SANFORD — She smiled a lot. In photographs, either solo or with friends, she wears a wide, sparkling smile.

She was kind, gentle and generous, family and friends said.

Kerry Rear had all those attributes.

“She was a beautiful person,” said her father, Ken Rear by telephone from his Bradenton, Florida, home on Monday. 

Her face and her story are familiar to those who keep up with news in York County. Wet and disoriented, Rear, 40, walked into a Sanford convenience store on Jan. 22. She left, and wasn’t seen again until Wednesday, March 8, when her remains were found 200 yards away from where she was last seen. 

There had been numerous searches — but there had also been several rounds of heavy snow.

Her family and friends are grateful that she was found, and grateful to Sanford Police and the other agencies who gave so much of themselves in the quest to find her.

On March 25, folks are invited to a Celebration of Life, set for 3 to 6 p.m. at St. George‘s Episcopal Church, at the intersection of  Emerson and Main streets in Sanford.

As part of the celebration of her life, there will be a pot luck dinner; a fitting tribute to a woman who loved to cook and feed others.

Friends spoke of the regular Thursday night dinners at Rear’s apartment, where she would cook them a “family” supper.

“She loved to cook,” said her friend Rebecca Jackson. “We’d hang out, joke around and have fun.”

Life was not always kind to Kerry Rear, even though she was generous and kind to others — often to a fault, her father said. 

At one point in her life, he said, his daughter lived at York County Shelter Programs — where she put her considerable cooking skills to the test in the bakery and for the Mamma Mia public pasta dinners.

“She loved to cook (for the suppers), people would tell us this,” said Ken Rear.

He said he wants his daughter to be remembered for her generosity of spirit and the love she had for her family and her friends.

He talked about her personal struggles with alcohol.

“She could never let it go,” he said. “She tried very hard.”

At times, he said, his daughter had a good life.

In the early 2000s, Kerry and her two daughters lived with her parents in Atlanta, Georgia. A few years later, her parents helped move her to Kittery. While she later lost physical custody of her daughters, she loved them very much, Ken Rear said. Kerry later formed another relationship and had a son, who has been adopted by her brother, Kenny and his wife. 

Tori Beal met Kerry Rear when Rear  was working at the bakery on Shaker Hill. The two had friends in common, and they’d get together a couple of times a week, Beal recalled.

“What stands out now, and then, was her gentleness and her smile,” said Beal. “You could tell she was a super kind woman. We went bowling together, a bunch of us went to Bunganut Lake one day in this past summer. We swam, brought food and hung out for the day.”

Rebecca Jackson and her boyfriend Jason Fitts, had similar memories. At one point in their lives, Jackson and Rear were roommates for several months.

“We all lived in the same area, we met through friends and hit it off,” said Jackson. Rear returned to Kittery for a time, and then moved to Sanford about a year ago.

“She was really funny, she had a good sense of humor and she loved to cook,” said Fitts.

“She was full of life, and good at anything she picked up,” said Jackson, “Like running and volleyball, knitting, anything she tried.”

She loved a good read — especially books by  Dean R. Koontz. And she was always after Jackson to read “The Kite Runner,” set in Afghanistan. Jackson says she will.

Rear expressed his family’s gratitude to Sanford Police and the other agencies who pitched in to help.

“We’re grateful,” said Rear.

He spoke of the commitment and compassion of Detective Sgt. Matthew Jones and Chief Thomas Connolly and other members of Sanford Police Department, along with the Maine Warden Service, Maine State Police, sheriff’s deputies and the other agencies involved.

He had particular praise for Sanford Police Detective Eric Small.

“Eric Small behaved and more like a friend than a police officer,” said Rear. “He worked tirelessly  to try to find Kerry. He called every day.”

Small called the day Kerry was found.

Rear said he and his wife, Kerry’s mother Sheila, are working on a pictorial tribute for the Celebration of Life, that will reflect who their daughter was — a smiling woman who had struggled in her life, but loved her children and her parents and her friends and who had, in recent years developed a strong, special relationship with her mother. 

“She always wanted her kids to know she loved them very much,” he said. “She always knew that we loved her.”

In lieu of flowers, the Rear family is asking that those who wish to make a donation in Kerry’s memory, to send it to Crossroads, a behavioral health and addiction treatment program. Contributions should be sent to: Lesley Rawlings, Development Department, Crossroads, 71 U.S. Route 1, Suite E, Scarborough, 04074

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 324-4444 (local call in Sanford) or 282-1535, ext. 327 or [email protected]

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