By Joyce Erekson
Finding comfort in the face of a tragedy isn’t easy, but sometimes it comes from unexpected places.
Michele Durgin, 55, of Lynn died Saturday in Marblehead after losing control of her car and hitting a tree. State Police investigators are still trying to determine if the crash was caused by an underlying medical condition.
Durgin, who grew up in Lynn and graduated from Classical High and Salem State, leaves behind a large family that includes her mother, Helen Durgin; her three brothers, Matt (the St. Mary’s football coach), Mike and Mark Durgin; her two sisters, Maura Scully and Marcy Durgin Cronin (both former Classical High girls soccer coaches), her brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, cousins and many nieces and nephews. Her father was the late Harold Durgin, who taught at Classical for many years.
Marcy Durgin Cronin is the youngest of the Durgin clan. She lives in Marblehead and a day or so after the accident, she visited the site of the crash at 134 Tedesco St. The Marblehead police had indicated that there were people in the neighborhood who had come out and helped her sister and she and her family wanted to thank them. She was in tears when she knocked on the door, but the people who lived there, Joy and Bill Purdin, couldn’t have been nicer.
Cronin said the Purdins told her Michele was conscious after the accident, but unable to open her eyes. Mr. Purdin held her hand while Mrs. Purdin called 911.
“He held her hand and talked to her. He told her she was not alone and that he was with her,” Cronin said.
Durgin had her beloved 11-year-old Pomeranian, Jack, with her in the car at the time of the accident.
“He (Purdin) told her ‘I want you to know your little dog is OK’. He said ‘if you can hear me, squeeze my hand,’” Cronin said.
The Purdins sent Cronin and the Durgin family a letter that day. The following is an excerpt:
“I hope it helps in some small way to know that there were people all around her on Saturday evening and she was not alone. While I was calling 911, my husband was holding Michele’s hand and talking to her gently until the emergency vehicles arrived. When Bill saw her little dog on the passenger side floor watching, he told Michele, ‘Your dog is all right. He’s sitting right here.’ He felt Michele relax.”
Cronin found comfort in their words.
“These have to be the two nicest people in town,” Cronin said. “It does help knowing that she was not alone.”
Cronin, who was 13-years younger than Michele, described her sister as “very laid back and very selfless.” Cronin said she was funny, had a good heart and was considered the “fun aunt” by her many nieces and nephews.
Durgin taught at St. Jean the Baptiste grammar school before moving to St. Mary’s where she worked as a teacher and administrator for 23 years. She helped develop and grow the school’s junior high school program. Durgin was working as an English and theology teacher at Pope John XXIII in Everett and as a freelance feature writer for the Daily Item at the time of her death.
“What’s getting us through this is all the amazing stories people are telling us, things that we didn’t know about Michele,” Cronin said. “We knew she would give her last dollar to any student, but we didn’t know beyond that what she did.”