Born with spina bifida, Jeremy Kane wasn’t expected to survive infancy. Instead, he made it his business to overcome every obstacle. PHOTO COURTESY OF SHAWN DAY

Hancock man defies odds, leaves indelible mark

HANCOCK — Jeremy Kane wasn’t expected to survive his first day of life; 38 years later hundreds of his loved ones gathered to celebrate a life fully lived.

Kane died of unknown causes Jan. 11 at his Hancock home.

The celebration of life Saturday at the Masonic Lodge in Ellsworth “was just like he would’ve wanted it — live music, free beer and food,” said his mother, Lori. “It wasn’t a funeral, it was a party.”

Jeremy was born “sunny side up” after a week’s labor on Nov. 8, 1980, in Blue Hill. The unusual delivery position meant hospital staff didn’t immediately notice the lesion on his back. Lori later awoke to a doctor at her bedside delivering devastating news: her son had spina bifida and was not expected to survive an ambulance ride to the hospital in Bangor.

Spina bifida is a birth defect in which the spine and spinal cord don’t form properly.

His parents later met the ambulance driver who took Jeremy to Bangor. She recalled how wrenching it was to watch Bobby Kane say what he thought was his final goodbye to his newborn son.

But Jeremy survived surgery that day and more than 30 others to come over the years. Many involved the shunt in his head needed to drain cerebrospinal fluid that built up around his brain. Expected to be paralyzed or brain-damaged if he did make it, Jeremy defied all odds and expectations. Every limit set for him became a challenge to overcome. Spina bifida was not the story of Jeremy’s life, it was a footnote.

“He wanted more than anything to just be like the other kids,” Lori said. “If his friends were doing it, he’d do it too. His friends were riding bikes, so he rode a bike. He couldn’t get off, so he just crashed it.”

Never expected to walk, he did so at age 3 1/2. Usually only able to cover short distances in his leg braces, Jeremy was determined to walk across the stage for his graduation from Ellsworth High School in 2000. His doctor fashioned leg casts to stretch his legs at night. The casts caused Jeremy to wake screaming in pain. But the next night he would insist on putting them on again. His determination paid off on graduation night.

Another milestone was getting his driver’s license at age 18. His vanity plates said “Yoda,” a nickname from co-workers at Friend & Friend, where he worked for many years as a receptionist.

“His head was on a swivel waiting for someone to walk by so he could make a smart ass remark,” said lifelong friend Shawn Day. “They called him Yoda because of his ‘words of wisdom.’”

Jeremy’s love of music, beer and people made him a regular at local night spots, including Tag’s, Chummies and China Hill. He was a Thursday night fixture at Finn’s Irish Pub. He taught himself to play bass and enjoyed open mic nights and sitting in with whatever bands would have him.

His charismatic personality earned him friends everywhere he went, according to loved ones.

Trisha Mason of the Trisha Mason Band penned a song in his honor titled “Fly High Jeremy.”

The lyrics include the lines “You always had a smile/a big boyish grin. Always a joke to share with a friend. Ya touched the hearts of many/This world is gonna miss your light in everyone’s life.”

Growing up, Jeremy was part of a tight-knit pack of Hancock kids who tromped in and out of the Kane home on Eastside Road.

“Did you even have a lock?” quipped Day to Jeremy’s parents.

As the gang got older, they all headed down to the basement, where Jeremy took up residence for the rest of his life.

“We talked about ‘getting out Jeremy,’” Bobby said with a fond smile.

But while Jeremy valued his independence, he also had many hobbies that monopolized his income. In addition to nights out and concerts, Jeremy loved guitars, photography, pool, fishing and cooking.

His room was full of books and his collections.

Jeremy also loved travel. He and his friends took a three-week road trip across the country. He went parasailing on a family trip to Key West.

“This kid who was never even supposed to live was up there flying,” said Lori. “He was up there above the boat just floating, so free. It was the happiest he ever was.”

Jeremy’s favorite place was the family’s camp on Abram’s Pond in Franklin, where he would take his camper. It’s there that his ashes will be spread this summer.

“I don’t know what it was about him, but everywhere he went, he left a mark,” Lori said.

Cyndi Wood

Cyndi Wood

Managing Editor
Cyndi is managing editor of The Ellsworth American. The Ellsworth native joined the staff of The American in 2007 as a reporter.

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