BARRE — Abigail Haigh wasn’t on A.G. Pendo Memorial Field for Spaulding High School’s 126th commencement on Saturday. Or was she?
Briefly a member of Spaulding’s Class of 2019, Haigh served as freshman class treasurer before losing her battle with cancer on March 2, 2016.
Was it “briefly,” or “forever” a member?
It sure seemed like the latter on Saturday when Haigh, who never saw her sophomore year, was name-dropped by valedictorian and “close friend” Lia Rubel. Sunflowers — Haigh’s favorite — were in the hands of every graduate, and her name was printed in every program.
Regrettably, it wasn’t among the list of graduates, but it was there nonetheless because Haigh’s words figure prominently in the class mural produced by then-senior-now-graduate Aubrey Benoit.
“Make sure you’ve left leaving a mark,” Haigh once wrote, inspiring Benoit to memorialize the advice in a framed mural that will be hung with others like it in a corridor at Spaulding. A shrunk-down version of Benoit’s mural was printed in the programs handed to all who attended Saturday’s graduation.
Many of the 138 graduates knew Haigh well, others barely knew her and more than a few never met her.
Rubel, who mentioned Haigh in a valedictory address, suggested the Class of 2019 lived up to the challenge once penned by its missing member.
“Over four years, not only have we become less lost, less unsure and less awkward … we’ve left our mark on Spaulding High School and the Barre community,” she said, adding: “We’ve made Barre a better place.”
The list of examples Rubel cited was long and included Jamie Heath becoming an author, Benoit winning the congressional art show, Ella McCarthy and Molly Hood raising money and awareness for separate charities and Makayla Chouinard, Emma Poirier, Carmelitta Le and Ella Hilton Van Osdall inventing a concussion detecting protocol that they presented in Stanford. Throw in three state championship appearances, eight drama productions, 16 band and choral concerts and innumerable community contributions and Rubel said you begin to appreciate the mark the Class of 2019 made.
“We have a lot to be proud of — individually, and as a class,” she said, urging graduates to “pause” and “sit in this moment.”
“Be proud and don’t forget to congratulate yourself,” she said. “We did it!”
While Rubel’s speech dealt mostly with the “past,” Emma Poirier, this year’s salutatorian, focused on the “present,” telling graduates it was finally time to celebrate their success.
“This graduation is a culmination of everything we’ve done in the past and a starting point for everything we’re going to do in the future,” she said. “It’s that point between where we were and where we’re going.”
Poirier urged graduates to “create memories” and “be present” for both family and friends.
“Today is the day we’ve been waiting for,” she said, adding: “Now that it’s finally here, don’t forget to live it.”
Class President Justin Thurber focused on the “future,” confessing he was a little scared, but also convinced he was prepared.
“The amazing thing about the future is it hasn’t happened yet, so there’s still time to change it,” Thurber said, offering some parting advice to the class.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re going off to college, working or still exploring,” he said. “Do the things that make you happy, and be the person that you want to be.”
Channeling her eighth-grade self, Ella McCarthy expressed a similar sentiment in a welcoming address that borrowed from a letter she wrote before coming to Spaulding.
“We must all find the courage and strength to jump,” she said. “Into the unknown, into the uncomfortable, and most importantly into the start of the rest of our lives.
“We’ve got this!” McCarthy added. “We will succeed and, just as we did four years ago, we will find comfort in the unknown.”
The ceremony included several musical performances, including the class song — “One Last Time” — which was written and performed by seniors Taylor Winter and Colleen Couture. Classmate David Toborg had a solo and led graduates and the crowd in one last spirited rendition of “Glory to Spaulding.”
The singing of the school song occurred right after graduates were presented their diplomas and right before senior Lindsay LaPan’s brief farewell address that ended when she instructed her classmates to turn their tassels.
Once that was done graduates marched off the field to “Pomp and Circumstance” holding sunflowers in memory of a fallen classmate who mad sure she left leaving a mark.