Connor Peckham remembered at Portsmouth dedication ceremony

‘He made people around him happy’

By Jim McGaw
Posted 12/2/19

PORTSMOUTH — Adrianna Duarte, a student at Portsmouth High School, remembered the first time she met Connor Peckham as a preschooler at Melville School.

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Connor Peckham remembered at Portsmouth dedication ceremony

‘He made people around him happy’

Posted

PORTSMOUTH — Adrianna Duarte, a student at Portsmouth High School, remembered the first time she met Connor Peckham as a preschooler at Melville School.

“I was a new student coming into a brand-new school that I was unfamiliar with,” Adrianna recalled. “I met my preschool teacher, Miss Patty, and the rest of the class. During playtime, a young boy came up to me and said these words: ‘Hi, my name is Connor. Want to be friends?’”

Later on, in kindergarten, the two got “married” in a classroom ceremony after students learned a lesson about the relationship between the letters Q and U.

“Our class decided to have a wedding for Q and U, and guess who (the teacher) picked for Q and U? Connor and I. We walked down the classroom aisle and we all said as a class, ‘I do.’ I knew at that time that our ‘I do’ was to be friends for life,” Adrianne said.

And they were, until Connor’s life ended too soon — at the age of 18 while on a school band trip at Disney World in April. 

On Thanksgiving morning before the annual football game, friends, family members and Connor’s fellow student musicians gathered outside the PHS band room to pay tribute to the boy who made everyone’s day a brighter one.

A bench — a gift from the Class of 2019 — was dedicated in Connor’s memory. A walkway to the bench will be built later this year, and a Japanese maple tree will be planted in the spring, both funded through private donations.

“Connor had a bright personality and made people around him happy,” Adrianna told the crowd. “He was always the person who would make you laugh by telling jokes or coming down the school hallways, shouting the most random thing. Connor was the kindest person you’ll ever meet. If he saw someone who was having a bad day, he’d come over and tell them, ‘Tomorrow is a new day and today will get better.’”

Connor, who was a big part of the PHS band’s drum line despite being in a wheelchair, was also heavily involved in charities. 

“Each March, Connor would team up with the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) and the PHS National Honor Society and go around every classroom to sell shamrocks to collect donations for the MDA,” Adrianna said.

For his senior project, Connor collected children’s books “to give to young kids who couldn’t afford to buy books. He gave those books as a Christmas present on the holidays,” she said.

Another close friend of Connor’s, Henry Banks, also addressed members of the crowd, including Connor’s parents, Dwayne and Patricia Peckham. Henry first met Connor in the first grade.

“I was lucky to have him in my class and we both sat next to each other. We became fast friends and would go to each other’s houses for playdates and eat lunch together at school,” Henry said.

Henry recalled the time he celebrated his birthday with a pool party. “I wanted Connor to join us, even though he couldn’t swim in our pool. So I gave him a water gun, and he squirted me and Adrianna.”

Loved music, sports

Many people can still picture Connor in his band uniform, pounding his drums. “Connor is having fun up in heaven … playing the drums,” Henry said.

He also loved sports. “He knew everything about the Red Sox and in class he would tell everyone a fun fact about them,” Adrianna said.

Said Connor’s band director, Ted Rausch, “Our lives are that better from having known Connor and for what he’s done for each and every one of us through his actions, his humor, his knowledge of rock bands and sports. It’s no wonder why our halftime show this year is The Beatles … one of his favorite groups.”

Mr. Rausch then introduced the band, which played a song in Connor’s honor.

“I know Connor would want it to be done his way, which is simply rock and roll. So this is their rendition of ‘Crazy Train’ by Ozzy Osbourne, one of Connor’s favorites,” he said.

After that, band members marched down to the turf field to support the football team, this time without Connor.

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Meet our staff
Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.