Everyone knows that life is jam packed with heartbreak, laughter, joy, devastating sadness, shining victories, and life challenges that can make even the strongest lose faith and the weakest trudge through. For Rochester and for all of the Tri-Town, we were taught how to smile through the toughest of storms by our own Chloe Harding who battled acute lymphatic leukemia most of her young life. The second grader at Rochester Memorial School was known for her spunk, her sass, her humor, her smile, and her love of life, even during the darkest days that Chloe endured – storms that no child should have to weather.
With a town that rallied behind her through fundraisers sporting “Chloe Strong” t-shirts and signs, Chloe faced her illness with a growing group of supporters. You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone around who wasn’t impressed and inspired by an eight-year-old little girl who seemed to always be filled with joy and laughter, teaching us all exactly how to live life to the fullest.
As news of her passing spread through Rochester and the Tri-Town on February 18, 2019, the day after she left us, classmates fondly remembered their favorite Chloe moments and what they treasured about her the most.
For Gus Tallman, one of Chloe’s closest friends and loudest supporters, he remembered how they used to go swimming in Snow’s Pond and jumping off the huge raft during the summer months.
Fellow classmate, Zachary Gagne, shared how he loved everything about Chloe and the fun times they had together – a sentiment that was evident on Facebook that Monday as fellow townspeople posted photos of a strong and amazing little girl who touched everyone’s heart and soul.
When Hayden Perry, a second grader at RMS, learned that Chloe lost her battle with cancer, he took advantage of the snowfall covering his front yard and asked his mother for help in delivering a special message, one he was sure Chloe would see. With a spray bottle in hand filled with colored water, Hayden drew a massive heart that shined in the snow with Chloe’s initials safely tucked inside. With a child’s confidence that seems to trickle away as we enter adulthood, he knew that his friend could see it from heaven and know exactly how much she was loved. For him, he’ll never forget how she used to beg him to stop singing Christmas carols to her – no matter what season it was – but he knew from her laughter that she also loved those moments.
The greatest gift in life, at least for this writer, is unconditional love. It’s a gift that Chloe sprinkled throughout this small, close-knit farm town through her smile, laugh, and sass. No matter the hardship she endured, Chloe always reminded us that a great sense of humor and the light of a smile could dispel the darkness of any storm that threatened us, brightening the path ahead, surrounded by our closest friends.
Through her sacrifice, she showed an entire community exactly what “Chloe Strong” meant, which is why we are all so grateful she was here and why she will be so dearly missed.