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Friends finish Keene man's hiking quest after his killing last month

Jonathan Amerault was a prolific hiker and had been on the cusp of a significant milestone when he was killed last month, according to his friends.

The Keene resident, 25, had climbed 99 of New England’s 100 highest peaks as well as 66 of the region’s 67 mountains over 4,000 feet. Only one — Camel’s Hump in Duxbury, Vt. — remained to complete both categories.

On Sunday, his well-worn trail running shoes reached the final summit.

They were carried there by David DupreWilson, one of Amerault’s closest friends since they grew up together in Milford, who organized a hike in his memory. Eighteen people participated in the 6½-mile hike that DupreWilson said was humbling and cathartic.

DupreWilson, 25, of Billerica, Mass., ran track and cross country with Amerault in middle school and at Milford High School. In June 2019, Amerault was the best man at his wedding.

Authorities say Amerault, who worked at Teleflex Medical OEM, was murdered last month after being lured to Annett Wayside Park in Rindge. A Jaffrey man and his wife have been charged with capital murder and falsifying evidence, respectively, in his death.

DupreWilson explained that he wanted to hike Camel’s Hump after learning his friend had died. Following discussions with his wife, Laura, he created a Facebook event for the outing and invited people who he knew would want to memorialize Amerault.

The group included some of Amerault’s childhood friends, DupreWilson said, as well as several people whom he had introduced to Amerault.

They were also joined by Carissa Scenna, who DupreWilson said hiked with Amerault several times after meeting him on a mountain they were both climbing. She planned to accompany Amerault on his Camel’s Hump hike to complete the New England Highest Hundred, DupreWilson noted.

“That was who Jon was,” he said. “He was able to bring different groups of people together and be a unifying factor for a lot of people.”

Courtney Hawkins, 25, of Nashua also became friends with Amerault during their years running together in Milford. Hawkins said they were part of a group that used to regularly hike Mount Monadnock — all of whom she said were present on Sunday.

“It was incredibly sad that he couldn’t be there with us, but to have pretty much everyone from separate parts of his life all come together to do this for him … was pretty magical,” she said.

Hawkins added that the group had a celebratory cheer for Amerault when they reached the summit and also took pictures with signs commemorating his hiking accomplishments. Besides a difficult moment, when DupreWilson was reflecting on Amerault’s life, he said the group’s mood was lighthearted.

“He loved to have a good time and he loved to be out in nature, and I think that’s really how we experienced yesterday, too,” he said Monday. “… I think that it kind of helped me to find a little bit of closure in his tragic death.”

DupreWilson said it also helped him understand the physical challenge of Amerault’s hiking endeavors — which he said included several mountains that Amerault navigated using only a map because they do not have marked trails.

“By the end of the mountain … my legs were jelly, [and] I could barely walk,” DupreWilson said. “It really put into perspective how much of an accomplishment that is, for Jon to have done a hundred of those.”

He added that most people climbing the Highest Hundred and all of the region’s 4,000-footers typically achieve the feats on separate hikes. That Amerault saved a single peak to complete both showed his character, DupreWilson said.

“He liked to do things in a big way and wanted it to be a really big accomplishment that he could be proud of,” he said. “It was really … crushing that he didn’t get to complete that.”

DupreWilson estimated that at least 200 people attended a celebration of life for Amerault at Milford High School on Saturday.

He said the memorial included remembrances from Amerault’s parents, other family members and friends as well as eulogies from two of his high school teachers. Attendees also walked a lap around the high school track to remember Amerault, he added.

“It was a hard day, to hear everybody’s accounts of Jon, but it was nice to see how many lives he had touched and how many people wanted to come and remember him,” DupreWilson said.

Hawkins explained that she spoke about the last time she saw Amerault, when they met up for a hike last summer, and she reflected on his thoughtfulness and compassion for others.

In his own remarks, DupreWilson recounted the three most joyful moments of his life. He said Amerault was present for all of them.

“In 15 years of friendship with him, I don’t think I ever stopped laughing,” DupreWilson said. “From the time that I saw him, we would be laughing until the time that he left.”

They shared another moment of levity Sunday.

“His shoes were kicking me in the head or swinging around and hitting me in the face,” DupreWilson said. “I really took that as Jon being frustrated that I wasn’t going as fast as he would’ve liked. It kind of felt like he was there with us, climbing.”


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COVID-19 case reported at Troy Elementary School
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TROY — The Monadnock Regional School District learned Monday of a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the Troy Elementary School population, Superintendent Lisa Witte announced in a letter posted on the district’s website the same day.

This marks the first known COVID-19 case in a primary/secondary school in the Monadnock Region, though there has been one in Milford, according to the COVID-19 Schools Dashboard, which is operated by the N.H. Department of Health and Human Services. Both of the residential colleges in the area, Keene State College and Franklin Pierce University in Rindge, have reported a handful of cases since they began reopening their campuses in late August.

Witte’s letter does not specify whether it was a Troy student or staff member who tested positive for the viral respiratory illness.

“Troy is a small school, and we are doing our best to protect the privacy of those involved while also protecting the health of the entire community, following the guidance of DHHS,” Witte wrote in a follow-up email to The Sentinel Monday afternoon.

Troy Elementary enrolls about 175 students in preschool through 6th grade and has about 30 staff members, according to the school’s website.

The school will remain open, based on guidance from the state health department and the district’s decision matrix, the criteria the district uses to help determine if and when it should change from its current hybrid schooling model, Witte wrote in the letter. The building was closed over the weekend, and the person who tested positive for COVID-19 was not in school Monday, she told The Sentinel in her follow-up email.

The state health department has requested that the Monadnock district provide contact information for anyone who had close contact (defined as being within 6 feet for longer than 10 minutes) with the person from Troy Elementary who tested positive. The department will contact those people, or their parents or guardians, with information on how to self-quarantine at home, according to the letter.

“Those families and staff will be directed to get tested and keep themselves or their children quarantined until 14 days following their last possible exposure,” Witte wrote.

Families and employees instructed to quarantine will need to complete the entire two-week period, even if they test negative for the novel coronavirus.

“This is because the maximum amount of time from being exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19 and testing positive is 14 days,” Witte wrote. “Therefore, even if your child tests negative today, they would need to quarantine until they reach the 14th day following exposure.”

Witte did not say how many people will need to quarantine as a result of the COVID-19 case at Troy Elementary. If any students need to quarantine, the district will offer them remote support, she added.

According to the Monadnock School Reopening Concept, remote support is “an independent, self-paced model” in which students access lessons and assessments through district-provided online platforms. Under the remote support model, students can also participate in video check-ins with their teachers and classmates on Fridays, when all students and staff in the district are remote.

Students in the Monadnock school district attend school in person two days per week and do remote learning the rest of the week. Families also have the option for their children to learn through the remote support model full-time.

In Witte’s letter, she also reminded staff and families to keep their kids home from school if they experience any COVID-19 symptoms, such as fever, chills, respiratory illness, aches or change in taste and smell. All students and staff in the Monadnock district are required to complete a daily health screening before they enter any school building.