Barre community joins to honor Drew Bernier (April 10, 2016)
Barre community joins to honor Drew Bernier (April 10, 2016) avatar



Photo by Sarah Milligan Children place flowers in a vase in memory of their friend, Drew Bernier, who died at age 7 of a rare disease. A service of remembrance and a celebration of his life was held on Saturday at the Barre Municipal Auditorium.


BARRE — Hundreds gathered Saturday evening to mourn the death and celebrate the life of 7-year-old Drew Isaac Bernier who, with his affinity for superheroes, captured hearts in the Barre community and beyond while he battled a rare disease.

Drew died March 30 at the Boston Children’s hospital from severe complications from a bone marrow transplant he received in May 2014 to help treat a pediatric form of myelodysplastic syndrome, a genetic blood disorder.

The Barre boy’s battle with the illness drew support from those in his hometown and spread around the world.

Saturday at the Barre Municipal Auditorium, it was apparent just how much Drew impacted his local community. Several children, close family and friends of Drew, presented flowers before gathering with all the children present at the service for a story as the service sought to include those closest to Drew.

One of Drew’s best friends, Andy, had a simple message. “We loved him and we always will,” he said.

Andy’s mother, Melissa, noted how Drew’s battle with his illness inspired friends and family, and through the power of social media, people from all over the world. But it was the strength of Drew that “held everything together,” she said.

“His journey has inspired hope and strength that has radiated around the world and continues to bring people together,” she said. “Thanks to his amazing parents and the support of this community, Drew was never alone. From all of his firsts as a baby, to his final moments at Boston Children’s hospital, every time he looked up he was able to look into one of his parents’ eyes.”

She added, “Throughout this journey his family mirrored his determination and his positive attitude. In turn, Drew’s family projected hope and love to their friends.”

Drew’s strength mirrored that of the superheroes he idolized, Melissa said.

“As the community rallied around their little hero, this story reached people around the world. More muscle than the Hulk, more strength than Superman, more bravery than Spiderman, our little superhero reminds us to reflect on what really matters in life — love, laughter and being together,” she said.

Drew received a hero’s welcome home last May when he returned to Barre from the hospital. People lined the streets of Barre wearing orange “Drew Strong” shirts for a parade in his honor.

His supporters were on hand again Saturday, most clad in the bright orange T-shirts he inspired, to honor his life. Some even donned their own superhero costumes.

Barre Mayor Thomas Lauzon said Drew inspired Barre. The parade in his honor was a reflection of that, he said.

“In that moment we were Hero Town, USA,” he said.

According to the dictionary, Lauzon said, a superhero is a “benevolent fictional character with superhuman powers.” But Drew was the personification of a superhero, the mayor said.

“I’m here to tell you they got it wrong. Superheroes do exist. I’ve met one. And I’m here tonight to honor him,” Lauzon said. “When somebody has the ability to bring out the best in others … I think that makes them a superhero.”

Drew’s aunt, Christine Elwell, agreed.

“Drew had the ability to cope with way more than a normal person could,” she said. “He was definitely a good guy, using all his exceptional strength to fight off a bad guy — cancer.”

Drew was honored at the service by the Barre City Fire Department, which named him posthumously as a junior fire cadet.

Drew is survived by his parents, Josh and Marie Bernier; his younger sister, Sophia; and his grandparents, Karen Gordon and Chuck Acebo of Barre Town, Jim and Sue Bernier of East Barre and Elaine and Ron Duke of Marshfield.

A candlelight vigil was held following the memorial service.

(SOURCE:  Times Argus)



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