Hundreds of mourners paid tribute during a public memorial in Manchester on Saturday to the two brothers killed in a car crash in Bow earlier this month.
Nicholas Ouellette, 16, and brother Gavin Ouellette, 6, died in a crash on Interstate 89 on Sept. 10, when the car their father was driving veered into the breakdown lane and hit a stopped truck.
Football teammates from Bow High School and Bow Youth Football, police officers from all over southern New Hampshire, teachers and hundreds of friends attended the memorial service for Gavin and Nick, sharing their memories of the brothers and grieving together.
“The world got really dark,” said Julie Ouellette Barrios, an aunt who spoke on the family’s behalf. Parents Thomas and Jennifer Ouellette stood just behind her — Jennifer Ouellette in Nick’s white Bow Falcons football jersey, hand covering her face as Ouellette Barrios recalled the way Nick was effortlessly funny and charming, how Gavin would borrow his sister’s makeup as “face paint” and the way he liked to dress up in a police uniform and ride around in a miniature cruiser, like his police officer father.
“You hear of terrible tragedies happening on the news, and your heart breaks,” she said. “You hope it never happens to you. Here we are, it happened to us.”
Teachers remembered Gavin was always smiling, surrounded by friends and brimming with energy. Sarah Mann, who coached Gavin’s T-ball team last year, remembered Gavin running the bases for the first time during a game, capped with a flamboyant slide into home.
“I will cherish my memories of Gavin’s unforgettable smile,” Mann said.
Gavin was always smiling, always happy, family and teachers recalled. He would get up every morning and greet his mother by saying, “Good morning, beautiful mommy,” said Julie Ouellette Barrios.
Jessica Desrochers, a Bow High School teacher, said it’s hard to believe Nick, so full of life, is gone. “It feels like he’s just out for the day, and we’ll see his bright smile tomorrow,” she said.
Desrochers said Nick was helpful, and would never hesitate to apologize. He was willing to buckle down and work in class, but especially when it came to sports.
Bow High School football coach Paul Cohen recalled how he immediately saw Nick’s sense of humor and dedication. He knew how to work for the team’s goals. “He typified what I as a coach look for in a Bow football player.”
Football was Nick’s passion, but Bow High junior varsity football coach Chris Robbins said Nick played basketball well, too. Friends recalled he loved to try jumping on skis, engaged in some amateur gymnastics — mastering a standing backflip, and gleefully flipping at any opportunity — and even partook of a little swimming and diving — flipping from rope swings, and once diving from a railroad bridge into the Merrimack River.
“We love you, and we miss you an indescribable amount,” friend Theodore Pfeifle said.
Cohen said he wanted those mourning the deaths of Nick and Gavin Ouellette to take comfort in the time they did have with the boys.
“It is a stark reminder of how precious yet fleeting life can be, and will forever be etched in each of us,” Cohen said.