Friday, June 11, 2021

WHS alumnus embarks upon dream job with U.S. Navy

Adam Maley of Windham, despite
facing many challenges as a young
person that would have prevented
some from following their dreams,
is living his career of choice. On
Sunday, he left Maine and is now
in Yokosuka, Japan to serve on
board the USS Benfold, a destroyer
built at Bath Iron Works in Maine.
SUBMITTED PHOTO
 
By Lorraine Glowczak

Adam Maley of Windham has held a lifelong dream of making a career in the U.S. Armed Forces and that desire is about to become a reality.

“Since about the age of 10, I've always had this itch…this monkey on my back trying to pull me in the direction of military service,” said Maley, a 2016 graduate of Windham High School.

However, as a teenager, Maley didn’t expect to see his dream come to fruition. While growing up and in school, he was often restless, easily distracted and had trouble focusing on assignments and classwork. He was identified as having ADHD and placed in special education classes. Although he didn’t expect much of himself once separated from the traditional education path, he states there was no official diagnosis to explain his inattentiveness. He said it was just a part of his teenage experience and was not an indication of his intelligence.

“I showed no real clear signs of ADHD,” Maley said. “I just felt the educational material and the way it was being presented to me was dry and hard to engage in. It was a time when I was going through that teenage nervous wreck phase – and like all teenagers – I was self-conscious about how I looked and what people thought of me. Being in those special education classes made me feel less than my peers. I felt labeled and believed others looked down on me. I didn't think I would be much of anything after high school.”

Believing that the military was now out of his reach, Maley decided during his junior year of high school to learn a technical trade to prepare for his future. But what Maley didn’t know - it was this choice that would shift a belief in himself and set the course for his future.

“The one thing that helped me find myself in the midst of high school was going to Westbrook Regional Vocational Center,” Maley said. “I was training as a heavy equipment operator in the field of construction and our instructors aimed to give us the tools and knowledge to land high paying jobs and be successful doing the trades we loved. It was here that my confidence grew. I no longer felt as if I was failing.”

Maley decided to move forward on his longtime dream of joining the military, but he couldn't decide which branch he wanted to enlist.

“It wasn’t until one day, a recruiter for the Navy called and asked if I would like to visit them and see what they had to offer,” Maley said “And the rest is history.”

Seamen Recruit Maley’s career in the Navy is now in full swing. After a brief visit with his family, SR Maley left Windham this past Sunday, June 6 and is now in Yokosuka, Japan to board the USS Benfold (DDG-65), an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer (which, ironically, was built at Bath Iron Works in Brunswick).

“This ship will be my home for the next four years, and I would not change the experience – my dream - for anything in the world.”

SR Maley said the Navy has completely changed him in terms of confidence and physical health and in the process has instilled the Navy's core values of honor, courage and commitment. “I feel forever changed in the way I see day to day life - always looking with a positive attitude no matter what the situation brings.”

His goal is to achieve the rank of Petty Officer Second Class and work as an RP (Religious Program) Specialist with the Navy’s chaplains.

SR Maley’s parents, George Maley and Melissa Harmon who have encouraged and supported their son to beat the odds, are very happy that he is accomplishing his dream.

“Adam was four years old and his brother, Andrew, was three when I became a single dad 24/7,” Adam’s father George Maley said. “It wasn’t easy to be both mom and dad, but I am honored to have witnessed my sons grow into the people they are today. It is true that Adam had always wanted to be in the military. When we would go shopping for school, Adam immediately ran to the camouflage clothes. This is all he wanted to wear. What I admire the most about Adam is that he never would give in or give up. He was a determined person who never used the words, ‘I can’t.’ I could not be prouder of Adam and the choice he has made to serve his country and protect our freedom.”

Melissa Harmon-Maley also feels honored to have been a part of SR Maley’s life. “As his stepmom I always had the confidence in Adam’s capabilities, but to see him grow over the years and watch him gain confidence in HIMSELF is incredible to see,” she said. “I’m BEYOND proud of him!”

