WINDHAM – Parker Blanchard was a well-known student at the University of Southern Maine who had a promising future ahead of him.
Mr. Blanchard was a semester shy of receiving his degree in biology at USM. He had plans to pursue his master’s degree in pharmacy. He also had plans to marry his longtime girlfriend, Annette Kowalik, next winter.
Mr. Blanchard, 25, died Aug. 11 in a fire that started in his third-floor apartment on Main Street. His fiancee escaped the blaze, but was treated for smoke inhalation at Maine Medical Center in Portland.
“I feel like he just disappeared – like his whole future was taken away,” said his older brother, Wayne “Philip” Blanchard Jr. of Portland. “Whatever plans he, his fiancee and I had will be different. It’s like life was altered completely.”
Mr. Blanchard grew up in the Naples area. He attended schools in Westbrook and Gray before graduating from Portland High School in 2006. There, he was active in the school’s drama program and started an Anime Club.
It was Mr. Blanchard’s lifelong passion for science that drew him to USM to study biology. His brother reminisced Monday about their early years, recalling an energetic and precocious kid with a natural curiosity about science.
“He was always playing with his chemistry set,” his brother said. “He was basically an amateur scientist by 8 years old, making experiments in his room and cataloging the reactions and results of his experiments. We always wondered what he would make next.”
At USM, Mr. Blanchard previously lived in dormitories and was a member of the dormitory council.
The news story of the fire posted by the Portland Press Herald in August generated more than 130 “likes” on Facebook. Many in the USM community expressed shock and sadness over Mr. Blanchard’s tragic passing.
One reader, Vincent Plummer, said: “This is Horrible, Parker will be missed!”
Another reader, Joseph Card, wrote: “This is terrible. He was always a great guy and one of the most brilliant minds I’ve met, he’ll be missed.”
Mr. Blanchard was about a semester shy of graduating and had plans to pursue his master’s degree in pharmacy. At the time of his death, he was a supervisor on the production line at Northeast Distribution Services.
“He was just trying to work to make it happen,” his brother said.
Mr. Blanchard also had an interest in politics. His brother said he was planning to run for a seat on the Windham Town Council.
Nomination papers became available on Aug. 12, the day after he died.
Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at: [email protected]