Jennifer Drapeau fulfilled her dreams of becoming a teacher, a wife and a mother – and she didn’t want to let go of those gifts, especially the chance to see her two young daughters grow up.

So when she was diagnosed with cancer, she fought it with everything she had. In the end it wasn’t enough.

Drapeau, a beloved kindergarten teacher at Jameson Elementary School in Old Orchard Beach, who inspired others by her warmth, positivity and kindness, died Saturday as her husband held her hands and stared into her eyes. She was 31.

Joey Drapeau laughed and cried Tuesday recalling stories of their life together – from getting married in Las Vegas to his wife realizing her dreams of becoming a teacher and a mother to their daughters: Brynn, 3½, and Aria, 18 months.

“She was honestly the type of person that if you met her, you instantly had a connection with her. Her laugh was so contagious. Some would say it was annoying,” her husband said, smiling, trying to mimic her laugh. “When she was really belly laughing, it was so great. I think of those moments. Honestly, we had so many good ones in our short time together.”

He captured the essence of their life in a touching post on Facebook, which has generated over 1,400 views, 747 comments and 161 shares since Saturday.

In the post, Drapeau wrote about holding her hand through some of their best and most difficult times together.

Jennifer Drapeau grew up in Biddeford, the second oldest of four daughters. She attended Biddeford schools and graduated from the University of Maine in 2008 with a degree in elementary education.

She went on to fulfill her goal of becoming a teacher, getting hired at Jameson Elementary School in Old Orchard Beach. She taught kindergarten and first grade for one year.

Barb Fletcher, principal of Jameson Elementary, said Tuesday that the students loved Drapeau. And the feeling was mutual.

“She didn’t just love the kids … she sought to understand the kids and meet their needs,” Fletcher said. “She was super patient. She was an excellent educator. She truly believed these kids were going to do great things and she made them feel that way every day.”

To honor Drapeau, school administrators canceled school Thursday so the staff could attend her funeral.

In a phone interview Tuesday, Joey Drapeau shared his wife’s love for being a wife and mother. He reminisced about their trip to Las Vegas and getting married at a chapel at the Flamingo Hotel and Casino. They were married on April 22, 2013. It was a Monday night, he said.

“We didn’t know a single person,” he said. “We took random wedding pictures all over the place. I can still see us walking around the casino.”

He said they had a great life together. He talked about the simple moments with her, like sitting on the deck drinking a Samuel Adam’s Summer Ale with a lemon, playing Skip-Bo, listening to country music and talking about life. He said she was the type of woman who could go from camping and not showering for four days, to getting all dolled up for a wedding.

“She could be anything,” he said. “She could get in her sweatpants and put her hair up and just be her and be comfortable. We were so comfortable with each other.”

Most of all she loved being a mother. Her husband spoke of her special connection with Brynn, their first born.

“They were best friends. She got her mini me and I got mine,” he said, referring to Aria. “They are identical in their personalities, their laughter and their expressions.”

Jennifer Drapeau got sick six months after giving birth to Aria.

“With Aria being so young, it broke her heart,” her husband said. “Her dream was being a mother. She wanted to take them for a mother-daughter manicure and get them ready for dances. She wanted to buy them dresses for the prom. It’s all she ever wanted. It’s so simple. People probably don’t even realize it. It’s a blessing to be able to do that. Those little girls will never have their mom to do that. It breaks my heart for Jenn.”

Drapeau had a rare, aggressive form of cancer and had surgery to remove a tumor. On Feb. 2, her 31st birthday, doctors told her that her scan was clear.

“We went to the Olive Garden, her favorite restaurant,” he said, recalling the news from the doctors as a moment of sheer happiness and joy.

Soon after, however, doctors discovered that the cancer had spread to her liver. Her husband and sisters said she fought to live, undergoing the chemotherapy that inflicted damage on her body.

Her oldest sister, Jamie Izaryk of Bridgton, said she was a loyal sister.

“On the day she died, she was asking me and my sister if we were comfortable,” Izaryk said. “In that minute when she was so sick, she was thinking of us. I don’t think I knew what bravery was until watching her these past eight months. She had the hand that she was dealt and she kept fighting and fighting, saying she wanted to be here for her girls. Bravery doesn’t even begin to describe her.”

Joey Drapeau is trying to make sense of the loss for himself and his daughters, taking solace in memories of intimate moments.

“I’m honestly still asking myself why,” he said. “I believe in God. I believe that there’s a heaven and something after, I truly do. I am a true believer that things happen for a reason. But, there’s no way a person like Jenn should be taken from her girls.

“We would lay in bed and talk. One day she asked, ‘If I can let you know (I’m here) after I go, do you want me to do that?’ She smiled and said, ‘I’ll probably start haunting you.’ I said, ‘Yeah, that’s fine. I would love that.'”

Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at:

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