For the 2021 WHS students who will be graduating this Sunday, SR Maley offers the following guidance; “My advice for current graduates and high school students is just because you find yourself in a specific class or given a label by your peers or others - or even if you are told you won’t be able to accomplish something – their opinion about you doesn't have to be your reality,” he said. <

Friday, June 4, 2021

Summer fun for residents a goal for Windham Parks and Recreation

By Elizabeth Richards

As COVID-19 restrictions begin to lift, the Windham Parks and Recreation Department is planning an exciting lineup of events and activities this summer.  “We are moving and shaking here for the summer months,” said Linda Brooks, Windham Director of Parks and Recreation.

Dundee Park opened for the season last weekend and things are almost how they were pre-pandemic, Brooks said, with one key exception.  There will not be lifeguards on duty at Dundee Park this year, mainly because lifeguards are in short supply.

Paris Knight practices the long jump last 
summer during the Windham Summer
Track Program at Windham High School.
This year's Summer Track Program starts
June 21 and is part of an extensive number
of summer events and activities planned
by Windham Parks and Recreation for
area residents. COURTESY PHOTO 
REBECCA VERSLUIS

“There was already a lifeguard shortage before the pandemic, and the inability of people to get trained and certified during the pandemic added to that shortage,” Brooks said.

Another exciting thing, Brooks said, is the return of the summer concert series at Dundee Park after a one-year hiatus because of the pandemic.  The series will run four Wednesday nights, from 6 to 8:30 p.m., with the first concert set for July 7.  Admission to Dundee Park is free after 5 p.m. on concert evenings.

Facilities can once again be reserved to host family gatherings or parties at Dundee Park. New this year is the ability to reserve picnic space at Donnabeth Lippman park as well, which includes access to yard games stored there at the park.

Also on the lineup is a modified – but not strictly virtual - version of Summerfest.

“We are celebrating Summerfest here in Windham, albeit different than it used to be,” Brooks said.  “We have a few different ways that businesses and organizations are able to still do what they normally do and spotlight their organizations.”

A town wide scavenger hunt will take place during the week leading up to June 19, the traditional Summerfest date.  Businesses and organizations will provide challenges through a free app, EVENTZEE, and prizes will be awarded for participation. 

“Families may want to do it together, but it can be an individual participation thing as well,” Brooks said.

In lieu of the traditional parade, Summerfest will include “Yardi Gras” where residents or businesses will create floats to display in their front yards using the theme “Summertime in the Lakes Region.”  

Windham Parks & Recreation will publish a map of all the floats so that people can drive by and see them in person and $100 prizes will be awarded to the best entries in each of five categories.

The Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce, Sebago Lake Rotary Club and Modern Woodmen are sponsoring a golf ball drop, with a potential top prize of $1,000, depending on how many of the 1,000 available balls are sold.

Proceeds of the fundraiser will support both Summerfest and the Windham Food Pantry.  Balls can be purchased through the Chamber website. The Windham Fire Department will drop the balls from a ladder truck at 1 p.m. on June 19.  People can watch the drop in person or live on Facebook. 

Although it’s different than traditional Summerfest, the committee really wanted to do something fun and great and promote what Windham’s Parks and Recreation is all about, Brooks said.

Windham Parks and Recreation is also offering “Summer Kids Club,” again this year.  More than 200 children are registered already, an increase of about 100 participants over last year, Brooks said. 

Though they’ll have to adhere to some camp-specific guidelines around COVID-19, they’re a little less restrictive than last year at this time, Brooks said. While staffing for camp programs has been a struggle in some communities, Brooks said they’re fortunate to have both strong returning staff and some new staff.

The summer track program will begin on June 21 and currently, Brooks said that they’re uncertain as to whether they’ll work under USATF and compete against other programs, since they received an update only last week, and many other communities are opting out this year.  Even if they decide not to go that route, she said, they would like to offer some type of competition. 

“Last year competition was not allowed at all. This year it could be, so we may be just trying to pull something together with neighboring communities to still give the participants that experience,” she said.

