Maxine and Terry’s offerings of service, caring and devotion? We hold high the example they set. We continue to live our own lives helping others and looking for opportunities to be supportive, helpful, caring and kind. We choose positivity over negativism. There have been and will be many acts of kindness and affection shown in the months and years ahead. At its recent annual meeting the Northern New York Community Foundation board chair said eloquently, “They leave their goodness with us, and for us, at work in our community. We must keep that goodness in a way that reflects their values and the way they lived their lives.” In gratitude for Maxine’s service to the Northern New York Community Foundation and our region and in observance of all the ways Terry touched his community, the Community Foundation seeded, and others are helping build, the Maxine Quigg and Terry O’Brien Reach for the Stars Fund. Through this permanent fund, grants will be made each year in perpetuity to support a broad range of endeavors. We have, and will continue to, work with both families to steward its use.

May all the ways our community comes together through this loss serve to appropriately honor their legacies by inspiring and empowering others. The deep pain we feel will never be erased. We will remain appalled by the way they were taken from us. Through thought, word, and deed, as one community family, we will strive to deflect that pain by continuing what they started, continuing to reach for the stars, and remembering that our common bonds are defined by so much more than geography.

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