2013-06-07 / Community

Fishing tourney is fitting memorial

Funds from second annual event benefit BackPack Food and numerous charities
By Alex Acquisto
Staff Writer


Alec Cyr, his wife, Heather, and their son, Chase, on their boat in 2011. “Alec loved to fish,” Cyr said. Alec Cyr died of colon cancer in 2011 at the age of 35. Cyr partnered with the Saco Bay Rotary Club last year for the first Alec Cyr Memorial Striped Bass Fishing Tournament to honor her husband’s memory and his love of fishing. The second tournament is being held July 19-21 at Marston’s Marina in Saco. (Courtesy photo) Alec Cyr, his wife, Heather, and their son, Chase, on their boat in 2011. “Alec loved to fish,” Cyr said. Alec Cyr died of colon cancer in 2011 at the age of 35. Cyr partnered with the Saco Bay Rotary Club last year for the first Alec Cyr Memorial Striped Bass Fishing Tournament to honor her husband’s memory and his love of fishing. The second tournament is being held July 19-21 at Marston’s Marina in Saco. (Courtesy photo) KENNEBUNKPORT — Alec Cyr was 33 when he was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2009. He and his wife, Heather, of Kennebunkport, had been married for one year.

In 2011 Cyr died, leaving behind his wife and their 5-month-old son, Chase. As a way to commemorate his death and preserve his memory for her family and the community, Cyr decided to organize the Alec Cyr Memorial Striped Bass Fishing Tournament — bass fishing was a sport that Alec loved dearly.


Leo Menard, Charlotte Cyr, Mike Payeur, Heather Cyr, Frank DeMarco, Chase Cyr and Dennis Robillard pose with last year’s firstplace trophy awarded to Payeur. July 19- 21 marks the second annual Alec Cyr Memorial Striped Bass Fishing Tournament in memory of Cyr, who died of colon cancer in 2011. (Courtesy photo) Leo Menard, Charlotte Cyr, Mike Payeur, Heather Cyr, Frank DeMarco, Chase Cyr and Dennis Robillard pose with last year’s firstplace trophy awarded to Payeur. July 19- 21 marks the second annual Alec Cyr Memorial Striped Bass Fishing Tournament in memory of Cyr, who died of colon cancer in 2011. (Courtesy photo) “He would wake up at the crack of dawn and fish until the sun went down. He loved more than anything to be out on his boat with his wife, family, friends and dog,” said Cyr on the website she created, www.sacobayfishing.org.

Friday, July 19 through Sunday, July 21 will mark the second annual tournament. It will be held at Marston’s Marina in Saco where Alec fished with the Saco Bay Rotary Club. The cost to participate is $75 for adults and $25 for children 14 and younger.

Half of the funds raised will be donated to the BackPack Food program, organized to provide underprivileged children in Saco, Biddeford, and Old Orchard Beach with healthy food. The other half will be donated to charities supported by Saco Bay Rotary.

“Last year we had 37 fisherman; this year we’re hoping to have 50 or 60,” said Cyr.

After her husband’s death Cyr approached Marston’s Marina with the idea of honoring Alec with a fishing tournament. However, after contacting the marina, she quickly realized how substantial the undertaking would be. “The response was positive, but I was going to need insurance, money, etc. The idea quickly faded, as I really was not prepared to take on such a task at that point,” said Cyr.

A few weeks later she received a letter from Leo Menard of the Saco Bay Rotary Club.

Menard presented the idea of partnering to hold the event.

“When I read about the potential opportunity to join forces with the Rotary Club, my heart literally skipped a beat,” said Cyr. “I called Leo immediately . . . this was exactly what I needed – a new focus, a distraction, something to really look forward to – and there could be no better way to remember my husband than a striper tournament. It was too good to be true.”

Menard and Cyr shared the desire to organize a fishing tournament, but for different reasons.

