A three-week search for Windham native Lynn Moran, 24, ended early Monday morning after her body was discovered floating in the water near the Maine State Pier in Portland. The state medical examiner has judged the death as an “accidental drowning.”

Now family and friends mourn the loss of Moran whom they remember as a truly compassionate, loving and intelligent young woman.

The disappearance

Moran, who lived in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, had returned home to visit with family in Windham for Columbus Day weekend. She then disappeared on October 10 after an afternoon and evening spent in Portland’s Old Port, prompting an extensive search of downtown Portland and surrounding areas by authorities, family, friends and many volunteers. Multiple flyers posted throughout Greater Portland asked the public for any information that might lead to her whereabouts.

The Portland Police Department says they may never know how Moran fell into the water. They cite intoxication, rainy weather and the dark of night as possible factors. Police say the last credible sighting of Moran was at Sangillo’s Tavern on Hampshire Street in Portland, though a woman matching Moran’s description had been seen walking near the South Portland side of Casco Bay Bridge around 11 p.m. that night.

On Wednesday, however, Portland police announced that a surveillance camera may have caught Moran on tape at the Maine State Pier shortly before midnight on Oct. 10. This is still under investigation.

“We will probably never know the exact time she entered the water,” said Portland Police Chief Tim Burton at a press conference Monday. “We can say now that foul play was not involved.”

Burton called Moran’s death “a human tragedy” and explained that police have now begun to finalize paperwork in closing the investigation.

“Ideally we’d want the case to be resolved with (her safe return),” Chief Burton said. “But at least we have been able to answer the question of what happened to Lynn Moran.”

Moran’s family grieves

Elizabeth Moran, a teacher at King Middle School in Portland and Lynn’s oldest sister, said Lynn’s death is “hard to put into words.” She said the family is grateful to have some answers three weeks after Lynn sudden disappearance.

“It’s very surreal. It’s very hard to deal with; trying to accept she’s no longer with us,” Elizabeth said in an interview on Tuesday. “But it does at least provide us with some of the answers we were looking for. Of course, we’ll never know what caused the accident.”

Elizabeth said her close-knit family wants Lynn remembered as “truly compassionate and thoughtful.” She described Lynn, who worked as an assistant director of two foster homes in Shrewsbury, Mass., as a passionate supporter of the poor and underprivileged.

“Lynn was very caring. She loved and was loved by the children she cared for at the foster homes. She also cared for the people who have less than we do,” Elizabeth said.

Her sister remembers Lynn as the kind of person who would send thank-you notes and cards saying, “I love you,” for no apparent reason.

Elizabeth also remembers that Lynn had a scholar’s heart, even though she didn’t go to college full-time, opting instead to pursue her love of dancing and social work.

“She was very wise and intelligent and very well read. The girl read everything. She especially loved the classics like Hemingway,” Elizabeth said. “And she loved philosophy and Albert Camus. She just loved reading, writing and spending time with her family. That’s who she was.”

Elizabeth described her sister as socially conscious, “very politically liberal” and “not lazy.”

“Oh, she was such a hard worker,” Moran said. “She was a passionate person.”

A beautiful dancer

Lynn Moran also had a passion for dancing, remembers Jonathan Miele, her former dance instructor who lives in Windham with his wife Linda. The couple first met Lynn when she was only five years old and through the years saw her bloom into not only a beautiful young woman, but a talented ballerina as well.

Moran took classes from Miele at the former Maine State Academy for the Performing Arts. She also became good friends with his son Adam, he said, and the two of them “kept the classes lively” with their humor.

“They were kind of the comedians,” Miele said. “They were really funny.”

Later, Moran went on to dance in the Nutcracker, Midsummer Night’s Dream and many other performances under the artistic direction of his wife Linda at the Maine State Ballet.

“She was a beautiful dancer and a stunningly beautiful girl,” Linda said.

Co-workers remember

Lynn spent two years in her early twenties working for Park Place, a Windham-based foster child home on Park Road. Wanda Spurling, still employed at the center, was Moran’s supervisor from Nov. 2001 to Jan. 2003 and remembers Moran as a dedicated employee and positive influence on the kids, many of whom have suffered emotional and physical abuse.

“Lynn was an amazing employee,” Spurling said. “Very dependable, very responsible, and she had a good attitude. I was sick to my stomach when I heard the news. Everybody here was just mortified. It was such a waste.”

Spurling shared a letter of resignation submitted at the end of Lynn’s two-year stint at Park Place. In it, Moran wrote: “I feel my time at Park Place has been a valuable experience and I thank you for the opportunity to do gratifying work alongside very special people. I am proud to have been part of an agency that so compassionately serves children and hope to remain in contact.”

Community support

While Elizabeth Moran says it’s too soon for the family to start talking about closure, the family mourns their beloved daughter and sibling.

“Her death was so dark, but her life was so full of light. We want people to remember how beautiful she was. And as a family that’s what we want to do now,” Elizabeth said.

The family was “overcome,” Elizabeth said, by community support both in Windham and Portland during the past three weeks.

A prayer vigil was held last Thursday evening at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in North Windham. About 500 people prayed for Lynn’s safe return. And while that safe return never happened, Elizabeth said her family was impressed by the community’s sympathy for their family.

“Every single seat was filled. People have just been sending us their hope and love and support,” Elizabeth said. “And while we’ve been absorbed with the investigation and finding her, we realize how truly supportive the community has been to us. We truly appreciate everything.”

Visiting hours for Lynn Moran will be held Friday, Nov. 4 from 4 to 9 p.m. at Conroy-Tully Crawford Funeral Home on Broadway in South Portland. A funeral will be held Saturday at 10 a.m. at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland.

Lynn Moran, far right, and her sisters Elizabeth, Christine and Mary. Moiran, who went missing three weeks ago was found dead near the Maine State Pier in Portland.

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