The department has been hosting Playdates in the Park for preschoolers this spring, and may continue through the summer months, depending on interest, Brooks said.

A range of opportunities for seniors are also available.

For more information, or to register for Windham Parks and Recreation summer programs, visit https://windhamrecreation.com. <

Friday, May 28, 2021

Before the memory fades: Field and Allen, Windham’s sons of sacrifice and honor

Sgt. James Franklin Allen
(1919-1945)
COURTESY PHOTO
By Walter Lunt

Last week, this column discussed the character and combat legacy of Charles W.W. Field, Windham’s first casualty of World War 1. Part 2 is about the first loss of a native son during World War II, James Allen.

L. Wayne Allen retrieved the contents of his mailbox and immediately recognized the handwriting on one of the envelopes. It was from his older brother, James Allen, who was serving in the United States Marine Corps overseas – World War II had been raging for several years and the Allen family, like all war families of the early 1940s, was anxious about the status of their sons and daughters in uniform.

The letter from James indicated that should anything happen to him, L. Wayne should take possession of his dairy cows. A grim communication.

James had established a substantial herd of livestock before going off to the war in the fall of 1941. He loved the farm, which had been in the family for generations. It is located on Cartland Road in the Popeville (Friends) neighborhood of Windham, and is now being maintained by James’ nephew, Lee Allen (L. Wayne and Monica Allen’s son).

James saw his first action at Roi-Namur in the Kwajalein Atoll, then in Saipan and the invasions of the Marshall Islands, engagements described as fierce and bloody. Each battle victory moved the U.S. closer to the Japanese mainland and would facilitate long-range bombing attacks.

Then came Iwo Jima, a 2-by-4 square mile island less than 700 miles from the Japanese homeland. A bomber base there would enable B-29s to fly only half the distance to Japan and back. Some 22,000 Japanese stood ready to defend the island.

In February 1945, Sgt. Allen was among three infantry divisions put ashore there to engage in one of the most violent and deadly operations of the war. He would die in battle two weeks later, along with 5,930 other Marines.

 A posthumous citation, awarded after his death and presented to his mother, Flora Allen, detailed Sgt. James Allen’s valor in combat. It read: “For excellent service as squad leader in a reconnaissance company during operations against the enemy on March 6, 1945 on Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands. Sergeant Allen maintained control of his men while under heavy machine gun and mortar fire. He succeeded in withdrawing his squad from an enemy machine gun lane to commanding ground. Without regard for his personal safety, he exposed himself on numerous occasions to severe enemy fire to direct the evacuation of the wounded. His courage and conduct throughout were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.” (Signed) C.B. Cates, Major General, USMC, Commanding 4th Marine Division.

James was the first Windham native to die in World War II, just as his cousin, Lt. Charles W.W. Field had been the first from Windham to perish in World War I (The Windham Eagle – May 21, 2021).

News of James’ death hit the Windham community hard. The family fielded letters, cards and phone calls for weeks. There were newspaper articles and, for a while, he was the only news in town.

His high school yearbook noted he was an “outstanding basketball player;” and participated in the school newspaper, swimming, drama club, speaking (contest), orchestra, chorus, Future Farmers of America, class treasurer, and president of the student council.

While distinguishing himself as a Marine at war, James wrote many letters home to family and friends. Many are kept at the Windham Historical Society. They display a remarkable sense of selflessness and devotion. In them, he spoke little of himself, instead inquiring extensively about every detail of the lives of his seven brothers and sisters, his friends and relatives, even his cows. He thanked his father for selling his automobile, saying he hoped to buy a new car when he got home. He had left behind a fiancée, so marriage was also to be part of a homecoming.

Among the many memories and tributes in the months and years following James’ death was one written by his nephew, Lee Allen. In “A tribute to my Uncle James Franklin Allen,” he quotes a close friend of his uncle’s, who described the fallen soldier this way, “(Jim) always impressed me with his physique and his honest, calm, straightforward manner. One could feel the strength of character in his personality.”

To memorialize its two native sons, Windham would name a school and a local American Legion Post in their honor.