Said Menard, “She was looking for a way to preserve Alec’s memory as a fisherman and to raise awareness about colon cancer, but couldn’t do it on her own. She wasn’t really looking to make money. We were looking for a way to fund the remaining kids in need through the BackPack program for Biddeford High, Thornton Academy, and Old Orchard Beach. It just worked out.”

The BackPack Food program, said Menard, provides students with free lunches on weekends. The budget per student is approximately $6.25 each week, about $250 per school year.

All but 25 students from the three schools were provided for last year. Menard’s impetus for organizing the fishing tournament was to provide for the remaining 25.

“For every four kids it costs $1,000. So 25 kids would cost about $5,000,” Menard said. “Last year we raised around $6,200. This year we’re hoping to make it to $10,000.”

Both Menard and Cyr agreed that most of the money is raised at a captain’s party that will precede the July 18 tournament. It costs $25 to attend and includes food and drink.

Said Menard, “It’s a live auction and a silent auction. Famous Dave’s barbecue will cater and run the bar. That’s basically where a lot of the money is made. If we can get enough sponsorship it all becomes profit. We have a lot of large sponsors this year. Last year it was New Meadow’s Marina.

“Yamaha gave us a 6-horsepower motor last year and this year. Southern Maine Marina gave us a motor last year, and this year they gave a 12-foot fishing boat. Poland Spring contributed cash and water for the event, and of course Saco Bay Tackle is one of the biggest sponsors.”

Many of the establishments donating time and money knew Alec personally, says Cyr.

“For example, Pier 77, our wedding reception was there, so Kate, the owner, generously donates every year,” Cyr said. “The Spa at River’s Edge, where I am a client, also donates, The Tides Inn, where we had Alec’s post funeral gathering donates. So many local establishments are more than happy to help and have been extremely generous. It always amazes me how truly good people are, and how much they want to help,” Cyr said.

As an effort to raise awareness about colon cancer, Southern Maine Medical will also set up a booth at the party.

“They’re prepared to talk about colon cancer and how it is not just an old man’s disease,” Menard said. Cyr just thinks people should be screened, especially if it’s in their family history.

“Personally I have it in my family background. I’m 57 and I’ve been checking since I was 45. I had never heard of someone as young as Alec having it. It’s not as uncommon as you think it is, and until someone raises public awareness you don’t know that,” Menard said.

The tournament begins Friday and lasts until the weigh-in Sunday at 2:30 p.m., which will determine the winner.

“It’s a catch and release tournament,” Menard said.

The adult teams are expected to catch 10 blue fish or stripers, and the teams composed of kids 14 and under are expected to catch mackerals. Each team, made up of three to four people, is given a special tape measure.

The teams catch fish and take pictures of them against the tape measure before throwing them back.

On Sunday the judges calculate the number of fish caught and their sizes. The winner is then named. A cash prize of $500 will be awarded to the participant who catches the largest fish, as well as to the winning team.

“It is just a wonderful weekend,” said Cyr who, at last year’s captain’s party, read aloud a dedication to her late husband: “Alec loved to do so many things and so many things with me. Then he bought a boat. And I began to wonder if I would ever see my husband again. There was no amount of bribing, whining or pleading with him, that could keep him away from fishing.

“He was obsessed, and if I wanted to spend time with him, I needed to learn how to love it, too. So it became a life of fish. We lived by the tides, the seas, the marine forecast. A week after our one-year wedding anniversary was a day that forever changed our lives. Alec had a large tumor in the lower part of his colon. He had cancer. We never let cancer define us. We lived life and loved our life and cancer was just a part of it. During the two-year cancer battle, fishing was our escape. Being out on the water for hours at a time, enjoying countless sunsets, driving that boat down the river and out into the ocean for miles and miles, away from it all … for us, there was no better way to cope with cancer. It was our heaven, our place to pray, to talk to God, and witness miracles.

“When Alec was captaining his boat, he was happiest, he was at peace, he had no worries in the world.”

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