Missing Emmy

Missing Emmy

Amid shock, grief, and confusion, a community touched by the friendship of Emmy Bascom is rallying to support those mourning her violent loss — especially her husband and young family

GUILFORD — Michelle Frehsee is missing Emmy Bascom.

“There is a rawness within the Guilford community,” says Frehsee, one of many town residents who are reeling from the sudden and brutal loss of their friend and neighbor.

The 42-year-old Bascom was killed violently in Wardsboro on Aug. 8. An acquaintance has been charged in her murder.

The information released about Bascom's last hours in the company of her accused murderer, Cara Rodrigues, 31, makes it apparent that drugs were involved quite recently in her life.

Her brother, Richard Holcomb, acknowledged that truth on Facebook several days later, with a post that mentioned his sister's “pretty dark path” over the previous four months or so with alcohol and drugs.

But, he told the world on Aug. 10, “The Emmy that died was not the Emmy we knew for most of her life.”

“Losing the Emmy we knew hurts most,” Holcomb wrote. “Her friends believe that drug use should not define the person they knew and loved deeply.”

Frehsee, who knew Bascom though their children, who are all about the same age, echoed that sentiment.

“I'm haunted by how her life ended,” she says. “I think about all that she went through, but that's not the place any of us want to focus.”

“Instead, we want to remember our friend as she lived the majority of her life,“ Frehsee continues, describing Bascom as “always a bright light.“

“She showed up in every manner that was ever needed,” she says. “She volunteered at school, she helped anyone, even if she didn't know the person well. She had a huge heart.”

The community kicked into “action mode” to help a family in shock and grief with a meal train, school supplies, and other support.

“When she died, first we went into high gear, dealing with the issues in front of us, reaching out to the many community members whose lives she had touched,” Frehsee says. “So many people love and appreciate Emmy's family and children. We want them to know we're all here for them.”

Frehsee notes that since her children and Bascom's children are good friends, many children in the community are dealing with loss and grief.

“When something like this happens to someone who is so close to so many children, we must care for them all,” says Frehsee, “Hers, mine, everybody's. It's a small town.”

Now the community is settling into the remembrances and feeling Bascom's loss, along with the practical issues still before them.

A life full of hard knocks

According to her Facebook profile, Bascom worked as a safety manager for F.M. Kuzmeskus, a bus transportation company based in Gill, Mass., with a satellite office in Brattleboro.

Her life had been full of challenges. She has four children. Her two eldest were barely school age in 2014, when their house burned down and the family lost everything.

More recently, her husband, Brian Johnston, suffered a serious illness.

Bascom's best friend, Retha Rayno, says, “There has just been so much over the years, but that never stopped Emmy.“

“Emmy's sister says Emmy was like a cat,” Rayno says. “She'd get flipped upside down, but she's always landed on her feet.”

Rayno and Bascom grew up together, attending Guilford Elementary School, and becoming friends in seventh- and eighth-grade.

“She was the loud, crazy girl that had all these ideas. I was a reserved shy person. At first, we were friendly, but we were opposites. Then we got to know one another better and we've been besties ever since. She was such a kind and caring person, very thoughtful,” remembers Rayno as she holds back quiet tears.

“I see these silly little TikTok videos, and I want to send them to her and then realize I can't. I miss her so much.”

Not too long ago, a neighbor of Rayno's had a house fire.

“I called Emmy right away because she'd had that experience and she knew what it was like,” Rayno says.

She describes Bascom as “such a comfort to my neighbor.”

“Even though they didn't know one another well at that point in time, she listened, she knew what to do, how to comfort, what to say,” Rayno says. “She's my superhero.”

Rayno reminisced how Bascom would let anyone stay in her house, “two legged or four.”

“She loved animals,” she says. “She knew what it felt like to do without. She knew what it was like to not be listened to, so she listened carefully to everyone. She wanted people to know that she was there. Emmy is irreplaceable.”

Rayno wrote her friend's eulogy and delivered it at Bascom's service on Aug. 21 at the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Vernon.

In that service, amid a pulpit festooned with bright yellow sunflowers, Rayno painted a loving and honest picture of her friend.

“If you were one of the lucky ones to cross paths with her then you grew to love her, too,” Rayno said. “She was spunky, feisty, and sassy. She knew how to calm fears and make the blues go away.”

Bascom, she told those who came to the funeral, “was the first one to lend a hand anywhere she was needed. Her heart was the biggest of them all, giving everyone a chance and never passing judgment, always the one to call on when the chips were down.”

She spoke of volunteer work for Next Stop Forever, an animal rescue based in Bernardston, Mass.

“She'd call me and tell she had another dog she was going to foster,” she recounted.

“I'd say, 'You mean adopt?'

“She would reply, “No, this one's just for foster, I swear!'”

Rayno described how Bascom “fell in love with a few dogs and ended up adopting them.”

“She provided shelter for those in need both four- legged and two-,” she said in the eulogy. “Even if she didn't have a whole lot of extra space in her house, she figured it out.”

The grief of those left behind

Bascom leaves her husband and four children, who range in age from 6 to 13.

Both Frehsee and Rayno - both close to their friend's children - realize that more support will be needed for Bascom's family.

“The kids all really loved their mom, and they are a family in need. Community support is coming together in lots of different ways, but more will be needed,” Frehsee observes.

“We want to wrap these children in love,” she says.

These needs include winter gear, snow boots, and essentials for the children.

A GoFundMe campaign, “Grief support for the Bascom-Johnston family,” organized by Katherine Corey of Brattleboro, can be found at bit.ly/679-emmy. As of Aug. 30, it has raised $4,610 for Johnston and the four children.

In addition, 802 Credit Union has also created a fund to help support the family, and donations may be left at any branch.

At the service, Rayno briefly touched on both the tragedy and the humanness of Emmy Bascom.

“Although her life had taken a turn towards the dark, her mistakes do not define her,” she said. “That is not who she was.”

Bascom, she said, “never wanted anyone to worry about her and always felt like she could handle anything that happened.”

“Mostly, she could,” Rayno said. “But some battles one can't fight alone and require help.”

Addiction, she said, “doesn't just hurt the one who is using. Her death will leave a gaping hole in many people's lives.”

“My hope is that Brian and the kids feel all of Emmy's goodness and it comes back to them tenfold,” she said. “Emmy, may you rest in peace and know that we got it from here.”

Days after giving that eulogy, tears fill Retha Rayno's eyes.

“We can't love Emmy like we used to, but we can carry on her love for her children,” she says.

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