Lee Allen would go on to teach at the Field-Allen School, named in part for his uncle. At least once every year, he would speak to the classes about the honor and sacrifice of Charles W.W. Field and James Franklin Allen so that the students would know and understand the significance of their school’s namesakes.

Field and Allen were alike in many ways. Both grew up on a Windham farm and seemed pledged to stay there; both were men of high personal character; both responded early-on to the call of their country; both left their fiancée behind, never realizing a married life; and, they were cousins.

Finally, it would seem those famous words spoken by a Navy admiral of Iwo Jima, “Uncommon valor was a common virtue,” could easily be applied to both Field and Allen. <


Friday, May 21, 2021

Before the memory fades: Field and Allen, Windham’s sons of sacrifice and honor

Lieut. C.W.W. Field. Writing around
the photo says 'Killed at Chateau
Thierry - July 18, 1918 - Shot by
German sniper - 103 Machine
Gun Batt. 26th Division - Killed
in Action. PHOTO COURTESY
OF BILL SULLIVAN
By Walter Lunt

In observance of Memorial Day, 2021, Before the Memory Fades explores the character and the combat legacy of two native sons, Lt. Charles W.W. Field and Sgt. James Allen, who died fighting in World Wars I and II respectively, and became the collective namesake of an American Legion Post and a Windham middle school. Part one focuses on Lt. Field.

Charles William Wallace Field was born in Windham on June 25, 1892 to William and Emily (Lamb) Field. William was a Civil War veteran, having served with the 25th Maine Regiment. He died in 1893 when his only son, Charles, was 1-year-old.

Charles grew up in Windham helping his widowed mother, sisters and a boarder work the family farm. He was a member of Presumpscot Lodge of Masons of North Windham. Following his early education in Windham grammar schools and at North Yarmouth Academy, Charles entered Bowdoin College where he served as president of Sigma Upsilon fraternity for several years.

By around 1915, Charles was working various jobs for the Grand Trunk and Boston and Maine Railroads. A later newspaper report said the young Field enlisted in the U. S. Army immediately following America’s entry into the World War. He was commissioned an officer at the Plattsburg (New York) Training Camp and shipped out overseas in October 1917.

Lt. “Chick” Field would engage German forces in a major confrontation at Chateau-Thierry, France in July of 1918. The last heroic moments of his life would be recorded in a book, With the Yankee Division in France, written by Boston Globe reporter Frank Sibley, who witnessed much of the conflict:

“Lieutenant ‘Chick’ Field of North Windham, Maine was in a machine gun battalion. The man commanding the platoon ahead of Field’s chucked away his cane when he started on an advance out of Bouresches, and Lieut. Field picked it up and led his men down into the deadly railroad cutting, behind a built-up embankment where they had to stand and take it for a few moments.

Lieut. Field was as cool as though he had been behind the guns that were sweeping the digging, instead of being the very center of their fire. He was really in a support command, and supposed to be in the echelon. But he came up, with his supports, and insisted on moving. He and his men alike were anxious to get into the fight on this first day of the offensive.

He moved back and forth directing his men and swinging his cane jauntily. And his death came swiftly and mercifully (by a German sniper) while he was smilingly at his work. His body is buried there in the cut where the detail found him next day.”

Days later, the Portland Express-Advertiser reported on the memorial service for Lt. Field…” held at the Union Church at North Windham…attended by a large delegation of family and friends. The sermon was preached by Rev. Jas. E. Aikins, pastor of the Congregational Church at Windham Hill…A large American flag extended across the back of the church…Many beautiful flowers including roses, Easter lilies and seasonable blossoms were sent. As the remains of the young officer lie in France, these floral tributes were sent to the sick and shut-ins among his former neighbors.”

Three years later, on September 3, 1921, The Portland Evening Express reported, “The body of Lieut. Charles W.W. Field of Co. A 53nd Brigade, 26th Division, who made the supreme sacrifice on the morning of July 18, 1918 in the World War, has arrived at his home here.” He is interred at the Smith Cemetery, Windham Center.

