BANGOR – More than thirty years after an openly gay man was killed in Bangor, a local church remembered Charlie Howard.
Members of the Unitarian Universalist Church gathered Sunday at the spot where Charlie Howard was murdered, singing songs and remembering his life.
The 23 year old was killed July 7th of 1984, when three men pulled up in a car beside him on State Street and attacked him for being gay.
“They said ‘we’re going to throw you over the bridge’ and he said ‘I can’t swim’ and they threw him over the bridge anyway, and he died,” recounted Linda Koehler, who attends the Unitarian Universalist Society of Bangor.
Howard was a part of Bangor’s Unitarian Church. So every year, church members honor Howard by leaving flowers behind in the Kenduskeag Stream where he drowned.
“In the hopes that nothing like this ever happens again here or anywhere,” said Koehler about why they still have the memorial service.
Sunday there was also a memorial service at the church itself. Church members focused on the young man’s unfinished work toward inclusion of the gay and lesbian community.
“We have shifted our focus so that it’s celebrating tolerance in diversity, and justice,” said Phyllis Havens, who serves on the worship committee.
They said Howard’s mother picked out the flowers they’ve used in the annual memorial.
In the current political climate, some church-goers said the service takes on a new level of importance.
“We’ve felt like we’ve been going forward and making all kinds of progress,” said Sue McKay, “and under the current administration that’s a little more in doubt.”
Those who knew him and those who never met Howard were trying to spread some love out of a dark spot in Bangor’s history.
“I heard that he was a fun, vivacious guy, just full of love,” said Koehler. She said we have to “keep our history in our memories so that we don’t repeat this kind of terrible thing.”
In 2014, July 7th was proclaimed “Tolerance Day” in Bangor in Howard’s honor.