Maelisha Jackson attended Mt. Ararat High School in Topsham several years ago. Recently she was living in Portland and working as a clerk at Renys Department Store on Congress Street.

Her friends adored the 24-year-old Jackson, describing her as loyal companion who was fearless in the face of adversity and possessed “the heart of a lion.”

“No matter how bad things were for her, she would figure out a way to get through it,” said one her closest friends, Roxann White of Portland.

White created a community Facebook page Monday to honor the memory of her friend – the “Maelisha Jackson Rest in Paradise” page.

The 23-year-old White, who also lives in Portland, said she met Jackson about eight years ago. They immediately hit it off, and over the years the young women spent time going to the beach, to social gatherings, and even living together for a while in Portland.

“She loved hanging out with her friends and having fun,” White said. “It didn’t matter what we were doing, Maelisha would make it fun. She was just an awesome person to be around.”

Another close friend, Corey Meserve of Westbrook, said, “I would trust her with my life.”

Meserve said Jackson frequently baby-sat his two children, ages 5 and 2.

“My kids loved her. They would call her Auntie Mae Mae,” Meserve said.

White and Meserve said that Jackson went to the house at 20 Noyes St. to visit a friend, 26-year-old Nicole Finlay. Finlay, a tenant of the building, also was identified Monday as a victim of the early morning fire Saturday.

– Dennis Hoey