Among Field’s possessions, retrieved after his death, was a framed picture of his fiancée, Mollie Sheehan.  On the back of the photo, written in pencil in Mollie’s handwriting was, “Left by Chick Field with his ‘buddy’ when he went to the firing line – July 17, 1918. He was killed July 18, 1918 at Chateau Thierry. This picture was returned to me by (a) Capt. Thomas of Providence, R.I.”

In 1938, 20 years following the death of Field, the Windham American Post 148 was chartered in honor of the town’s first soldier killed in action in the World War – the Charles W. Field Post 148. Another name would be added following World War II. <

Next week, the story of USMC Sgt. James Allen.

Friday, May 7, 2021

Before the memory fades: Zoning, a distasteful idea in the 1960s and 1970s

By Walter Lunt

Windham is going through yet another growth spurt. For decades, planners and town leaders have initiated zoning regulations designed to stimulate or slow down development in certain areas. Throughout, one overarching goal has been to preserve the town’s rural character. Baby-boomers say, “Here we go again, it’s history repeating itself.” They refer to the tumultuous 1960s and 1970s, when population and commercial growth skyrocketed. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say there are similarities.

Early in the decade of the 1960s, the town was reeling from a steadily growing population and crowded schools. Concern over rising property taxes was also growing. By 1969, in their annual report, the town’s Selectmen wrote, “Our population is increasing very rapidly … percentagewise we are the fastest growing community in Greater Portland … along with this growth, comes the need for zoning, newer schools, sewage treatment and more public services.” Further, citizens were clamoring for a modern library, additional street lighting, water line extensions, increased police and fire protection, and new public roads. Zoning, however, was an unpopular notion among much of the populace. A familiar refrain at the time was, “Nobody’s going to tell me what I can do with my own property.”

A view is shown of North Windham in the 1970s.
Residents call it 'citification.'
COURTESY OF WINDHAM
HISTORICAL SOCIETY
Also, attempts were under way to broaden the town’s tax base by encouraging and assisting business and industrial firms to locate in Windham. The Windham Development Commission, however, reported that their efforts were hampered by the lack of a land use ordinance (zoning), Chairman Richard Clark said Windham’s lack of zoning prohibited efforts to secure financial assistance from an area building fund to develop an industrial park in South Windham.

“…we urge the community to consider adoption of some land use ordinances to provide businesses the protection that they so often insist upon before making a substantial investment with a community. We would like to attempt to preserve Windham’s many natural resources and characteristics and at the same time, broaden our tax base to cope with the influences of urbanization…”

To illustrate the extent, and the urgency, of the town’s swelling immigration problem, Windham’s population at the close of World War II was around 2,000 souls; by 1960, the number tripled to nearly 6,000, and 7,000 a decade later in 1970.

The number of housing starts were equally astonishing during the brief period. The town recorded 41 units (dwellings) in 1966; by 1972, the number had exploded to 279.

Despite what town officials considered to be a critical need, Windhamites continued to oppose any type of zoning ordinance, even though many complained of “suburbanization” and of “outsiders” coming into town trying to tell the locals how to run their town. By 1973, a 10-year struggle to adopt zoning had been turned down as many times by voters. It seemed the town was, as one resident put it, “progressing into its past.” In its 1971 annual report to the town, the Windham Planning Board stated flatly, “We no longer can afford the luxury of looking the other way.”

At a special town meeting in November 1972, voters passed, by the narrowest of margins – 34 votes, what was described as a “mild” land use ordinance. Opponents, with a lingering distaste for zoning of any kind, went right to work with petitions demanding a new vote. In balloting the following June, voters repealed the four-month-old ordinance by a vote of 954 to 688. A newly empaneled zoning board of appeals was immediately forced out of business.

“Windham doesn’t move forward – it always takes a step backward,” commented one disgusted zoning proponent.

A side note, in that same June election, Windham voted in favor of building a new fire station in North Windham, approved the use of absentee ballots in municipal elections, and increased membership on the town select board from three to five.

