EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

June 15, 2013

Pelham grads saved a seat for deceased classmate

Robert Duffy taught them 'to hug a little tighter, to take life one day at a time'

By John Toole
jtoole@eagletribune.com

---- — PELHAM — Graduating Pelham High seniors last night remembered a classmate who could not be with them.

Valedictorian Joe Minichiello had the initials of his friend, Robert Duffy, painted on his cap. A few other graduates did, too, he said.

Duffy had died from a brain tumor when the Class of 2013 were just freshmen, Minichiello said.

“We have an empty chair upfront for him,” the valedictorian said before the ceremony.

He also remembered Duffy in his remarks. “He taught each and every one of us to hug a little tighter, to take life one day at a time, to give each other a hand when we see a classmate in need, and that a smile is the perfect cure to any case of the blues.”

Principal Dorothy Mohr told the audience the Class of 2013 knows Duffy is celebrating their accomplishments.

The class included 131 graduates.

Mohr recognized All State athletes, national award winning student artists and more than 9,700 hours of community service performed by the class.

Seventy-eight percent of the students are going to college and 67 percent already have earned college credits, she said.

“Make your plan and enjoy your journey,” Mohr told the graduates, reminding them destiny does not use Twitter.

“You have to make your destiny a matter of choice,” she said.

Salutatorian Jaden Yabut challenged the graduates to keep on climbing. “Don’t become complacent with just the one mountaintop,” Yabut said.

Graduate Alicia Gendron, a basketball player, decorated her cap with symbols of basketball. Classmate Kirsten Salois had a quote from A.A. Milne, author of Winnie-the-Pooh: “You’re braver than you believe; stronger than you seem; smarter than you think.”

Jacob Ciechon’s grandparents, Richard and Virginia, came from Hooksett to watch him graduate. “We’re very proud of him,” she said.

Ann Renaud brought a half-dozen lavender roses for her graduating niece, Chloe LeMaitre.

“I’m thrilled she is graduating,” Renaud said of LeMaitre, bound for Middlesex Community College where she is starting her education to become an elementary school teacher.