Friday, January 18, 2019

Raymond Arts Alliance celebrates one year of community connections, serving as a reminder to never give up on a dream

By Lorraine Glowczak

It began as The Raymond Hill Community Center (RHCC) a little over two years ago with a few Raymond individuals who came together to offer a space of gathering for the Raymond and Lakes Region communities. The goal and mission were to provide an open and welcoming space for people of all ages and backgrounds, sharing thoughts, ideas and/or creative projects; and to promote community connections.

Qigong is offered every Saturday
Challenges were faced in the beginning, but due to a dedicated few who embraced a stick-to-it attitude, the RHCC morphed into the Raymond Arts Alliance (RAA) one year ago on January 20th with the same mission in mind. It’s been a year of success, to say the least.

“I was actually pretty shocked when I saw our “year in review” with all of the events we had scheduled and things we had accomplished. I actually had to look at it for a long time to believe it,” stated Mary-Therese Duffy, President and one of the initial founding members of RAA. “The best thing about it was calling to mind all of the wonderful people we have met, some of the most fun, inspiring moments and ideas we shared with them, and how warmly welcomed the Raymond Arts Alliance is.”

Another founding member was Duffy’s husband, musician and educator, Gary Wittner. Sticking it out during difficult times offered some astonishing results “First and foremost, I am amazed and proud that we have developed into the group that now exists. I am also amazed that we have had so many and varied events.  And that we appear to be generating some local interest and excitement.”

When RHCC began, the events were held at the Riverside Hall located at 7 Raymond Hill Road in Raymond. Challenges arose at the beginning – such as being unable to continue financing artistic and community endeavors during the heating season and meet a monthly rent. As a result, some apprehension regarding all the logistics and legalities of having and hosting such events made the path to continue with the mission of the organization difficult. With most giving up on the project, Duffy and Wittner stayed with it – alone - to carry the torch. Until, that is, a little library and a small church with a big heart came along and saw the value of RHCC’s goal.

Duffy had this to say of the challenging transition: “I had to sit down and really examine my motives:
A full year of music, magic, comedy, poetry and more.
 were they clean?  As in, was I truly thinking about enhancing a sense of community connection and not just myself, in what I was attempting to do?  It was a pretty easy clarification I realized, especially when it brought to mind the 50 people or so to whom we had initially reached out for input and ideas.  At that time, they were not only excited, they had, without pause, donated pretty substantially. That felt like a mandate frankly, not so much from or for them, but for the very real desire, excitement and commitment I saw within the Raymond community to connect with one another while enjoying and supporting the arts and humanities. That made it easy. Scary, with just the two of us then, but easy to feel trust in what was driving us.  So, when the Raymond Village Library Board members and Reverend Nancy Foran of the Raymond Village Community Church reached out to us, we felt well teamed with people who had the same goals and vision we had.”

With this collaborative effort, RHCC then changed its name and became known as Raymond Arts Alliance (RAA). For the past year, the RAA has provided a variety of popular and well attended events to include (but not limited to) the following:
*Evening music series
*Comedy and Magic night
*Writing workshops
*SLUKES (Sebago Lakes Ukuleles) group sing alongs
*Short Set Concert performances (Latin, Celtic and Middle Eastern music)
*Poetry Night
*Seeds of Peace presentation
*Open-Mic nights
*Saturday morning Qigong/Tai-chi exercise program.

RAA now has grown with a larger group of volunteers. A new volunteer member, Louise Carpenter, stated that her main drive to participate in the group is to bring people out of their houses. “Raymond is such a large and spread out area, it’s really hard to meet people. The Raymond Arts Alliance is one way to gather as a community and enjoy the various events that we can all enjoy. As a result, I want to be a part of it and love the friendships I have developed as a result of my participation.”

Another dedicated volunteer, Brenda Olsen, concurred with Carpenter and also stated that she sees the work of RAA as way to bring unique performances and other venues to the area without having to go out of town and spending a lot of money. “One of my goals for RAA is to find ways to get children involved in the arts and the community, too.”