Following the last in a long string of defeats for zoning, the Windham Planning Board went into double overtime (meeting, at times, twice weekly); a newly empaneled Town Council (which had replaced the selectmen form of government), in an effort to slow growth, passed a moratorium on all new subdivisions. An updated comprehensive plan was in the works, along with a re-drafted land use ordinance. In June 1976, it was passed, probably due, in part, to what residents were calling the “citification” of North Windham.

Now, in the 2000s, problems and issues similar to those of the early 1970s are plaguing residents and town officials once again. In the words of a forgotten historian, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but sometimes it sure does rhyme.” <

Friday, April 23, 2021

Before the memory fades: A century ago, all phone calls began with ‘Number, please’

By Walter Lunt

Telephone switchboard operators, early 1950s. Left
to right, Susan Hanson Allen (supervisor), Doris
Allen Shaw, and Donna Shaw. Manual  switching
boards, or cord boards, provided telephone service
to Windham from 1904 to 1954. COURTESY OF
WINDHAM HISTORICAL SOCIETY 
Before digital, before direct dialing and even before the rotary dial phone, there was the switchboard telephone operator invoking a familiar friendly request, “Number, please.”

Our forebears knew well the routine of making those early telephone calls. The household phone was either a wall-mounted box with a receiver hanging from the side, or a table model that lacked a numbered dial. To make a call, one had only to lift the receiver and wait for an operator to request the number of the party being called (there was no dial tone). For much of the 20th century, a telephone number consisted of only four digits, preceded by two letters which identified the exchange. In Windham, the letters were TW (or TWin-oaks). When placing a call to Portland, the exchange letters were SP (for SPruce). Calls going outside the Windham exchange were toll calls. Connections for all calls originating in Windham were connected by telephone workers operating a switchboard (or cord board) based at Windham Center. Each town in the Portland area had this type of telephone system for 50 years.

Telephone service was established in Portland in 1898. Soon after, an appeal went out for agents who would institute service in surrounding towns. Windham businessman Fred S. Hawkes answered the call, and in 1904 set up a manual switching system in a corner of his general store at Windham Center (now Corsetti’s); the new business was known as Windham Center Telephone Exchange. Hawkes hired both men and women to be operators. At the time, the town’s population was about 2,000 – Hawkes’ six-line manual switching station, the telecommunications technology of the day, could accommodate fewer than 100 subscribers. As more residents signed on, multiple subscribers were placed on the same line, up to 12 or more. That meant a call could be placed only if no one else was using the line. When the line was in use, it was also possible to listen in on conversations. Such inconveniences were acceptable as a price for the service which accommodated communication, especially in times of emergency.

Demand for telephone service increased and in 1917 Hawkes built an annex onto his general store to house a central office and two 60-line (switch) boards powered by storage batteries (later by an electric motor). The old 12-party lines reduced to eight, or four – two party and private lines became available as well. By the 1930s, two operators worked together days and evenings. In earlier times, the telephones were shut down at night.

In order to meet an ever-growing number of subscribers following World War II, three large switchboards were installed capable of serving a population nearing 4,000 residents. Three operators were now needed to handle the busy hours.


New England Telephone now determined Windham was ready to convert to a dial telephone system. The switch, however, was postponed due to the shortage of copper caused by the Korean War.

The necessity for party lines persisted into the 1950s. Four to eight families were linked, often resulting in long wait times to make or receive calls. In Gorham, a woman whose home was experiencing a chimney fire, picked up the receiver and begged the party using the line to get off so she could call the fire department. The party refused, believing the story was a ruse just to free up the line. Fortunately, a volunteer firefighter lived just a few doors down and the woman was able to run down the street to summon help. 

It was not uncommon for people to carefully lift a receiver and listen in on conversations. In particular, children were guilty of this. Eric Nason, who grew up in Windham, remembers it was a practice he engaged in from time to time when he was about 6 years old. Interviewed for this story, he chuckled as he recalled being chastised by the party he was snooping on, “Is that the Nason boy again? You get off this line right now or I’ll call your mother!”

