EMILEE DAWN GAGNON

    GAGNON, Emilee Dawn 21, of Holliston, was tragically taken from her loving family
    September 23rd, 2013 as a result of a bicycle accident in Ohio; while on a cross country trip
    to benefit Multiple Sclerosis. Born in Winchester, MA., she was the beautiful, colourful, free
    spirited, full of life daughter of John and Celia (Osmer) Gagnon of Holliston. A 2013
    Westfield State University Graduate, Emilee had majored in Art History, Ethnic Studies and
    Foreign Language with honors, earning Dean's List each year she was there. She worked
    for 4 years at Westfield State University Library as a librarian and also had a leadership
    position at the library. She was an artist and enjoyed selling her art work, paintings and
    photographs in front of Fiske's General Store and local shops and boutiques here in
    Holliston, as well as on her journey to help benefit MS and her expenses. At the age of 13,
    Emilee was an Ovarian Cancer Survivor. She was involved in the Relay for Life for many
    years. She was also part of many Multiple Sclerosis walks and bike rides. Her maternal
    Grandfather has MS and he was her inspiration. She held two black belts in two different
    styles of Jiu Jitsu, and enjoyed hula-hooping. She was an avid reader and often had reading
    parties with her two siblings. She spent many summers with her family in Kent, England
    since the age of 9 months, enjoying that people often thought she was from England. She
    was very proud of her English heritage. After Emilee's treatment, the family was honored
    with an unforgettable wish, on Emilee's behalf, to Italy, gratefully provided by The Make A
    Wish Foundation. A trip of a lifetime. Besides her parents, Emilee is survived by her siblings,
    Rebecca and Oliver Gagnon of Holliston; her paternal grandparents, Joseph and Joan
    Gagnon of Uxbridge; maternal grandparents, Dawn and Gerald Osmer of Kent, England; her
    uncles, Gary, Joseph, Mark, David, Billy, Matthew, Timothy Gagnon, and Mark Osmer; her
    aunts, Deborah LeBlanc, Denise Brosnahan, Mary Ann Scott, and Mechelle Linehan as well
    as their spouses. She also leaves many cousins and close friends. She was a true friend to
    all. Visitation will be held on Sunday, September 29th from 2-6 p.m. at the Chesmore
    Funeral Home of Holliston. A funeral service will take place on Monday, September 30th at
    11:00a.m. at the First Congregational Church in Holliston. In lieu of flowers, donations in
    Emilees memory may be made to the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation, www.mymsaa.org or to
    the Make a Wish Foundation, www.wish.org

                                                          
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    Ohio judge’s ruling leaves parents of Holliston’s Emilee Gagnon ‘heartbroken’,
    ‘devastated’

    HOLLISTON - Celia and John Gagnon say they are “devastated” and “heartbroken” after
    hearing that the Ohio woman found guilty of killing their daughter, Emilee, in 2014
    successfully had her record sealed by an Ottawa County judge last month.

    “It’s totally unfair to Emilee and Emilee’s family, relatives and friends,” said John Gagnon, who
    lives in Holliston with his wife.

    On Sept. 23, 2013, Lynne Smith was driving to her Ohio home when she struck Emilee, 21,
    who was biking cross-country to raise money for multiple sclerosis research. Emilee’s
    grandfather had suffered from the disease.

    Emilee Gagnon had recently graduated from Westfield State University and was planning to
    bike from Holliston to San Francisco.

    In her statement following the accident, Smith said she was adjusting her car visor to block
    out solar glare and was having a hard time seeing what was ahead of her. Her car collided
    with Emilee’s bicycle. Smith said she was driving between 55 to 58 mph at the time.

    In 2014, Smith pleaded no contest to a charge of vehicular manslaughter and fined $750 and
    court costs, lost her license for two years and was sentenced to three years probation.

    Earlier this year, Smith petitioned to the Ottawa County Municipal Court to have her record
    sealed, she said, in hopes of being able to move on from the crash.

    Assistant Ottawa County prosecutor Blake Skilliter filed an objection to Smith’s request,
    noting that “the defendant’s conduct resulted in the death of a victim.”

    Following a public hearing in July, Judge Frederick C. Hany II on Oct. 19 granted Smith’s
    request on the basis of a number of criteria, noting that “the nature of the offense cannot
    provide the sole basis to deny the application of Ms. Smith.”