For those who are inspired to do something just as meaningful but are currently facing a hurdle along the way, Duffy shares some encouragement and what she learned about hanging in there during times when your dream seems out of reach.

“I like to say:  follow the yesses. The attraction of members to the Raymond Arts Alliance has been all about quite uncanny meetings of others that not only became “yesses”, they were also perfect fits of likeminded people with the exact right skills at the exact right time. Some things are just bigger than us and have been waiting to happen.”

Wittner had this to say about the way the Raymond Hill Community Center transpired into what it is today, “Things can manifest at any time, often when it seems unlikely. If the dream has passion, it keeps moving at its own speed.”

So, if it seems that things are not going as planned or meeting your agenda, remember that your dreams and vision can manifest at any time. Don’t give up.

To learn more about RAA or for volunteer opportunities, contact Duffy at:

Friday, January 11, 2019

Student of the Week: Michael Petty

Michael Petty, a first-grade student at Windham Primary School, is The Windham Eagle’s Student of the Week. Petty states that his favorite subjects are physical education and art.

“I selected Michael because he helps out around our school in several ways such as with a younger student and with Terracycling,” stated his teacher, Kayla Lions. “He works hard at following the school rules.”

Playing PS4 with his cousins, going to his dad’s house, skating and swimming in a pool are some of Petty’s favorite activities. “When I am at school, I like to free draw and help with Terracycling.”
Petty states that helping others is among his greatest accomplishments and the people who have contributed the most to his education are Dr. Rhoads and Mrs. Lions.

Besides his parents, his family also consists of a sister, cousins, Nana, Papa, Roxie, dogs, cats and a bunny.

Favorite movie: “Pixels”
Favorite music group: Christmas songs
Favorite holiday: Christmas and Easter

The rich life of Franco-American musicians and recipients of the National Endowment for the Arts perform in Raymond

By Lorraine Glowczak

Over 130 music lovers in the Lakes Region area joined in on the fun last Saturday night, January 5 at the Raymond Village Community Church, United Church of Christ to enjoy the unique Franco-American musical sounds of Don and Cindy Roy. Both musicians are the recipients of the 2018 National Heritage Fellowship for the National Endowment for the Arts.

Hosted by the Raymond Arts Alliance, Don and Cindy performed together with Erica Brown and Matt Shipman as the Side By Each musical group. The melodic variety included songs and performances that one would expect in the backyard of great friends here in Maine – or at Carnegie Hall, a performance on NPR’s Prairie Home Companion, in Quebec or at Celtic Colors International Festival in Cape Breton island– all of which the Roys have performed at least once.

Cindy and Don Roy
For those who may be curious, the Side By Each musical group tells the story of how their name came to be. Although the group originally named themselves “Four on the Floor”, based upon a popular song of the same title, they discovered the name had been unknowingly used by another local band in the area. As a result, they creatively changed their name. “When the Canadian French order their breakfast,” Brown explained the night of the performance, “They say, ‘Two eggs side by each with pair of toast.’” And, thus, the name “Side by Each” was chosen.

The Roys took a moment out of their busy schedule to share their story and adventures in music last Tuesday. Don and Cindy were both born into musical families that carry roots in New England, Quebec and the Canadian Maritimes. Don and Cindy have been a member of many successful groups including the Maine French Fiddlers and Fiddle-icious. Cindy is also well known for her step dancing piano accompaniment.

Don’s uncle, Lucien Mathieu and Cindy’s grandfather, Alphy Martin, were well known local musicians. Mathieu was a friend and musical acquaintance with Al Hawkes of Westbrook, who would often jam together in backyard gatherings that were so popular with Hawkes’ musical family and his friends. Don has performed along with Hawkes, as well, in the band “The Night Hawkes”.

Although they each had jobs in other walks of life to support their love of performing, the Roys promote music as a career and they offer the following advice: “You must wear three hats if you make music your life’s work,” Don began. “You are not only a musician and creator, but you also must be a promoter/marketer as well as an accountant.”

