DEXTER, Maine — A sea of tears was shed Saturday for a teacher who worked to improve the world one student at a time and for her two children who were the lights of her life.
Family, friends and strangers packed Dexter Regional High School’s gymnasium, cafeteria and hallways to say farewell to Amy Lake, 38, and her two children, Coty, 13, and Monica, 12, who were murdered Monday by the very person who should have protected them.
Police say that last Monday, Steven Lake, 37, Amy’s estranged husband and the children’s father, went to the Shore Road home Amy had rented in Dexter and shot all three to death, then killed himself.
“We all cried together,” Cornell Martin of Bangor said Saturday upon leaving the funeral. Martin, a former student in Dexter, said he played basketball with Coty and recalled that the team always started the games saying they were going to “burn up the floor and win for the school.” Martin called the service a very somber one.
In that service, the Rev. Will Walters of New Hope Baptist Church in Dexter told those asking themselves what they could have done to have prevented the tragedy, that one of the stages of grieving is guilt. “I wish I would have, I could have done some different, there is nothing anyone in this room could have done differently to prevent this, you did your best,” Walters said.
Amy Lake also had done her best to protect herself and her children from Steven Lake. She had obtained a protection from abuse order after he had threatened to kill her and seek revenge on those he felt had wronged him, most of whom were Amy’s relatives, according to the victim’s statements. During one incident in June 2010, Lake had gathered his family in the couple’s bedroom and held a gun down to his side that he had removed from a holster hanging on a bedpost, according to those earlier statements. Amy Lake said Steven Lake was crying and yelling that he couldn’t live without her and she thought her husband was going to kill them all then.
The couple’s relationship continued to deteriorate, leading Amy Lake to file for a divorce that was pending in the court at the time of her death. She moved her family to the Shore Road home to distance herself from her estranged husband, who was staying in Wellington. She also expressed her fear to the local police about what her husband might do. Dexter police responded to her concerns by making frequent patrols of her Shore Road home.
But somehow, Steven Lake evaded that security net. He went to Amy Lake’s home Monday, got inside and killed his family. Police said he also had planned to burn the house down because he had doused the home with light diesel fuel.
“Amy was a stable women in an unstable world,” Walters told the approximately 1,500 people assembled inside the school. “She never experienced fame or fortune by the world’s standards. She left no great works of art, wrote no books, made no great discovery; yet she impacted all of us with her service as a teacher and her friendship to many. Her goals were high, her joys were simple [and] her friendship was unquestionable.”
It is said that SAD 46 is the heart of the community, Walters said. “Today the heart of the community aches, and when the heart aches, so does the body, much like we feel as a community. Heartache.”
That heartache was evident as tissues dabbed tears that dripped from hundreds of eyes, according to Walters. As well as tears for a beloved kindergarten teacher who touched so many lives, there were tears for Coty, an avid reader and a budding sportsman, and for Monica, an athlete, an honor student, a girl who was driven like her mom, he said.
Like most of the several hundred attendees at the funeral, Cornell Martin, who was joined at the funeral by Erin Palardy of Exeter, wore purple for domestic violence awareness.
Palardy said the the loss of Amy, Coty and Monica and the words she heard Saturday “melted her heart. They really did have an impact on everybody.”
That impact was not lost to Walters. “I would say to you that even the death of these beautiful people can be a great victory in the eyes of God, if we will look at things from his perspective,” he said. “One victory that I see already is the help and outpouring of love from the community. May I suggest we continue this, trading our sorrow for service.”
After all, Amy, Coty and Monica embodied the spirit of loving and service. For example, Amy and Monica had participated in runs for cancer care and domestic violence. The loss of their presence will linger long among family and friends.
“The Bible doesn’t say not to grieve … it says if a Christian dies, we don’t grieve as those who have no hope,” Walters said. “We have hope today, not wishing, but knowing two things: Amy, Coty and Monica are in heaven right now. We can see them again.”
Amy, Coty and Monica were buried in the same casket. Just as Amy’s arms had encircled her children upon their births, her arms encircle them in death.