    Specifically, Hany said given the nature of the violation, Smith was within hers right to request
    sealing the records. He said Smith had taken responsibility for what she had done and has
    “expressed her extreme remorse for causing this accident.”

    Hany went on to note Smith “had served her entire sentence without incident, and was in fact
    terminated early from her probation period due to her successful and productive behavior
    and attitude.”

    In addition to hearing Emilee’s parents’ testimony, the judge also heard the testimony of Ohio
    attorney Steve Magas, an outspoken advocate for the bicycle community who has worked to
    recommend the passage of more bicycle-safety legislation.

    Ultimately, the judge ruled there was no public need to keep Smith’s record open and called
    on all those “who are broken” to honor Emilee’s life by living their lives “full of energy, love
    and compassion,” according to court documents.

    Smith’s attorney, Scott Ciolek, said Smith has chosen not to speak to any media following the
    judge’s order, but noted before the hearing the Gagnons and Smith were able meet in a
    conference room “to speak to each other openly then.”

    Celia Gagnon told the Daily News she disputes Hany’s claim that Smith is remorseful. She
    found it “extremely hurtful” that Hany said both families had suffered extreme loss.

    “I was pretty disgusted with the way the judge had written in his paperwork about both families
    being broken,” she said. “I think it was heartless and hurtful to put us in the same category
    because she hasn’t lost anyone. She caused this whole thing.”

    She added, “I don’t know where the judge sees it or where her (Smith’s) lawyer sees it but we,
    in five years, have never seen a shred of remorse from that woman.”

    Gagnon said she believes Smith only apologized in front of the judge, on the advice of her
    lawyer. Despite many claims made by Smith that she wrote an apology letter to the Gagnons
    after the incident, the family has yet to receive it, Gagnon said.

    The Gagnons said they believe this is just another example of incompetence on the side of
    the state of Ohio and police. They believe Smith wasn’t given a harsh enough sentence in
    2014 and that the investigation as a whole was conducted poorly and haphazardly. They
    believe Smith should have been charged with reckless driving.

    Knowing what they know now, they said they wished they had reached out to Magas earlier,
    who became a strong advocate fighting to keep Smith’s records open, they said.

    “He was amazing for us, but we were not knowledgeable about him - we were in a different
    state,” John Gagnon said. “What we’re hoping for is that if someday this happens to someone
    else, and they come across this article, they will know they can always call the ‘bike lawyer.’”

    Milford Daily News, November 20, 2018

.

    Emilee and an unidentified friend, from
    Emilee's Facebook page in 2013.

    Emilee Gagnon, 21; artist used life as canvas for creativity

    By Bryan Marquard Globe Staff,October 27, 2013, 12:11 a.m.

    In one of her last Tumblr posts, Emilee Gagnon paid tribute to the mode of
    transportation she used on a trip that, in an earlier entry, she predicted would change
    her life. Just weeks after graduating from Westfield State University, she left her Holliston
    home to ride a bicycle alone to San Francisco.

    “My glorious steed with the strength and light of 100 suns,” she wrote under a photo she
    shot of her bicycle. “She’s a beauty and I can’t believe I’ve done over 600 miles on her,
    with 1000s to come with 85 lbs of gear. Love you for taking me on the adventure of a
    lifetime!”

    By many measures, her entire life had been an adventure, though not always in ways
    anyone would wish. Diagnosed with cancer at 13, she emerged from treatment with the
    kind of resolve not often seen in adolescence. When her hair vanished, she went to
    school without a wig, hat, or scarf. When it returned, she made her very being into a
    canvas for her artistic aspirations, dying her hair a spectrum of colors.
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    “Emilee was literally a walking piece of art work herself,” Jamie Wainright, who chairs the
    art department at Westfield State, said in statement the university released after Ms.
    Gagnon died Sept. 23.

    To those closest to her, Ms. Gagnon could be counted on to turn almost any encounter
    into laughter.

    Ms. Gagnon was riding west on State Road 163 in Genoa, Ohio, outside Toledo, when a
    sport utility vehicle struck her from behind, according to police, who added that the driver
    had been adjusting a sun visor against glare when the crash occurred. Ms. Gagnon, who
    was 21 and wearing a helmet, died from injuries suffered when she was thrown from her
    bicycle.

