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Sunday marks 40th anniversary of brutal murder of Charlie Howard in Bangor

The memorial for Charlie Howard near the State Street Bridge in Bangor.
hornet.com
The memorial for Charlie Howard near the State Street Bridge in Bangor.

Sunday marked the 40th anniversary of the murder of Charlie Howard, a young gay man from Bangor. Howard was walking with his friend on July 7, 1984, when three teenagers attacked him and threw him off of the State Street Bridge into the Kenduskeag Stream. Howard couldn't swim and drowned.

Susan Willey-McKay, Council Chair of the Unitarian Universalist Society of Bangor, said there was little outrage about what happened to Howard at the time.

"It was only the Unitarian Church that was outraged publicly by Charlie's death. None of the other churches spoke up. It didn't bring the ire that it would today even though a young man tragically lost his life at the hands of bigoted people," Willey-McKay said.

The Unitarian Universalist Society of Bangor held a morning service for Howard, followed by a procession to the State Street Bridge where a wreath and flowers were thrown into the stream to remember Howard.

After the ceremony people gathered at the Penobscot Theater Company in Bangor to process the morning's memorials.

Jennifer Shepard is the Executive Director of the Penobscot Theater Company.

"From our speakers outside play we're going to play "I am what I am" from La Cage aux Folles. Charlie used to sing that song when he walked around town. It's an anthem in the gay community and the LGBTQ+ community. It's a really powerful song and when you have the associations that we do in Bangor, it just resonates as kind of what we all just want," Shepard said.

Willey-McKay said a lot has changed since 1984, and more churches, businesses, and organizations are supportive of PRIDE. But she says there is a long way to go to get the acceptance LGBTQ+ people truly want.

"I want it to serve as a reminder, we still have a long way to go. And to engage in conversations with people you disagree with, civil discourse, about this issue or others. The age of civility seems to have gone out the window. We need to get it back."

The three teens that murdered Howard - Daniel Ness, Shawn Mabry, and James Francis Baines - pleaded guilty to manslaughter and were held at the Maine Youth Center until the age of 21.