WILTON, Maine (NEWS CENTER) --
October 1, 2016 will mark the one-year anniversary of the sinking of the El Faro, a cargo ship that left Jacksonville, Florida with 33 crewmembers on board, including four Mainers.
The ship sank when it lost propulsion during Hurricane Joaquin on a voyage to Puerto Rico.
TOTE invited Roberts and the other 32 families to Jacksonville for ceremonies to commemorate the one-year anniversary.
In the months since the tragedy, Deb Roberts, the mother of Michael Holland, a crewmember from Wilton, has dedicated her free time to making sure her son's memory is never forgotten.
She established the "HollandStrong" Scholarship for high school seniors from four Maine school districts: Leavitt, Spruce Mountain, or Mount Blue High Schools: Roberts works in MSAD 52, Holland graduated from what was once Jay High School, and lived in Wilton as an adult.
She held the HollandStrong Ice Fishing Derby to raise money for the scholarship, and honor her son. It raised more than $4000.
Roberts also helped pass state legislation that creates a tax credit for merchant marines from Maine. The Educational Opportunity Tax Credit gives Maine people who have student loans a break off their taxes to help pay off those loans. The Educational Opportunity Tax Credit gives Maine people who have student loans a break off their taxes to help pay off those loans. Roberts said one of her last promises to her son was that she would help pass that legislation.
"I promised him before I left Jacksonville but I would finish that job for him, so I would say that's the one thing that I've done that I'm the most proud of and what is the most emotional moment for me when they voted on that bill and signed it into law I was just overwhelming," said Roberts. "It was filling a promise, and that meant a lot to me."
Roberts said the grieving process will never end, and that speaking about him publicly has helped carry his legacy on.
"For the rest of my life, I'll be a grieving mother," said Roberts. "I don't feel like it weighs me down at all. It marks Michael's place on the earth." There's no cemetery to go to. There's no grave stone. This is how I memorialize him. So I don't find that sad.
Friends have asked for donations to the scholarship fund instead of gifts or memorial flowers. Roberts said that outreach of support has helped get through a difficult year.
"It makes me realize the impact that kid had. I don't think he ever realized, I really don't. He was a unique guy, he was quiet, just went about his life, and I don't think he had a sense of the people who supported him and the loving friends that he had and the impact that he had on people. And that's what makes me the most proud as a mother, definitely," said Roberts.
She said she continues to learn about her son from his friends.
"It will ebb and flow and it will come and go, and there will be marks on the calendar. There will be moments that will be tough, and then there will be moments that were just moving forward. There will be lots of smiles. There are still lots of conversations with his classmates and friends, and antics of Mike, they tell me they try to give them to me in small doses because I couldn't handle them all at once. So I really enjoy those. But it's all part of the grieving process," said Roberts. "It makes me realize the impact that kid had. I don't think he ever realized, I really don't. He was a unique guy, he was quiet, just went about his life, and I don't think he had a sense of the impact that he had on people. And that's what makes me the most proud as a mother, definitely. "
Roberts said she has other plans of ways to honor her son, but that she is not ready to reveal those yet.