Travis Roy with his mother and father in 1995. File

NORTH YARMOUTH — The death of Travis Roy, 45, on Oct. 29 has sent waves of loss and appreciation for the Maine-raised athlete, author and activist who grew up in Yarmouth.

Roy suffered from post-surgery complications and was unable to recover, according to Keith VanOrden, Roy’s brother-in-law, in an Oct. 30 Portland Press Herald article. He died at University of Vermont Medical Center. Service arrangements are on hold due to COVID-19. 

Roy attended North Yarmouth Academy, where he was a standout hockey player, graduated from Taber Academy in Massachusetts and played hockey for Boston University. But just 11 seconds into his first game on Oct. 20, 1995, Roy hit the boards and shattered his fourth and fifth cervical vertebrae, paralyzing him from the neck down at 20 years old.  

Travis Roy, who recently died at age 45, when he was a freshman at Boston University. File

The accident made headlines, but it was the work Roy achieved after his setback that defined his legacy.  In 1996, Roy and his family established the Travis Roy Foundation, with a mission to raise awareness and fund scientific research that could enable quadriplegics and paraplegics to become more independent.

Roy recounts his story in his book “Eleven Seconds: A Story of Tragedy, Courage & Triumph,” written with E.M. Smith of Sports Illustrated. Published in 1998, Roy takes his readers through growing up as the son of a hockey coach in Maine to the day of the accident and beyond.

Over the last 24 years, the foundation has helped over 2,100 quadriplegics and paraplegics lead more self-sufficient lives and has awarded over $4.7 million in research grants, according to the Travis Roy Foundation website.

Roy also traveled around the country, speaking at high schools, universities and corporate events

“He was a tremendous speaker,” said Ben Jackson, Head of School at North Yarmouth Academy.  “He could hold an audience. You could hear a pin drop in a room of a 100, 200 students.”

“Travis inspired our students and community through his positivity, generosity and his amazing work in support of those impacted by spinal cord injuries through the Travis Roy Foundation,” said Jackson, via a statement by North Yarmouth Academy.  

North Yarmouth hockey coach Mike Warde spoke fondly about getting to know Roy over his last three years at the school and highlighted the multi-dimensional nature of Roy’s interests. 

“He was known for being talented in many different areas,” Warde said. “He was obviously an incredibly talented hockey player, but also a talented student and artist. Even after his injury, he continued to foster these passions.

North Yarmouth’s ice rink was named the Travis Roy Arena in 1998, and, in 2015, the school held a ceremony to retire his high school number, 00.  

“He turned a terrible tragedy into a life of profound purpose,” Jackson said 

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