Late in 1953, New England Telephone announced plans to install dial equipment in a brick building under construction near the Windham Center store on Route 202. The so-called “cut-over” took place on July 29, 1954 at 7:30 a.m. The conversion eliminated the need for operators, and for the switchboard system that had been in effect for half a century. Windhamites could now dial Portland, Westbrook and Gorham toll free. The modernization cost subscribers $1 more on their monthly bills.

Nason, who today is president and owner of New England Communications in Portland, has worked with antique and modern telephone systems and waxes nostalgic about the days operators, party lines and (as he calls them) cord boards.

The operators, he says, knew the people of the town, “… they brought the town together. They were the personality of the town.” <


Friday, April 16, 2021

Windham student Will Colby uses lessons in he learned in boxing to teach self defense to others

By Matt Pascarella

Will Colby does pad work with North Waterboro eighth-grader
Emma Brown at Recon Fitness in Westbrook on Tuesday, April
13 during his Introduction to Striking class for students. 
PHOTO BY MATT PASCARELLA
Windham junior Will Colby started watching the Ultimate Fighting Championship with his dad when he was 3 years old and ever since then he’s been interested in combat sports.

When he was 14, he decided to check out Recon Fitness, a gym in Westbrook that teaches boxing and Mixed Martial Arts. He immediately started boxing along with Mixed Martial Arts and has stuck with it since. In 2020, he started teaching an Introduction to Striking class for youth at Recon Fitness.

Colby has been training as a boxer since 2018 working with coach Darren Elder. Elder has helped Colby grow tremendously as a person and boxer by encouraging, motivating and teaching Colby all Elder’s skills and knowledge. While Colby’s main focus is boxing, he does some Mixed Martial Arts with coaches Ernie Ornelas and Aaron Waite.

Colby wanted to start boxing because he has always looked up to boxers and fighters as physically and mentally strong men, which is what he strives to be.

In 2020, Colby had been preparing for a fight for about a month before Covid-19 shut everything down. He had been training with Ornelas and Elder who have helped Colby with their extensive knowledge and passion of the sport. Unfortunately, that fight, which would have been Colby’s first amateur boxing match in April 2020 was canceled.

Once Colby learned that the 2020 fight was canceled and Recon Fitness was closed temporarily because of COVID-19, he felt very discouraged and very disappointed he would not be able to test the skills he had gained over his time training. Colby did temporarily stop training in 2020, but quickly began training again and continued to motivate himself.

Will is a particularly kind and patient individual, said Elder. “Will has made massive gains both as a fighter and a young man. He has been consistent in focusing on his fundamentals and becoming comfortable in the uncomfortable. Whatever his role, be it training for his own contest, assisting one of his training partners, or coaching kid’s class, Will is the sort of guy you hope for.” 

In the fall of 2020, Elder saw potential in Colby to be a coach at Recon Fitness. Once Colby was offered this opportunity to coach, he said he was nervous and felt unprepared at first but honored that Elder had chosen him to coach the Introduction to Striking class for youth.

Colby’s Introduction to Striking class is for kids ages 10 to 13. Over time, Colby became very comfortable teaching the class and really enjoys it. He believes his responsibilities as a coach are to make sure the kids in his class are enjoying the sport as well as learning from it. Since he began as a coach, his class sizes have grown from one student to 12 students or more a class.

“I try to teach them to become comfortable in the uncomfortable just as my coach Darren had taught me, I try to develop their fundamental skills and grow their technique over the time of their training,” said Colby. He added it is encouraging to see kids coming to the class and sticking around.

North Waterboro eighth-grader Emma Brown has been participating in Colby’s class for three or four months. She likes the class because a lot of the time, it’s very one-on-one and it is a good way to learn self-defense. Brown said one of the things she enjoys most about the class is getting her anger out in a healthy way.

“He creates an environment conducive for the kids in his class to improve their skills as well as their sense of self; Will is exactly what the kids need,” said Elder.

Colby is currently looking for a boxing match he can fight in this summer. He is working towards getting ready for more training. He said he plans to continue to teach his classes at Recon Fitness for as long as he can. <