Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Maine community gathers to remember gay man killed 40 years ago

Four decades after Maine resident Charlie Howard was killed, the Bangor community gathered to honor his life and legacy.

In the summer of 1984, Howard and his boyfriend were walking down a main road in town when a group of teenagers yelling homophobic slurs approached them. They threw Howard, then 23, off a bridge into the Kenduskeag Stream, where he died by drowning.

The teenage suspects, all minors, were initially charged with murder, but the charges were eventually reduced to manslaughter, according to the Bangor Daily News. They pleaded guilty to the reduced charges in October 1984.

On Sunday, the 40th anniversary of Howard’s death, community groups, including the Unitarian Universalist Society of Bangor, came together to hold a remembrance service.

The service re-created the one held after Howard was killed four decades ago, where attendees walked to the site of his death and dropped flowers into the stream below. 

“We’re here today because so many of us were touched by what happened,” said Gia Drew, the executive director of EqualityMaine, according to News Center Maine, an NBC affiliate. “That light that was inside of Charlie was passed on to another person, to another person, and another.”

Attendees dropped flowers into the Kenduskeag Stream bridge where Howard was killed.
Attendees dropped flowers into the Kenduskeag Stream bridge where Howard was killed.NCM

Those who gathered to honor Howard also reflected on the fight for LGBTQ rights in Maine, which was fueled after Howard’s death. His killing, for example, led to the creation of the Maine Lesbian/Gay Political Alliance, which is now EqualityMaine.

The Rev. Andrew Moeller, of the Unitarian Universalist Society of Bangor, noted that there is room for progress within religious groups, where some are unaccepting of people with different sexual and gender identities. 

“Hatred and vitriol can destroy a life, can prevent somebody from being the beautiful person, the amazing person they are,” he said, according to News Center Maine. “It reminds us that we still have a long way to go.”

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