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Lowell gathers at City Hall to remember 3-year-old boy found dead in pond

Hundreds gathered outside of Lowell City Hall Friday to sign notes and attend a candlelight vigil for the late 3-year-old Harry Kkonde.Carlin Stiehl for The Boston Globe

LOWELL — Candles and blue and white balloons lined the steps outside City Hall as family, public officials, and community members came together Friday evening to remember 3-year-old Harry Kkonde, whose body was found two days earlier after a massive search of the Pawtucketville neighborhood where he disappeared.

His grieving family sat at the top of the steps, facing the crowd of hundreds as the vigil opened with a prayer from the Rev. Amos Kimera, rector of St. Peter’s Anglican Church of Uganda in Belmont.

“We gather with trust that God will strengthen Sam, together with Harriet,” Kimera said, referring to the boy’s parents. “We stand in solidarity. We support you, to tell you right now it is hard, but you are going to make it.”


The boy’s father, Sam, thanked everyone for their support.

“This is very painful,” he said. “It’s heartbreaking. It’s not easy.”

He added that the loss is especially difficult for the boy’s mother, Harriet, who did not speak at the 7:30 p.m. vigil.

“Harry’s mother was a good mother, always cooked him the best meals,” he said. “Harry was our best friend. Every time I went to work, I looked forward to going back to Harry. . . . I thank God for the three years I had with Harry.”

Maeve Kelley, 7, (left) and Makenna Dangaiso, 13, (right) held candles outside of Lowell City Hall at a vigil for 3-year-old Harry Kkonde on Friday evening. Carlin Stiehl for The Boston Globe

A relative said the family had celebrated Harry’s third birthday in April.

He said an online fund-raising page had raised more money than the expected $25,000, so Harry can be buried back in his parents’ homeland of Uganda.

Katie Gauthier, a Lowell resident who organized the vigil, said the community needed to get together and do something for the family after the tragedy.

“It was heartbreaking,” she said. “My heart dropped to my stomach.”

Gauthier has two children, one of them almost Harry’s age, and she said it “hit home” to hear of his death.


“I couldn’t imagine,” she said. “Being a mother myself, if that ever happened to either of my children …”

Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan said the family’s loss is “truly unbearable.”

“It is grief that should not be, and the way that you survive this kind of grief is to have the weight of it distributed over hundreds of shoulders,” she said, adding that the crowd assembled at City Hall “will help them to bear that grief.”

Lowell Mayor Sokhary Chau said the community had come out to support the family after Harry was found to be missing and the search party had doubled on the second day.

“Nothing can compare to the loss of Harry,” Chau said. “All of you know, all of who are parents, brothers, and sisters, you would all give your life for your little ones.”

Poster boards on the City Hall steps showed dozens of photos of the toddler smiling, playing, and sometimes looking unexpectedly serious and mature, gazing stoically into the camera while wearing a gingham shirt, linen blazer, and patterned necktie. In one version of the photo, an angel’s wings had been digitally added to the boy’s small frame.

A poster decorated with hearts read, “You will be missed, little angel.”

Lowell residents wrote messages of support to the family of 3-year-old Harry Kkonde, at a vigil Friday evening at City Hall. The toddler's body was found in a pond on Wednesday, a day after he went missing from a babysitter's home. Carlin Stiehl for The Boston Globe

Another candlelight vigil was held in Lowell one evening earlier, when dozens gathered at a roadside memorial on Varnum Avenue, a short distance from the pond where the child’s body was found.


Harry went missing Tuesday morning from the backyard of his babysitter’s home on Freda Lane. He was dropped off there around 7 a.m. and last seen in the backyard by a neighbor at 9:15 a.m., authorities said. He was reported missing to Lowell police at 9:30 a.m., sparking the massive search by police and residents.

Harry’s body was discovered Wednesday shortly after 1 p.m. in a pond on a Christmas tree farm on Varnum Avenue. His body was close to shore in 5 feet of water, and about 650 feet away from his babysitter’s backyard where he was last seen alive, officials said.

Divers had previously searched the pond Tuesday morning, shortly after he went missing, but did not find him then.

The Middlesex district attorney’s office had no updates on the investigation Friday, a spokeswoman said.

Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.