WINDHAM – Darren Elder brought his maroon Windham High basketball shirt to the memorial service Saturday. It was carefully folded so the No. 12 was visible. It was Elder’s number some 20 years ago.
Then it became Dan Giguere’s number. To Elder, No. 12 should always be linked with Giguere. Quietly he gave it to the family that had lost a son.
Dan Giguere was killed Feb. 8 in a car crash in Sarasota, Fla. He was 35 years old. He was a teacher and coach at the Sarasota School for Arts and Sciences. The husband of Dr. Alexandra Boozer and the father of their three very young sons.
You could find the facts of his life in his obituary in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune online. To find how Giguere made those around him laugh and cry, you needed to be inside the North Windham Union Church on Saturday. Dan Giguere, in a manner of speaking, had come back home.
Greg Merrill brought his grief and his friendship into the church. He and Giguere played in the backcourt on the first Windham boys’ basketball team to reach the Western Maine tournament in more than a decade. If Merrill didn’t lead the Eagles in scoring, Giguere did.
Matt Blanchard, another teammate, brought a story. Blanchard and Giguere got jobs at a car dealership. They found themselves washing cars by hand as part of a promotion. Soon, about 30 cars were in line. They sought out their supervisor. Help!
Find a way to make it happen, said their boss. The words stayed with Giguere. Years later he would tell his students and his players in Florida to try solving their problems. Make a plan, make it happen. He encouraged more than preached or demanded. His enthusiasm was infectious.
Brian Sawyer drove over from his home in Litchfield, N.H., bringing support. “I was the guy sweeping the floors at (basketball) games. I was the team’s manager. Dan was friends to all of us but he had some who were closer than friends. I’m here to support them.”
Doug Elder brought his acoustic guitar and a Bob Dylan song, “Feel Your Love,” which he sang simply and elegantly. The younger brother of Darren Elder, Doug was a captain on the 1995-96 team.
Years earlier he helped convince Giguere to put aside his snowboard and play basketball in the winter.
“Our goal was to get to the playoffs,” said Elder. “To walk inside the (Cumberland County) Civic Center and play a game. A Windham team hadn’t done that in so long. We got to the Civic Center and lost. We played Sanford and they were so big, but we reached our goal.”
It’s 17 years later. The boys are men. Some with much less hair. Some with a lot more. Doug Elder’s hair is fashionably longer. He and his brother are half of “The Wrecking,” a Christian rock band that had a gig in Middletown, N.Y., on Saturday night.
They all have new responsibilities. New joys, new goals, new fears. They come together for weddings, birthdays, barbecues, good times. That they were at a memorial service for one of their own was also new.
When they played, Giguere had the uncommon gift of letting his teammates know how much they mattered to him. Saturday, those teammates embraced outside the church because he mattered to them.
“The ’95-’96 team was a tight group,” said Kevin Millington, then a young assistant basketball coach at Windham. “They hung out off the court, which isn’t always the case. They were a very diverse group with very different personalities, but they all shared a love of basketball and found a way to always be together.
Visually, Windham isn’t quite the town they once knew. It’s grown. It’s more a suburb of Portland. In other ways it’s the same place.
“The people are the same,” said Greg Merrill, whose father, Steve, was the high school athletic director until he stepped down several years ago. Greg Merrill left Windham for about 10 years but returned last year. “People still care about each other.”
Millington is now the Windham head coach. After Giguere’s death, the award given to the team’s most valuable player was given in Giguere’s name. Millington asked a few of Giguere’s teammates to attend.
“The response we ended up getting was overwhelming,” said Millington. “We talked after the banquet about how important teammates are and the bonds you form last for a lifetime.”
Sometimes they last longer than that.
Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at: