This year's Vigil of Remembrance was the fifth to be led by District Attorney Capeless, who carries on the tradition of honoring lives lost at the hands of drunk drivers, begun in 1998 by the late District Attorney Gerard D. Downing.
Approximately 100 people attended the vigil to honor 40 lives lost. Family members lit candles as the names were read in remembrance. "It allows us to remain connected to people who've lost loved ones," Capeless said following the vigil. "Unfortunately, we keep adding names."
Remembered for the first time this year were Lisa Cooney and Richard Kleiner. The names of others have remained on the list for many years. Each year since 2002, Lynda Sherman lights a candle in the name of her daughter, Barbara LaFrance, who was hit by a drunk driver. Ms. LaFrance remained in a coma for five years, passing away in 2007.
Joyce Wrend, a former MADD Chapter Coordinator, could not attend this year, although her daughter is remembered each and every year. Joyce and her husband, Benjamin, were the force behind bringing this annual event in Berkshire County in 1998 after their daughter, Alison, died at the age of 18 in a drunk driving crash. Joyce's experience and wisdom continue to guide us through this event each and every year. This year District Attorney Capeless had the honor of lighting Alison's candle as the Wrend family was unable to attend.
Community involvement makes this event particularly memorable, which all participants look forward to each year. Students from Pittsfield, Taconic and Drury High Schools offered moving readings and the talented St. Joseph High School Chorus performed a selection of beautiful music. Troopers Jean Thibodeau and Brian Berkel of the Massachusetts State Police stood guard during the ceremony, lighting candles when a family member could not.
Whether it is the annual memento that each family takes home, the light refreshments and conversation that follow, or simply that moment when their loved one's face is shown or their name announced, the families of victims that we honor come back year after year. District Attorney Capeless said, "Some have told us that this ceremony is the only gift that they can now give to the one who is no longer here."