By Doug Ireland
---- — SALEM — Samantha and Cassandra Ray were popular Salem High School students who loved to laugh and hang out with their friends.
They had many other interests as well. Samantha loved cheerleading, gymnastics, dance and reading, while Cassandra enjoyed volleyball, art and was an accomplished pianist.
Thanks to their friends and family, the two sisters — who died in their early 20s — will be remembered at their alma mater for years to come.
The School Board this week accepted a $5,000 donation in memory of the two young women for a sound recording system to be used by music students at the school. The money was raised by friends of the women and their family last fall.
The contribution comes only a year after their parents, Robin Smith and Jim Michaud, donated $5,000 collected during another community fundraiser. That money was used for a reading nook in the school library.
A third fundraiser is being planned for October, according to Smith. A website is being created in their memory, she said.
“We are going to keep spreading their kindness and laughter around,” Smith said. “It’s the least we can do for two such extraordinary sisters.”
She said both daughters were very active at Salem High and enjoyed their four years there.
Both their lives were cut short not long after they left the school
Cassandra, a 2006 graduate who attended Berklee College of Music in Boston, died in a canoeing accident in Raymond in February 2010. She was 21.
Samantha, 24, died unexpectedly in April 2011 while her husband, U.S. Army Sgt. Nickolas Klinefelter, was stationed in Afghanistan. The couple had a child, Cavalli.
Before meeting her husband, she attended the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in Boston in hopes of becoming a nurse so she could help others, Smith said.
Salem High principal Tracy Collyer said the two donations will go along way in helping to further students’ education.
“We are very excited,” Collyer said yesterday.
The new system, which cost $4,485, will make it much easier for choral students and other budding musicians to record their music, Collyer said. Now, they rely on a laptop computer and a set of plug-in speakers, which doesn’t work as well, she said.
As for the reading nook, it’s become a popular place for students and staff.
It features some of the sisters’ favorite books along with armchairs, ottomans and coffee tables. The wall is decorated with artwork created from photographs Samantha took in Italy and a musical score written by Cassandra and painted by a former Salem High student.
“There is always someone in that space,” Collyer said. “There are a lot of memories in that area.”
Collyer, a former math teacher who taught both women, said both were intelligent, popular students.
While receiving the donations sparked wonderful memories of the women, it was difficult, too, remembering how much potential each possessed, she said.
“Both were great students. Both girls had a lot friends,” Collyer said. “It was bittersweet accepting the donations.”