Family Celebrates Slain Mother’s Life
Family and friends of Kelly Robarge gather to honor her with prayers, poems and balloons in Charlestown on Saturday. Pictured from left are family friends Nancy Blake and Dylon McCutcheon, Robarge’s daughter Ciera Robarge, and friend Patty Hutchins. (Medora Hebert photograph)
Roger Moul, James Robarge’s father, and Mary Wright talk with the Rev. Steve Lepine before yesterday’s celebration of Kelly Robarge’s life. Robarge went missing on June 27. Her body was found in Unity nine days later. James Robarge faces a charge of reckless second-degree murder in connection with her death. (Medora Hebert photograph)
Carol Hewitt, left, and Mary Wright hug at the memorial service for Kelly Robarge on Saturday. Hewitt is Kelly Robarge’s mother and Wright is her grandmother. (Medora Hebert photograph)
Charlestown — Kelly Robarge’s two daughters stood behind a framed photograph of their deceased mother and smiled for a family portrait. When the cameras stopped flashing, Robarge’s 1-year-old grandson, Richard, leaned against the glass and kissed his grandmother’s picture, right on her nose.
Robarge, 42, went missing from her Charlestown home on June 27, and her body was found in Unity nine days later. Her husband, James Robarge, 43, has been charged with reckless second-degree murder in connection with the death of his estranged wife.
It has been a trying two weeks for the family, but both sides came together yesterday to remember Robarge and show support for her young daughters, Gabrielle, 23, and Ciera, 19.
“I made a promise to (Robarge) and I’m going to hold true,” said Tracy Williams, one of Robarge’s best friends. “It was to be strong for both her girls. Together as a community we’re going to try to get (them) through this.”
Amanda Raney, James Robarge’s oldest daughter from a previous relationship, stood in front of a gazebo at Patch Park and faced a crowd of more than 100. When she first met Kelly Robarge and her two daughters, she said, Robarge always made her feel comfortable. And if Raney needed someone to talk with and called Robarge, she would always answer.
“I love you Gabby and I love you Ciera,” Raney said. “I’m sorry, girls. I’m going to be here for you no matter what.” Raney then embraced her two half sisters.
James Robarge’s stepfather, Roger Moul, was also at the gathering. In an interview, he said the family has had a rough several months. James Robarge, known to his family and friends as Jimmy, lost his mother about 12 weeks ago. After Moul’s wife died, he moved in with the Robarges at their Charlestown home. But after a few weeks, Moul moved back to his home in Saxtons River, Vt., because the two were “arguing and battling.” Pretty soon, James Robarge moved in with Moul.
Moul has known Robarge since she was a teenager and said he had become close to his daughter-in-law. He recently put her name on his checks and bank account so she could help him take care of his bills.
“Kelly was my sweetheart,” Moul said. “I could always lean on Kelly for anything.”
Despite losing both his wife and daughter-in-law within a few months, Moul said, he’s been able to keep his composure. “I need to go on because my granddaughters need me,” he said. “If something happens, they can come hollering to grandpa.”
James Robarge’s cousin, Tammy Pratt, wrote a poem for Kelly Robarge that was read at Saturday’s celebration of Robarge’s life.
“Through all the ups and downs of life, the good times and the bad
From high school days to recent years, the best friend I ever had.
God is here to take you now,
Now I must let you go, but always and forever I will love you so.”
Pratt said she has known Kelly Robarge since she was 13 and the two were like sisters. When Pratt was having issues with her ex-husband, she said, she and her four children could stay the night with Robarge.
The allegations against James Robarge, Pratt said, are “baffling.”
“This doesn’t make sense to us,” Pratt said. “I look at the face in the paper and it doesn’t look like my cousin. He has a blank stare on his face. I don’t know who this person is.”
Robarge’s friends and family brought balloons on Saturday to Patch Park, which borders the Connecticut River, and planned to release the balloons in her memory. Some family members held balloons with smiley faces or peace signs on them, while Moul held a red heart-shaped balloon that read, “P.S. I love you.”
Others scribbled messages onto their balloons. Robarge’s cousin, Tina Puglisi, held a balloon that read, “I love you very much and will see you someday, my cousin.” Other balloons read, “Love to you,” and “We will miss you.”
When it was time to release the balloons, the group stood in a circle around Robarge’s daughters, who shielded the sun with their hands and looked toward the sky, while others took pictures with their cell phones.
Ciera Robarge’s former boyfriend, Dylon McCutcheon, came to Patch Park because he’s still friendly with the family. He said he was invited along on Robarge family vacations and said Kelly Robarge was always baking brownies, cookies or cakes.
“She took you right in,” McCutcheon said.
A few of Kelly Robarge’s co-workers from Springfield Orthodontics also attended, as well as a patient, Anita Dregallo, 58, of Andover, N.H.
“She’d tighten up my teeth and tell me to take my Tylenol,” Dregallo said.
Robarge was an easy person to get to know, Dregallo said. She would chat about her children while Dregallo listened, her mouth full of braces.
“I want to meet her mother and tell her how wonderful I think her daughter was,” Dregallo said. “They have a long road ahead of them and I wanted to let them know I’d keep them in my prayers.”
Before the large crowd arrived yesterday, Gabrielle Robarge hung flowers arranged in the shape of a heart on one of gazebo’s beams. A young man helped her reattach a pink flower that had fallen out of the arrangement.
The photograph of Robarge was the same one used at a vigil on July 2, four days before her body was found. While many of the people at Saturday’s gathering also attended the vigil, the mood was much different. While the vigil was somber, Saturday’s “celebration” was just that. There were tears and hugs, but there were also smiles and laughter.
After her daughters had their photograph taken with the framed portrait, Robarge’s mother and grandmother joined in for more pictures. A small group gathered around them until about a dozen people were taking photos of the family.
They all watched as Richard, Robarge’s grandson, kissed the portrait. And a few seconds later, Robarge’s grandmother, Mary Wright, leaned in and kissed her picture, right on the nose.
Sarah Brubeck can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3223.