Tina and Leon White with four of their five children. Submitted photo

After taking a big sip from a Mason jar full of cool water, Tina White headed out last Saturday morning for her regular walk along County Road in Turner, leaving the family dog, Brady, at home because it was just too hot.

It seemed like an ordinary day for the beloved 46-year-old mother with a penchant for gardening and a zeal to help others.

It didn’t turn out that way.

One of her neighbors, 24-year-old Charlotte Roy, happened to drive by shortly before 10:30 a.m. July 23, on her way to her grandmother’s house just down the road.

Roy spotted someone in bright clothing lying beyond the pavement. Figuring it was a medical emergency, she pulled over.

It only took a glance for her to realize “this was a much more severe accident” than she’d thought.


White lay there, bleeding and seemingly not breathing. Roy said it was obvious she’d been the victim of a hit-and-run.

Several people said a vehicle smacked White so hard that she’d been thrown out of her sneakers, which lay on the ground about six feet away.

Roy said she and other passersby tried to do CPR, but she held out little hope.

White gave out one last little cough, she said, and that was that last sign of life. Roy said the emergency responders who soon arrived had no chance of saving her.

Roy said White’s husband, Leon, noticed the sirens outside and rushed to his wife’s side. “I could hear him,” she said. “It was heartbreaking.”

White’s friends say they’re devastated at her death but consoled by their certainty that the mother of five is with the Lord to whom she devoted her life. “I’ve never known anyone so ready to meet Jesus,” said Melissa Winslow, a friend of White’s.



Authorities determined that White had been walking in the dirt shoulder near Fortin Drive, facing traffic, when a vehicle struck her from behind.

Androscoggin County Sheriff’s deputies later arrested Amber Smith, 36, of Sabattus, charging her with manslaughter, aggravated criminal operating under the influence and causing a death while license was suspended or revoked. Officials said they found her elsewhere in Turner, passed out behind the wheel of her vehicle, which showed signs of damage consistent with a hit-and-run.

A prosecutor told Judge Susan Driscoll last week that Smith had crossed to the wrong side of the road and run into White before driving away.

“I am deeply sorry for the loss the White family is feeling now,” said Chrissy Smith, one of Amber Smith’s sisters. “It is just a horrible thing for everyone and I wish no one would have to go through any of it.”

Criminal defense attorney George Hess, appointed to represent Amber Smith, told the court that his client, who didn’t finish high school, has no money, no assets and no job. She has a 15-year-old daughter.


Chrissy Smith said her family has had “a horrible past three years” with “one tragic loss after another,” including the death of Amber’s twin brother in 2019 and their mother this year.

Smith said that White’s death last weekend was “especially heartbreaking because two lives, two families have been affected and are feeling the sorrow and loss of a loved one.”

She said that people should know that her sister Amber “is truly a kind-hearted, generous and helpful person.”

“I can’t even imagine how she is feeling about this,” her sister said. “I know in my heart that if she had knowingly caused harm to someone, she would’ve stopped to get help.”


Tina White grew up in Lewiston, graduated from Lewiston High School in 1994 and earned a degree at the University of Maine at Farmington. She then taught eighth-grade math at Auburn Middle School for four years.


She also found God in those years, embracing a sacred place she quickly came to love: the East Auburn Baptist Church, a busy community of people who try to put Jesus at the center of their lives. By all accounts, White did better than most.

At a worship concert at the church, she met Leon White and fell for him. They married in 2000 and never looked back, friends said.

The couple had two children together, Taylor and Gavin, who joined Leon’s older child LJ. For Tina, that wasn’t enough. She told the Sun Journal back in 2010 that she started thinking about adoption.

“No, we’re good. We don’t need any more kids,” Leon told her.

But “the Lord spoke to his heart,” Tina said, and before long, they’d adopted two youngsters from Ethiopia, Abraham and Julia. With that, in the summer of 2008, her family was complete.

“She loved kids,” said Brad Tripp, a family friend.


Leon and Tina White with four of their children in 2010, a few years after they adopted two Ethiopian youngsters. Sun Journal file photo

His wife, Jessica Tripp, said White often had even more youngsters staying with her, a result of her long and dedicated work with Safe Families for Children, a group that sought to provide shelter for children who needed it temporarily, among its other activities.

Another friend, Erin Fortin, said White “kept extra beds” available, just in case, “ready to go” anytime that somebody needed them.

There were times that the Whites “would come to church every weekend with eight extra kids,” Jessica Tripp said.

Several friends marveled that despite all her work, she managed to keep her house spotless and grew a fabulous garden each summer that never seemed to have any weeds. White just managed to keep everything clean, Brad Tripp said.

“She ran her home with discipline,” Winslow said, and made sure her own home-schooled children learned early to chip in with the work involved.

White “managed every moment well,” said Craig Fortin, associate pastor at East Auburn Baptist Church. Friends said she took seriously the biblical injunction to, as the King James version of the Bible put it, “Let all things be done decently and in order. “



Aimee Gibbs, another friend, said she met White in a small group session at the church. She said she learned from White about living her faith “in real life.”

“She listened to anything that God was telling her to do,” Gibbs said, and always acted with respect and honor.

They said she seemed to have limitless time, somehow able to run a household smoothly, prepare scrumptious meals, down a gallon of water daily from her ubiquitous Mason jars and make herself available to anyone who needed a boost.

“It wasn’t just fake and surface-y,” Winslow said.

“It’s unreal,” Erin Fortin said.


Friends said that White managed to meet regularly with those who were ailing or sick, to make extra meals, to check in with people going through hard times, to attend countless sporting events, to get involved with church activities and even to deliver concoctions she insisted could help people overcome illnesses such as COVID-19.

“She didn’t live a long life,” said Craig Fortin, “but she lived a complete life.”

“The woman loved Jesus. You can see it through her life,” Brad Tripp said.


Brad and Jessica Tripp were on their way to Portland on Saturday morning when Leon White phoned them as they approached New Gloucester.

He sounded shaken, Brad Tripp said, and asked them to come over as soon as they could. He said he called Fortin to give the church a heads-up that something was amiss and turned around to discover the shocking news. “It still doesn’t seem real,” Tripp said.


“It’s a huge loss for all of us,” Gibbs said.

As they struggle with White’s death, her friends said they are also praying for Smith, viewing her as a troubled soul who needs to find her way to Jesus. “She was the type of person Tina would have helped,” Craig Fortin said.

They said White’s absence will be felt by many.

“It’s going to take so many of us to make up for her loss,” Erin Fortin said. “Everyone should leave such a void,” Jessica Tripp said. “It’s going to be hard to fill.”

They said they don’t worry that White drew her last breaths with nobody around because they are sure the Lord was right there with her.

“God never leaves us,” Erin Fortin said, and when White died “within a split second, she was with Jesus.”

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