By Cyndi Wood and Zach Lanning
ELLSWORTH — Cody Markham had plans. To make sure he achieved them, the Sedgwick teen left Post-it note reminders all over. Next up: graduating from Ellsworth High School.
Three weeks shy of that milestone, on Friday, May 20, Markham died in a Sedgwick car crash. He was 18.
Markham had been driving south on Caterpillar Hill Road at about 10 p.m., according to state police, when his 2008 Subaru crossed into the oncoming lane and went off the opposite side of the road.
Markham was pronounced dead at the scene. His 15-year-old passenger was injured and taken to a local hospital. Both had been wearing their seat belts. Police said speed and driver inexperience likely factored in the crash.
Grief counselors were on hand at the high school Monday for any students who needed help processing the loss and a candlelight vigil was held next to the football field Tuesday night in Markham’s honor.
His time at EHS and with his foster family was short — less than a year — but he made an impression.
Pastor Elaine Hewes, a family friend, said Markham would be remembered for “his resilience, his determination, his capacity for overcoming so many obstacles.”
Friends and family spoke of his kindness and innate ability to lift others’ spirits, even when his own were down. He was also described as funny and charismatic. The kid who would nod off in fifth period and wander the halls with his headphones on. A brother eager to set an example for his siblings; a young man thrilled to take his girlfriend to the prom.
Principal Dan Clifford remembered Markham, who transferred to EHS in September, as a quiet kid who kept to himself at first.
“It took him a while to open up,” Clifford said. “But in the last six weeks, the strides that I saw him make were incredible. He was smiling, he was talking to people. Just a tremendous amount of growth.”
Clifford said Markham had plans to attend Southern Maine Community College next fall and had met with representatives from the school along with his guidance counselor to plan out his future.
“You could see that he was making great gains, so it’s just very difficult for me and for the school community right now,” Clifford said.
Markham had also worked at Blaze Brewing in Blue Hill over the winter and into the spring and had made an impression on the staff and the owner, Matt Haskell.
“He was a nice kid with a great attitude,” Haskell remembered. “He actually gave me a ride home one night, because I had lent my company vehicle out to another employee, and on the ride he told me a little bit about the trials and tribulations that he had been through, you know, as a foster kid and all that. So, it was nice to get to know him a little bit better and for him to be so open and honest.”
Haskell said Markham had started out washing dishes, but that he had been training as a pizza chef. The two worked side by side every Wednesday to make pizzas in the restaurant’s outdoor, wood-fired oven.
“He was great to be around and work with, and he was really headed in the right direction. He was hungry to move up, which was nice to see from a young kid,” Haskell said. “The whole thing is just tragic.”
After discussing it with his staff, Haskell kept the restaurant open over the weekend, but promised to donate 10 percent of sales from Saturday and Sunday to Markham’s foster family. There was also a cash jar available for staff and patrons to donate additional funds.
“We thought this would help his foster family, who do a lot of great work in that area, continue to do good in remembrance of Dakota, in his name,” Haskell said. “It’s a very, very tough time for everyone.”
Donations for a scholarship in Markham’s memory can be made to Community Compass and mailed to P.O. Box 552, Blue Hill, ME 04614 or made online at www.communitycompassdowneast.org.