Stephanie Colotti Ferrie, 43, charted a voyage for her family through illness and life

Mother and sailor, blogger and advocate for cancer screening, Ms. Colotti Ferrie died of cancer on April 17 in Gosnell hospice house in Scarborough, Maine. She was 43 and had lived in Scarborough when the family wasn’t on its multicountry ocean trip.

Ms. Colotti Ferrie, at the helm.Ferrie family photo

“Steph taught us, ‘Don’t shy away from things because they’re hard. That’s what makes it so rewarding, ” Kevin Colotti said Friday, when family and friends gathered to celebrate his wife’s life at an event that was live streamed and archived on her Facebook blog.

“My mother always wanted us to live adventurous lives,” said their 14-year-old daughter, Lilah, during the gathering at Ocean Gateway in Portland, Maine.

Ms. Colotti Ferrie had mapped out her own voyage through life long before she set foot on Serendipity. The 44-foot sailboat became the family’s home for two years, beginning in autumn 2018.

And after her first cancer diagnosis, she just as adamantly charted a course for her family and friends to follow, if only they were courageous enough to do so.

“She showed us an approach to life where we could be free from society’s constraints,” Lilah said at Friday’s gathering. “She showed us a life where we could step out of our comfort zones. She wanted us to live so that we could step out of the shadows and into a light of our making. “

That meant taking on the kind of work during their two-year trip that anyone, let alone a mother with four young children, would find daunting.

The family washed clothes in a bucket on the deck, and sometimes caught their dinners – mahi-mahi, marlin, tuna.

Kevin, a sailor since his youth in Florida who had served for nearly two decades in the Coast Guard, was the only one among them not prone to seasickness when they sailed through rough waters.

At the memorial gathering, Lilah said her mother “taught me that if you want a beautiful outcome, you’re going to have to face challenges in order to find the beauty on the other side.”

Though she never pulled punches about the difficult moments, Ms. Colotti Ferrie was just as eloquent about the times of pure beauty, such as one the family experienced in April 2019.

“Crystal clear water so amazing you can see the intricate ripples that sit on the ocean floor,” she wrote in “Live the Voyage,” her Facebook blog. “The patches of coral and grass dispersed throughout the anchorage, where rays and turtles swim peacefully. Dolphins frolicking throughout the water, looking for their next snack. The most squishy sand you could ever imagine underneath your toes that host scattered pink shells that make it feel like someone was there with a pink paintbrush. “

Ms. Colotti Ferrie, who also didn’t shy from using colorful language to describe moments of upheaval, wrote about the confluence of good and bad in a passage she posted on Easter Sunday in 2020, two years before she died on Easter Sunday this year.

“I am going to fill you in on a little secret. Life can suck AND be beautiful all at the same time, ”she wrote. “That’s right. Life can be difficult, but still be enjoyable. I never thought that would be possible until I had cancer. “

By April 2020, she had been diagnosed a second time with cancer, which had metastasized. That prompted the family to settle back into their life in Scarborough so she could undergo more treatment.

“We may have many restrictions held upon us, but instead of relishing on what we can’t do, we relished in what we could do,” she said of that day. “Easter Sunday brings hope, renewal and love to many and an opportunity to put on real clothes for a moment. A chance to see that the sun can certainly shine even on the darkest days if you look hard enough. ”

“While cancer changed my life forever, it also helped me live my life differently,” said Ms. Colotti Ferrie.Ferrie family photo

Stephanie Colotti was born in Portsmouth, NH, on Feb. 13, 1979, and grew up in Amesbury, the daughter of Bonnie Davidson Colotti and Steve Colotti, who now live in Exeter, NH

After high school, she graduated in 2002 from Florida Gulf Coast University with a bachelor’s degree in nursing.

Even as a youth, “she made an impression on me that I couldn’t refuse to learn from,” her younger brother, Joe of Candia, NH, said at Friday’s gathering.

Among those lessons, he added, was one she taught everyone she knew in the years since that first cancer diagnosis: Follow your dreams, “live the voyage.”

“Do you really think you’re strong enough, bold enough, and care about your one life to truly follow in Steph’s footsteps? You know that’s all she wants from us, “Joe added.

In 2005, she married Kevin Ferrie. They settled in Maine more than a dozen years ago, and along with Lilah, their children are 16-year-old Mairead, 12-year-old Clara, and 11-year-old Callum.

“There’s no question that the kids wouldn’t be who they are without Steph. They were her life, “Kevin said in a phone interview last week.

“I can guarantee you without a shadow of a doubt that none of my kids will live a life they don’t believe in,” he added. “They will do what they love. They will be passionate about their lives every day, and that’s the message Steph wanted them to have. “

An additional celebration of life will be announced in the summer for Ms. Colotti Ferrie, who leaves her husband, four children, parents, and brother.

Ms. Colotti Ferrie spoke of her cancer diagnosis in a 2017 interview with WMTW-TV as she advocated for people to get the HPV vaccine, and she competed in triathlons to raise money for cancer research.

By phone last week Lilah said her mother “was very driven, she was very competitive” – ​​a sentiment echoed in several amusing anecdotes shared by Ms. Colotti Ferrie’s friends at Friday’s gathering.

“She’s always pushed and pulled and encouraged us to step out of our comfort zone,” Lilah said. “I’m very glad she raised me the way she did so I’m not coddled or selfish or spoiled.”

Ms. Colotti Ferrie on Higgins Beach in Maine in 2020 with her husband, Kevin, and their children (from left) Mairead, Callum, Clara, and Lilah. Ferrie family photo

In December 2018, on the anniversary of her diagnosis, Ms. Colotti Ferrie wrote that “while cancer changed my life forever, it also helped me live my life differently” – a more meaningful and memorable existence.

“I often wonder, had cancer never come into our family, would we be sitting here on our boat, in the Caribbean on a beautiful island? I am not so sure. “


Bryan Marquard can be reached at bryan.marquard@globe.com.

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