    “At 21, I think, she had touched more people than a lot of people do living to 90,” said
    Ms. Gagnon’s mother, Celia. “I always thought, ‘Oh, Emilee, she survived cancer, she
    has this wonderful personality, and she’s so outgoing and courageous. She’s going to
    have an amazing life because she’s had her burden, she got through it, and she’ll never
    have to worry.’”

    Ms. Gagnon was using the trip to raise money for research into multiple sclerosis, with
    which her maternal grandfather, Gerald Osmer of Kent, England, has been diagnosed.

    “Whatever she did, she put 110 percent into,” her mother said.

    Although riding across the country solo was an enormous undertaking, “I think if
    anybody could do it, Emilee could because she wasn’t going to let anything stop her,”
    Celia Gagnon said. “She was on a mission and, by the sounds of it, having an amazing
    time.”

    “When I first heard, I thought, ‘This is crazy, this is really, really crazy,’ ” Courtney
    Tierney, Ms. Gagnon’s best friend since they met in kindergarten, said of the cross-
    country trip.

    “Then I thought, if any of my friends would do this, it would be Emilee,” Tierney said. “It
    was so her. If anyone I knew was going to do this brave, courageous, awesome thing for
    charity, it was going to be her. I loved seeing all her pictures and reading her updates. I
    was so proud of her for doing this.”

    Emilee Dawn Gagnon was born in Winchester and lived with her family in Waltham for a
    few years before they moved to Holliston. She was the oldest of three children and, from
    the 1987 children’s movie “The Brave Little Toaster,” adopted Toaster as her middle
    name for her Facebook page.

    “She never really was a big doll girl. She took books with her wherever she went,” her
    mother said. “She started volunteering at the local library when she was in sixth grade.”

    In March 2005, when Ms. Gagnon was 13, she woke up one Saturday with a stomach
    ache that turned out to be “a tumor on her right ovary the size of a melon,” her mother
    said.

    Uncomplaining, Ms. Gagnon underwent surgery, chemotherapy, and follow-up treatment
    over the next couple of years.

    “She was always a very strong personality before,” her mother said. “And she often said
    to me that she wants to do whatever she chooses to do. I think she thought she had
    been given a second chance.”

    Among the chances Ms. Gagnon took was deciding that her wig was too itchy and that it
    was time for students to see what she looked like after chemotherapy. “Most people are
    afraid to be who they are,” her mother said. “And she was never like that. Emilee was
    Emilee.”

    Bald for a time at Holliston High School, “she just walked around so proudly as if she was
    saying, ‘I am a rock star,’ and I thought, ‘Yes, you are you are a rock star,’ ” Tierney
    recalled.

    After Ms. Gagnon’s hair grew back, the dying began. “You never knew what color it
    would be, and she could rock any color,” Tierney said.

    “I think she’s just one of those people that no matter what, she was always herself, and I
    think that was really inspiring to me,” said Ms. Gagnon’s 19-year-old sister, Rebecca.
    “She really helped me grow and come out of my shell.”

    Ms. Gagnon was on the honor roll of Holliston High School’s class of 2009. She was a
    Commonwealth honors scholar when she graduated in May from Westfield State,
    majoring in art, with minors in French and ethnic and gender studies. Her senior honors
    project was called “Revolutionary Beauty: Five Twentieth-Century Women Artists’
    Challenges to the Western Art Canon.”

    To those closest to her, Ms. Gagnon was foremost a friend with whom all could be
    shared and someone who could be counted on to turn almost any encounter into
    laughter.

    “She was one of the funniest people I’ve ever known. I’m just going to miss laughing with
    her,” Tierney said.

    “She was always someone I could talk to and she’d always understand what I meant
    when I was talking to her,” said her 12-year-old brother, Oliver. “She was awesome.”

    A service has been held for Ms. Gagnon, who besides her mother, sister, brother, and
    maternal grandfather leaves her father, John of Holliston; her maternal grandmother

    Rebecca said that before departing, Ms. Gagnon told her: “I just want to figure
    everything out. I want to go by myself and say: I did this.”

    Not long before leaving, Ms. Gagnon’s typed a joyful Tumblr post in anticipation of the
    journey ahead.

    “Terrified but so excited,” she wrote. “This is going to be an amazing, life changing trip, I
    can’t believe it’s happening.”

    Bryan Marquard can be reached at bryan.marquard@globe.com.

                                                          
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