LEWISTON, Maine — Apart from family and friends, Josh Seal loved nothing more than disc golf.
The Lisbon Falls resident, also a vital member of the deaf community, would take his wife and four kids to watch him play in national tournaments.
“He would do it every weekend if he could, but I would say, ‘Hey honey, please can you just hang with our kids, with our family just a little bit before you go play?’” his wife, Elizabeth Seal, who is also deaf, said Sunday through a sign language interpreter on the steps of the Lewiston Armory.
But Seal would always find time to “move heaven and earth for his family” while also caring greatly for the deaf community, she added.
Seal, 36, and three other deaf victims — Billy Brackett, 48; Steve Vozzella, 45; and Bryan MacFarlane, 41 — died while playing in their weekly cornhole league at Schemengees. Two others on the nine-member cornhole team were injured Wednesday night, while three escaped uninjured.
“If you knew Josh, you were fortunate,” Elizabeth Seal said. “You were a lucky person.”
Josh Seal was an interpreter for the Pine Tree Society, which supports Mainers with disabilities, and had worked as an educational technician at the Maine Educational Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing’s Governor Baxter School for the Deaf, on Mackworth Island in Falmouth.
The Seal family’s four deaf children — Jayson, 12; Sephine, 9; Jarrod, 6; and Jaxton, 3 — have all taken part in the center and school’s programs.
Elizabeth Seal said her husband wanted deaf and hard of hearing children “to come together, to be together, to have direct connections with deaf staff, to grow and develop an identity and not feel so alone.”
“He made their days brighter,” she said.
After the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, Seal also became a familiar face alongside state leaders as an interpreter during regular briefings. Nirav Shah, principal deputy director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, previously led the state’s counterpart agency and described Seal in a social media post as the “literal voice (and face) of the COVID response for the Deaf community in Maine and beyond.”
“Josh very much valued … interpreting to ensure that all individuals had access, and not just to provide a simple interpretation, but to make sure the message was accessible,” Elizabeth Seal said.
Elizabeth Seal said her brother informed her at home Thursday of Josh’s death. Jayson and Sephine also were there, while Jarrod and Jaxton were at her in-laws’ home.
“Sharing that with my oldest two children, there were a lot of ‘no’s.’ There was some screaming, some disbelief in that moment, and actually that’s an image that I will hold with me forever,” she said. “I don’t know if that will ever, ever fade.”
Elizabeth Seal said when her in-laws brought Jarrod and Jaxton home to learn about their father’s death, they were “pretending that it wasn’t real.”
The two youngest kids didn’t say much Thursday, but by Friday night, “they didn’t leave my side,” Elizabeth Seal said.
“There was quite a lot of bickering over who got to be closest to Mom [in bed], and so we ended up making a Mom sandwich,” she said. “… and I think that’s when they started to make those connections, because they don’t necessarily have the language to share their feelings, but they are able to show the emotion.”
Elizabeth Seal also shared how Jaxton noticed when she was folding laundry later in the week and put one of Josh’s shirts aside.
The 3-year-old cried, “No, no, no. That’s Daddy’s. That’s Daddy’s,” she said. “He has never said that type of comment in the past, and so that was really tricky and really hard.”
But amid the grief and sadness, Elizabeth Seal said her Lisbon Falls neighbors, family and friends have reached out to provide food, play dates for the kids and love. Members of the deaf community in Maine and around the country have also come together to support the victims.
The suspected gunman, Robert R. Card II, 40, of Bowdoin, was found dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound Friday at a Lisbon recycling plant he once worked at, not far from where the Army reservist abandoned his vehicle after the shootings as police conducted a 48-hour manhunt. A motive is not known. Card’s family said he recently began wearing powerful hearing aids and insisted he was hearing people speak poorly about him.
If Josh Seal were alive, his wife said he would not just talk about the shootings.
“He’d want to see action, for us to do something about it,” Elizabeth Seal said. “He [would want] to share resources and make contacts and collaborate to really fix the situation and find solutions.”
Correction: An earlier version of this report misstated the day Elizabeth Seal was informed of her husband’s death.