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
Ohio judge’s ruling leaves parents of Holliston’s Emilee Gagnon ‘heartbroken’,
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
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.’”
Emilee and an unidentified friend, from
Emilee's Facebook page in 2013.
By Bryan Marquard Globe Staff,October 27, 2013, 12:11 a.m.
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
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
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
“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
“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-
“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
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
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
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
“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
“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 email@example.com.