BRIDGTON — Krista Dittmeyer’s mother held her 14-month-old granddaughter, Aliyah, in her lap while a crowd estimated at more than 1,000 people paid tribute Thursday night to Dittmeyer, the 20-year-old Portland woman whose body was recovered Wednesday from a pond in North Conway, N.H.

The memorial gathering, held in the courtyard of the Stevens Brook Elementary School, was organized by Sandy Pasquale, who said she hoped it offered some comfort to a close-knit community as it absorbed the news that Dittmeyer, who had been last heard from Friday night, was dead.

“It’s amazing how many lives Krista touched and how much love for her family we are seeing here tonight,” Pasquale told the crowd, which had been alerted to the event through the Facebook social media website.

Dittmeyer grew up in Bridgton and graduated from Lake Region High School in Naples in 2008. She most recently lived in Portland with Aliyah.

Aliyah’s father, Kyle Acker, is serving a two-year prison term for drug trafficking. The girl is being cared for by her grandmother, LaNelle Shackley of Bridgton.

At the time of her disappearance, Dittmeyer was working as a waitress at Buffalo Wild Wings Grill and Bar on Western Avenue in South Portland.

Her older sister, 22-year-old Kayla Dittmeyer, flew back to Maine from her home in Denver to be with her family.

“This is so amazing. All these people, her friends and the entire country,” Kayla Dittmeyer said, before breaking into tears. “Krista was an amazing person, the best sister and so strong and supportive. She was the best mother ever.”

Aliyah was found in her mother’s idling car Saturday morning at the Cranmore Mountain Resort. At the vigil, the toddler sat on the lap of her grandmother, sipped from a bottle and stared at the huge crowd that had gathered near the school’s entrance.

Though the memorial gathering was not scheduled to start until 8 p.m., people started arriving shortly after 7, by car and on foot, filling the courtyard and bus turnaround to capacity. Bridgton police estimated the crowd at more than 1,000 people.

Many of those people held candles while several spoke about a life cut short.

April Parent, Mary Gassnola and Christina Mayo drove to Bridgton from their homes in North Conway to attend the vigil. They did not know Dittmeyer but wanted to show their support for the family. They donated four candle settings.

“I’ve lost a child,” Gassnola said. “I know how heartwarming it can be for a family to have this kind of support.”

“My heart really goes out to the little girl,” Parent added.

Members of a sorority at the University of Southern Maine in Gorham arrived in force, holding a banner in support of Kayla Dittmeyer, who they said had been a member of their sorority.

The banner said: “As long as hearts remember. We do not part with those we love.”

“I didn’t know this young lady, but I just wanted to show my support for the family,” said Bonnie Trafford, who lives in Bridgton. Trafford walked to the event wearing a necklace with bulbs that flashed, which she wears at night for safety reasons after being hit by a car.

Kayla Dittmeyer thanked the crowd for the support shown for her family. Then, she took a moment to address her sister.

“I hope you see how many people care about you,” she said. “We know you are looking down on us. Your daughter will grow up to be an amazing person, just like you.”

 

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

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