PORTLAND – It was an emotional day for Lynn Duranceau, one of 1,500 people to participate in the American Heart Association’s Southern Maine Heart Walk on Sunday at Back Cove.

Duranceau, of Saco, walked in memory of her husband John Duranceau, who died in February after suffering a massive heart attack. Her daughter, Taylor, and son, Brad, walked with her.

Duranceau said after the walk that her husband was a healthy and athletic guy, who took great care of himself. Then, genetics took over.

His father, Joseph Duranceau, had a massive heart attack and died at age 57. The younger Duranceau survived a heart attack two years ago and got regular checkups. She said doctors gave him a clean bill of health in September. In February, he had a heart attack while playing basketball and died. He was 48.

“There were no warning signs, nothing,” Duranceau said. “I never expected it to happen like this. It was a total shock.”

John’s sister, Cathy Duranceau, organized a team of close to 150 people to walk in memory of her brother and father.

“We wanted to promote heart awareness,” Lynn Duranceau said. “It was overwhelming. It was a huge tribute to the Duranceau family.”

The event was organized to raise awareness and funds to prevent heart disease and stroke, said Brenda Quinn, communications director for the American Heart Association. She said cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in Maine, accounting for four out of 10 deaths each year. People wearing red hats on the walk Sunday represented the survivors.

“It’s a great testament to the research we’ve done,” Quinn said. “Some of the surgeries to treat heart disease didn’t exist 20 years ago. It’s a big part of the funding.”

Organizers hope to raise $370,000 for the cause. As of 10 a.m., the event had raised roughly $285,000. Quinn said donations are still being accepted.

It’s a cause close to the hearts of Alison and Troy Daigle, whose son Gavin died in 2005, two weeks before his 4th birthday.

The Daigles and their year-old son Chase walked Sunday in his memory. They organized a team of 87 people, who wore maroon T-shirts with Gavin’s hand print inside a heart.

“This is awesome,” Troy Daigle said after the walk. “Gavin was such a shining star. Everyone that met him fell in love with him.”

David Maxsimic, 48, of Falmouth, was among those who posted survivor stories on a fence under a tent at Payson Park. He survived a quintuple bypass. His brother, Roman Maxsimic, died while running at age 51.

“It’s important for us to walk,” Maxsimic said. “Hopefully we can find a cure. I feel fortunate to be here to talk about it. I have a second chance at life, unlike my brother.”

 

Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at: [email protected]