The violence that struck Watertown last week left a wound that may never heal.
Two people who lost their lives were well known in this region and respected for the contributions they made to our community.
Maxine M. Quigg, a 50-year-old Wellesley Island resident, previously served on the board of trustees for the Roswell P. Flower Memorial Library in Watertown. In addition, she was a member of the board of directors for the Northern New York Community Foundation. She also served on the board for the Watertown Family YMCA and was engaged in the organization’s community center project.
Terence M. O’Brien, 53, of Black River worked as a corrections officer for 25 years. He was involved with various sports groups and coached men’s and women’s lacrosse.
They worked together at Exit More Real Estate.
They opened their own business, Bridgeview Real Estate Services LLC, in 2016. Many of the people they worked with at Exit More Real Estate had joined them.
In this way, they shared in the American dream.
They found success in the real estate industry and made this dream available to others.
Neither they nor their families deserved the fate they met Wednesday
It’s inconceivable that their records of success and dreams were shattered in a fit of rage.
Barry K. Stewart, 55, of Carthage reportedly entered the Bridgeview office at 145 Clinton St. in Watertown and shot Mrs. Quigg and Mr. O’Brien. He was a former employee of the real estate firm. Police officers attempted to apprehend him later that day in Franklin County, but they found him dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
The shooting sent shock waves through Watertown and forced lockdowns across the city.
No one wants to hear an alert concerning an “active shooter” in their community, and many of us came to believe something like this couldn’t happen here.
In a news release issued Wednesday, Watertown Mayor Jeffrey M. Smith expressed the sentiments of all those who knew the victims and their families.
This was a very personal loss for him as he and Mr. O’Brien were childhood friends.
“Tonight, my heart is heavy after learning that we have lost two of the nicest, most decent, generous and community-minded people I have ever known, Maxine Quigg and Terry O’Brien. Words cannot begin to express the deep sympathy I have for both the Quigg and O’Brien families.
“As I stated earlier, this is the type of thing we far too frequently see on the national news. We never think it could happen in the city of Watertown, but today it did. This is an unspeakable, senseless tragedy where two innocent people were gunned down in a vicious act of violence. My heart breaks for Maxine and Terry, their families, friends and our entire community, who I know share in my disbelief that this could happen here in Watertown. This is a tragedy that will be deeply felt by many people as Maxine and Terry were both so well known and loved in our community.”
Scott A. Gray of Watertown, chairman of the Jefferson County Board of Legislators, paid tribute to the victims in a post on Twitter Wednesday.
“Our community mourns the loss of those who lost their lives today and the families they leave behind. The thought of such a senseless act in our community is beyond belief. Stop, bow your heads, hug a loved one and remember every day is a gift and never take it for granted.”
Katherine Fenlon, chairwoman of the NNYCF board of directors, and NNYCR Executive Director Rande Richardson issued a statement Thursday.
“Yesterday, our community experienced a devastating loss that leaves our region deeply shaken. Our community foundation family feels a particular sense of emptiness and pain as we grieve our friend and colleague. Maxine Quigg joined our board in 2019 and has been a strong advocate for the foundation’s work and mission. Her leadership has made us a better organization. Her sudden and tragic death leaves us and our entire community with a tremendous void. We share these same sentiments for Terry O’Brien.
“As we work together to support each other through the pain and grief, we will continue to surround their families, friends and colleagues with our love and caring. As a board, we will discuss how we can appropriately acknowledge and observe Maxine’s contributions to the Northern New York Community Foundation and all those we serve.”
Members of the community have already come together to express their collective sense of loss. On Saturday, they gathered to hold a vigil in honor of Mrs. Quigg and Mr. O’Brien.
We can’t reverse time to thwart this tragedy. But what we can do is to reach out to the Quigg and O’Brien families along with their friends to let them know we share their grief and offer our support.
This is what makes communities such as ours so strong, ones that produce wonderful people like Maxine Quigg and Terence O’Brien.