PELHAM — A new memorial at Pelham Memorial School holds special meaning for Ray Wilkins.
It bears the names of his three beloved, deceased sons — Kyle, Matthew and Patrick.
He passes the memorial every day on his way to the office. He works at the school on the maintenance staff.
“I see it every morning,” Wilkins said yesterday. “And I think about my boys.”
The boys were triplets but destined for a short life. The diagnosis of muscular dystrophy came at age 5.
Wilkins and his wife, Lisa, lost Kyle last January at age 21. Patrick had died a few months earlier, also at age 21. Brother Matt had died seven years before at age 15.
The Wilkinses live in Chelmsford but are much liked by the Pelham community.
Pelham kids who passed through the middle school over the years knew Wilkins well. He has worked there 30 years.
The Wilkinses no longer coach youth sports, but they did. He was a baseball and basketball coach; she coached volleyball.
“The memorial means a lot because Mr. Wilkins has been such a valuable part of the community and our building for 30 years,” Principal Stephen Secor said.
Though the Wilkins family lived in Chelmsford, a lot of the staff at Pelham Memorial got to know the boys.
“The boys would be in the building a lot,” Secor said.
Natasha Goyette, now a mother herself, had gone through the Pelham schools and remembered the Wilkinses.
When her mother called to tell Goyette about Kyle’s death, she had to do something.
“I needed to channel that into something good,” Goyette said.
The something good is the memorial, to be dedicated next Thursday in a simple ceremony at 5:30 p.m. outside the school.
Goyette got the ball rolling, Frank Sullivan from the Good Neighbor Fund got on board, the community followed without hesitation.
“We raised over $5,000. Our goal was $3,000,” Goyette said. “We spent every last penny.”
There’s a granite bench engraved in the boys’ honor, cobblestones, trees and perennial flowers.
Andrew Sawyer, who as a kid played ball for Wilkins, built picnic tables.
Boyden Landscaping, Hudson Monuments and the Pelham Aces all got involved in the project.
“I wanted Ray and Lisa to feel better, but everybody joined in,” Goyette said.
Goyette remembers them as “super sweet and nice.”
She reflected on the project.
“I know this won’t make it easier, but I thought they would know so many people around them love them and support them,” she said.
That they do.
“They did a great job,” Wilkins said. “I can’t believe that Pelham has done so much for my boys and family.”
Goyette sees in the Wilkinses a monument of a different kind, a living monument to good parenting.
“It is so sad to talk about this without wanting to cry,” she said.
“Those boys were so spirited and positive and happy all the time,” Goyette said. “Their mom and dad should be supported, celebrated and honored.”
Wilkins said they just tried to raise the boys to enjoy every minute life would give them.
“They enjoyed school and going to sporting events,” he said. “Each had their own personality.”
Kyle and Patrick became college students. Patrick took online courses from Southern New Hampshire University. Kyle went to UMass Lowell.
Goyette said she can only imagine how hard this all was on the family, especially when Matt died leaving only his brothers.
Next week’s dedication will be a special but emotional and challenging time for the Wilkins family.
“We’re overwhelmed,” Wilkins said.
“But we really appreciate it,” he said. “This way our boys will not be forgotten.”