Anneliese Heinig Courtesy photo

BRUNSWICK — Jackie Anderson had missed a sleepover, where kids who’d be attending Mt. Ararat Middle School were supposed to get acquainted. So she asked a friend who went what the highlight of the night was.

Anneliese Heinig’s mother, Anne, father, Chris, and sister, Grace, listen as people share stories about Anneliese at Friday’s candlelight vigil. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

“She told me she had met the nicest person in the world, and of course, it was Anneliese,” Anderson said. “Then later when I introduced myself to Anneliese, she hugged me. We were 12.”

Anderson shared her memory of meeting Anneliese Heinig with about 200 people at a candlelight vigil for Heinig on Brunswick’s mall Friday night. Heinig, a 37-year-old mother of two from Richmond, has been missing since Nov. 26.  She was last seen around 6:30 a.m. that day walking along Interstate 295 near where it crosses the Presumpscot River in Falmouth. The SUV she’d been driving was parked along the highway, with her keys, cellphone and wallet inside. It was found by state police around 8:30 a.m.

Friends organized the vigil to support Heinig’s family and each other, and to share positive thoughts and their hopes for their friend’s safety. As a wet snow fell around 6:30 p.m., people held small lit candles and gathered near the mall’s bandstand, brightened by white Christmas lights. Heinig’s parents, Chris and Anne Heinig, as well as about a half-dozen others, used a microphone to share thoughts and stories. Many of the speakers had known Heinig as a child growing up in Harpswell and as a student at Mt. Ararat middle and high schools in Topsham.

Friends, family and community members listen as Anneliese Heinig’s mother speaks at the candlelight vigil for the missing woman on Friday evening. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

They talked about Heinig’s grace as a ballet dancer, her skill as a competitive figure skater and softball player, and the vigorous training she did for track and field. They talked about how she experienced the culture and beauty of Honduras as a teenager on a church trip. They described a vibrant, joyous young woman who danced in high school production of “The Wiz,” lit up rooms when she entered and was quick with words of encouragement.

“We were both pregnant at the same time and we were very young, 21, and it was very scary,” said Katie Mae Card, a longtime friend. “And she said to me ‘It’ll be O.K. because you’re a mom, and moms are strong.”

Anne Heinig, her mother, told a story about a high school softball game where she overheard mothers from the opposing team saying Heinig was “too pretty” to be any good at softball. Heinig got up to bat and hit a home run, then later another, and several more, her mother said.

“Then these same mothers were yelling ‘get back, get back’ (to the outfielders) every time she got up,” Anne Heinig said. “Finally I said to them ‘That’s my baby.'”

Anneliese Heinig’s mother, Anne Heinig, gives hugs to those she knows after a candlelight vigil for her missing daughter at the Brunswick mall on Friday evening. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Anne Heinig thanked the crowd for coming to the vigil, and thanked state and local police for their efforts, which included divers with sonar in the river and an airplane search. She told those gathered Friday that there was no new information on what happened might have happened to Heinig.

“We still don’t what happened or why she was headed to Portland that day,” said her mother. “But we’re here to focus on how many lives she’s touched.”

Anneliese Heinig’s father, Chris Heinig, stands among friends, family and community members at Friday’s candlelight vigil for his missing daughter. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Heinig was reported  missing by her family on Nov. 28, two days after she was last seen and her car was found, when she didn’t show up for a Thanksgiving dinner. Though state police policy is to try to contact the owners of cars left along the highway, the Heinigs were not notified when the car their daughter was driving was found around 8:30 a.m. Nov. 26 or when it was towed later that day. Heinig’s parents are the registered owners of the SUV.

Once Heinig was reported missing, Richmond police traced the location of Heinig’s cellphone. That led them to a South Portland tow company that had removed the car she was driving from the highway at the request of Maine State Police on Nov. 26, the last day she was seen.

Family members said they, along with police, have been to Heinig’s apartment in Richmond and found nothing out of order. Her mother had spoken to her on the Monday before Thanksgiving and said she was “in a great mood.”

Snow falls on the crowd gathered on the Brunswick mall Friday evening for the candlelight vigil for Anneliese Heinig. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Family members doubt Heinig locked herself out of the car. Anne Heinig noted that the SUV was equipped with a numerical keypad to unlock the driver’s door, so Anneliese could have gotten back into the car without keys.

When Heinig’s parents picked up the SUV from the tow lot in South Portland, they noticed the low-gas light had come on, and the tank was so close to empty that a tow truck driver followed them to a gas station after the family picked up the vehicle. Family members believe she might have been walking to get gas, carrying cash on her and leaving her wallet in the car.

Heinig lives with her 16-year-old daughter in Richmond. Her 5-year-old son lives close by with his father, Anne Heinig said. Anneliese Heinig recently went with her daughter to get their nails done together, for her daughter’s birthday, and the two were planning a spa day, the family said. Heinig works at a Brunswick company that provides customer service for other businesses, and loves the job and the people she works with, her father said this week.

At the vigil Friday, Anderson told Heinig’s friends and family to remember to check in on each other and support each other as often as possible.

“Let’s offer support and love to one another – and and pray for the safe return of our friend,” Anderson said.

 

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