BAR HARBOR — In a gymnasium with countless seats filled, all eyes were on one that wasn’t.
In Mount Desert Island High School’s 54-year history, thousands of students, athletes, parents, coaches, administrators and more have filtered through the doors of MDI’s Bunny Parady Gymnasium. Very few can say they’ve done so more times than Tammy Dow.
Ever since her husband and MDI’s current athletic director, Alfred “Bunky” Dow, became the school’s junior varsity baseball coach in 1984, Tammy Dow has been one of the biggest supports of the school’s athletic programs. Between the ticket table, snack shack and other volunteer activities, she worked over 5,000 games across all sports at MDI.
At basketball games, Dow could always be found in the southeast corner of the gym, where she would be selling MDI paraphernalia while taking in the action. On Friday, then, her absence and the flowers in her chair made for an emotional experience for those present, and as the month’s final competitions began, there was no doubt that the Trojans were competing with extra fuel.
Memorials and tributes to Tammy Dow have been pouring out since Friday morning, just hours after Dow passed away in a tragic car accident shortly after midnight. The school’s competitions Friday evening were emotional affairs for those in the community at home and in the gym and MDI YMCA as everyone in the community had a pillar of MDI High School in their thoughts.
“It just comes as a complete shock for everybody,” said Brent Barker, head coach of the MDI girls’ basketball team. “It’s just mind-blowing and shocking, that’s all you can say about it. That’s a great family with great people, and it’s just so tragic.”
For the MDI boys’ and girls’ basketball teams, Friday’s home games against Caribou marked the end of busy stretches ahead of the regular season’s final games. The doubleheader was the third straight game day for the boys and the fifth game and seven days for the girls.
Both MDI teams had arrived back at the high school at 11:30 p.m. last Thursday, several hours after playing a doubleheader against Presque Isle in Aroostook County. That meant a short turnaround time for the Trojans, who had little time to process the day’s tragic events after learning at school in the morning what had happened.
“You come back in from that long road trip after playing a lot of basketball and have to take in all that, and that’s tough and emotional,” Barker said. “We talked about doing our job and playing those 32 minutes on the floor, and then we could take some time afterward to reflect on those things. I thought we did a great job on that.”
Both the boys’ and girls’ teams certainly did. The MDI boys recorded their biggest victory of the season as they defeated Caribou 61-38 to exact revenge for a 44-35 loss to the Vikings two weeks earlier. The girls’ team didn’t win by an overwhelming margin but were in command almost the entire way in 43-35 victory.
“We weren’t going to lose that game, not in that gym,” said MDI senior Emily Carter. “We didn’t have the band there, but on the other hand, we knew we had to bring our own energy. There was definitely no doubt in any of our minds that we were going to do that and win for Tammy.”
A moment of silence was held Friday before each of those MDI basketball games. One was also held prior to MDI’s swim meet against Ellsworth at the MDI YMCA following a brief eulogy by Rob Benson, a longtime area swimmer and one of the team’s assistant coaches.
“Before we begin this evening’s meet, I’d like to invite you all to observe a moment of silence for MDI High School [Athletic Director] Bunky Dow’s wife, Tammy, who died unexpectedly this morning,” Benson said. “To send love and compassion to her family, we will observe a moment of silence.”
A celebration of life for Dow has been scheduled for 4 p.m. today, Feb. 3, at MDI High School. It will be held in Bunny Parady Gymnasium, the place where Dow’s name is embroidered on a list of service award recipients and where she spent winter hours such as those Friday evening cheering on MDI athletes across generations. Masks will be required for all in attendance.
From the cheer mats on which the cheerleaders she once coached perform to the baseball fields where she once had to step in following her husband’s ejection from a game, Tammy Dow’s presence will always be felt at MDI High School. At a time when some are still searching for words, Carter’s, perhaps, are fitting.
“One of the things you learn when you get to high school at MDI is the alma mater, and the alma mater talks about this being our school forever,” Carter said. “It’s once a Trojan, always a Trojan, and Tammy was the Trojan. She’ll be one forever.”