PORTLAND – Lashonda Gregory of Gorham stood under a green awning outside a funeral home on Woodford Street, stubbed out the last of her cigarette and hunched her shoulders against a cold wind. She looked out at tired snowbanks, gray clouds in an overcast sky and cars encrusted with the salt and grime of a bleak midwinter afternoon.

In another hour, her friend of 10 years, a woman she had grown up with, would be eulogized at a memorial service attended by more than 100 friends and family members Sunday.

“I don’t know what I’m supposed to say,” Gregory said. “But I’ll tell you what. Megan had the best heart of just about anybody I’ve ever met in my life. There isn’t a thing that girl wouldn’t do for anybody.”

Megan Amelia Waterman of Scarborough never reached her 23rd birthday last Tuesday. She disappeared in early June after traveling to Long Island in New York. Investigators there said she was one of four young women whose bodies were found near a beach in early December.

All four women advertised online as escorts. Police believe they were murdered by a serial killer.

Friends and family said Waterman worked as a prostitute at the urging of her boyfriend, Akeem Cruz, who accompanied her to Hauppauge, N.Y., in June and is currently serving a 20-month sentence in the Maine Correctional Center in Windham for drug trafficking.

Gregory will remember much more about Waterman than how her life ended. Gregory’s son Logan was born within a week of Waterman’s daughter, Liliana, or Lily, who turned 4 at the end of September.

“That’s the saddest part, man, is that Liliana was her life,” Gregory said. “I don’t care what people say about the life she chose, when it came down to it, Liliana was No. 1.”

On Sunday, Lily wore a maroon velvet dress tied in the back with a bow, and black sneakers with pink swooshes. Her hair was neatly styled in cornrows.

“She’s aware that something terrible has happened with her mom not coming back,” said George Nanos of Portland, Megan’s uncle, “but she has such loving grandparents and everybody there to support her.

“As she gets older, she will know so much about what a wonderful mother and person her mother was. I think that will carry her and inspire her and, hopefully, enable her to become a young lady who finds her own way in the world.”

Inside the Jones, Rich & Hutchins Funeral Home, visitors could watch a slide show with scenes from Megan’s early life — birthday cakes, Christmas trees, school portraits — and later life — nursing Lily, celebrating a birthday, hugging her daughter.

“A beautiful life that shone brightly,” said the Rev. Mark Drinkwater, a family member and pastor of the Windham Church of the Nazarene, who led the memorial service.

Some of Drinkwater’s words elicited knowing chuckles: “You couldn’t tell Megan it was a bad idea. … We all remember the way she liked to jazz people up. … Megan was strong-willed. … Her friends loved to follow her in her adventures and escapades.”

Others brought forth nods and hugs: “She would do anything for anybody. … Loyalty to friends. … She loved to be in charge. … Megan loved to help.”

Drinkwater also spoke of others who may feel lost or missing, who may have fallen for a particular drug or drink, or who may be impulsive and enjoy living on the edge, as did the woman whose death they mourned and life they celebrated.

“We want to honor Megan,” he said, “by how we live from this day forward, and by which road we take.”

An aunt, Elizabeth Meserve of Portland, read a poem. A younger sister, Amanda Gove of Portland, spoke words of pain and parting before breaking down in sobs. Megan’s older brother, Greg Waterman, stood up to finish reading Gove’s words, until he, too, was overcome by emotion.

Gove gathered herself and delivered a final stanza:

We love your beautiful memory.

Your love is still our guide.

Although we cannot see you,

You’re always at our side.

Outside after the service, the wind had subsided. The sky was clearer, brighter, though some low-hanging clouds remained.

“I’m really glad we got her home and we’re doing this for her, because she deserves it,” said Greg Waterman, his not-quite-2-year-old daughter Mariah in his arms. “But it’s not over, you know what I’m saying? It’s not over until justice is served.”

Mariah and Megan share a middle name — Amelia — as well as a last name. Mariah’s birthdate — 2-14-09 — is tattooed on the left side of her father’s neck.

“Next week,” he said, “I’m going to get Megan’s.”

Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at:

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