Remembering Lilyanna - Memorial to teen killed on Messer Street Bridge dedicated on third anniversary of her death

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By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — Just a few feet from where her life was taken, stands a granite post, topped with a plaque bearing her picture, her birth and death dates, and angel's wings above an inscription — "It's Always Sunny Above the Clouds" — ensuring that Lilyanna Amara Johnson will never be forgotten by her family, her friends and her community.
Yesterday, three years to the day, Lilyanna, then just 14, was struck by a car at the foot of the Messer Street Bridge, and a crowd of all ages, with teenagers its largest component, gathered at the scene to dedicate the memorial. People mingled and hugged. Some placed flowers. Others tied balloons. All shared memories of Lilyanna. There were no speeches and many more smiles than tears, which one woman remarked is how Lilyanna would have liked it.
The memorial is the work of Susan Fleming, Lilyanna's grandmother, who said "It is for the community and for my daughter, Bethany. She is my only daughter," she continued, "and I can't imagine what I would do without her."
She said that Bethany "struggled with the loss of Lilyanna and got beyond it, and I wanted something personal for her. She can come here and feel good," she said. "This is where her happiness ended, but now it is a positive place."
Lilyanna's close friend Allyssa Miner, who was alongside her and severely injured when the car hit them both, stood near the very spot.
"It's hard, but..." she said.
Classmates at Woodlands Heights Elementary School, Allyssa chose Lilyanna as her hero. She has overcome her injuries to play three sports at Laconia High School, but Fleming said wrestles with Lilyanna's passing.
"I tell her," Fleming said, "I never wanted you to go with Lily. I wanted Lily to go with you."
Kyle Chiasson, who was close to Lilyanna throughout her life, described her as "an amazing person" and "the kindest person you could ever hope to meet." He said that he took her loss "very hard" and was pleased she would be remembered by a memorial.
A classmate and close friend Ciara LaGarde was also shaken when a friend told her Lilyanna was gone, but said "It teaches you a lot, to cherish every moment. You don't ever believe it could happen to you or to your friends."
The memorial, she said,is a reminder of "the value of friendship and the value of life."
Looking over the crowd, Fleming remarked "Lily had a boatload of friends. She was an angel here and there. That's our Lily."

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04-20 Lilyanna Johnson

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Dinner and auction to help Belmont family displaced by fire (211)

BELMONT – Fellow police officers and friends of Sgt. Steve Akerstom, the police officer whose home was severely damaged in a two-alarm blaze in Gilmanton April 15, are hosting a spaghetti dinner for him and his family.

The dinner will be held at the VFW Post 1670 in Laconia at 6 p.m. on April 29, and the entertainment will be by Jackie Lee.

Along with the spaghetti dinner, there will be a silent auction and raffle.

People who wish to assist can attend the dinner or donate items for a silent auction.

Akerstrom and his wife, Sarah, are the parents of two small children and, according to friend and fellow Belmont Police Sgt. Adam Hawkins, one end of the home will have to be rebuilt. He said the family lost all of their belongings to fire, smoke and water damage.

No one was home at the time and no one was injured. The family is displaced for a while but is staying with family.

For more information about the spaghetti dinner, see www.facebook.com/events/780368828766482/.

For those who cannot attend the spaghetti dinner but who still wish to help, see www.gofundme.com/x3z8t4wk.

The Akerstroms would like to extend their thanks to Gilmanton Police Sgt. Casey Brennan and the Gilmanton Fire and Rescue Department for their quick response.

– Gail Ober

Sachems are Disney-bound - Teacher to march one last time with LHS band

By ROGER AMSDEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — Members of the Laconia High School Marching Band are full of anticipation and excitement as they prepare for next week's trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, where they will be leading the Main Street Electric Light Parade in the Magic Kingdom on Thursday, April 28, at 8:30 p.m.
It's the first performance outside of New England for clarinet player Taylor Gagne, the president of the band, who says that performing before the large crowds at Disney World is "a once in a lifetime opportunity."
Gagne, a senior, has been playing the clarinet for eight years, and is a member of the Tri-M Music Honor Society and has been selected four times to play with the New Hampshire Music Festival. He's also performed at Plymouth State University in it's All New England Festival featuring the best high school musicians from the six-state region.
"I'm definitely excited about the whole trip. It's kind of nerve racking to think about how you'll perform in such a large setting and it will be a challenge for all of us to do our best," says Gagne, who says that although he'll be far away from Laconia he won't be lonely as he'll be traveling with over 40 other band members as well as chaperones. "It's like being with a large family away from home," he says.
Gagne is the co-drum major and will be leading the marching band and along with Mariah Hawkins, the other co-drum major, who plays tenor sax, and says that she is very excited about the trip.
"It's going to be a wonderful experience for everyone involved," said Hawkins after the musicians went through a practice session Monday afternoon under the watchful eye of Laconia High School Music teacher Debbie Gibson, who has been teaching music in Laconia ever since 1988 and has led other LHS musicians on trips to Disney World. This will be her last trip with the school to Florida, as she is retiring at the end of the school year.
"Since our first trip there in 2000, we have been invited back on a regular basis," says Gibson. She says that, in addition to the marching band, complete with color guard, the school's jazz band, concert band and concert choir will also be making the trip and taking part in competitions, which will take place off grounds with the exception of a Parade March to be held on Friday, April 29, at 7:30 p.m., in the Epcot Center's Future world.
The Sachems will also be wearing new band uniforms during the trip, which were purchased thanks to a $30,000 fund raising campaign undertaken by the Laconia High School Band Boosters.
Emily Huckins, who plays the sousaphone in the band, says she has been involved in music since the sixth grade, when she started by playing a trombone, and says that all the band members are counting down the minutes until they'll be heading to Florida.
'Everyone has the countdown on their cellphone and we're staying in touch with each other and sharing the excitement we all feel about making the trip. And we're working real hard in our practices so that we'll be really prepared to good a good job when we perform," says Huckins.

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Laconia High School Band members practiced Monday in preparation for next week's trip to Disney World in Florida where they will lead the Main Street Electric Light Parade in the Magic Kingdom on Thursday, April 28. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)

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The Laconia High School Marching Band will be traveling to Florida next week for performances at Disney World and the Epcot Center. (Courtesy photo)

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