Don suggested educating oneself in these three areas as a way to success. He also added, “Be aware that if you are married or in a relationship, there is a lot of time you will spend away from those you love. Or, you can perform together like we did.” Of which - Cindy added with a laugh, “And sometimes, that can be difficult.”

Both Don and Cindy agreed that choosing a career in music can be a feast or famine experience – financially and emotionally. “But if you can hang in there, it is the most beautiful and rich experience one could possibly have.

They have performed together for over 30 years including Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center with a performance on NPR’s Prairie Home Companion – all in the early to mid-1990s. When asked what it was like to perform in such exquisite and well-known arenas, Don stated that it felt like performing anywhere in Maine, only on a larger scale. For Cindy it was a bit nerve racking, especially at Carnegie Hall. “It was one of my first times to ever play a Steinway grand piano and I was a bit nervous,” she stated. “But once I began to play, the keys felt like butter and I was able to relax.”

Although they did find a level of fame and recognition performing at the above well-known venues, they admit the greatest experience thus far came to them in the form of a phone call one morning in April of 2018.

“The phone rang, and the caller ID said it was from Chellie Pingree.” Cindy explained. “I usually don’t answer what I believe to be robocalls, but I answered this one. A voice said, ‘Hi. Is this Cindy Roy?’ When I responded yes, the voice continued, ‘This is Chellie Pingree and I wish to congratulate you for being nominated and chosen as recipients of the 2018 National Heritage Fellowship of the National Endowment for the Arts’.”

Cindy stated that she didn’t quite believe the authenticity of the call until Rep. Pingree was very clear – “Yes – this is really Chellie Pingree and yes – you and Don really won the National Heritage Fellowship.”  To this, Cindy said, “Well, you will have to tell my husband because I’m not sure he’ll believe me.”

As stated earlier, the career of a musician is either feast or famine. The past year has been one of the “feast” experiences and they are enjoying the ride.

In addition to the usual performances, they run a non-profit musical group. Fiddle-icious. According to the website, Fiddle-icious is “comprised of a diverse group of enthusiastic fiddlers and other musicians of all ages and all walks of life. The group’s music features tunes passed on from our Scottish, Irish, Quebecois, and Acadian ancestors. The primary goal of Fiddle-icious is to keep the tradition alive by sharing Maine’s musical heritage with the community.” The group meets at the Falmouth Congregational Church, 267 Falmouth Rd at 7 p.m. every other Monday.

This year, Fiddle-icious will offer a weekend workshop at the University of Southern Maine -Lewiston Campus from Friday April 12 to Sunday, April 14. To learn more about the non-profit group and the weekend workshop, peruse the website at:

The Roys agree their lives have been filled with goodness - both in experiences and in friendships -as a result of following their love of music. They agree with a good friend and fellow musician from New Orleans who once said, “I may not be rich, but I live a rich life.”

Before the memory fades: Edith Helen Bell, fiercely dedicated servant of church, youth and community

By Walter Lunt

She’s been described as a ‘force of nature,’ a lady with boundless energy and infectious enthusiasm while in service to the people and the institutions of her much beloved town of Windham.

The whirlwind that was Edith H. (Burgess) Bell became stilled with her passing in Williamsburg, VA on Dec. 22, 2018 at the age of 92. She was an educator, historian, musician, outdoorswoman, a community leader and, as will be explained, a ‘straight shooter.’ The projects and institutions with which she was involved touched nearly every family in town from the 1950s through 1990.

Edith Bell holding Tyler Andrew Clark
News of her death first reached Windham by social media. On Facebook, one admirer shared, “(she) was one of my greatest role models.”  

Joyce Greenacre, who served with Bell in the Delta Kappa Gamma Society, a professional group of key women in education, called her colleague a true ‘woman of distinction’ who never hesitated to step forward and give wholeheartedly to any group she belonged to.”

Born in Waldoboro, Maine in 1926, Bell grew up on the family poultry farm, attended local schools and graduated from Waldoboro High School in 1943. She was a member of Girl Scouts, 4-H, youth Grange, school band and attended church school – a training ground for what would become a life of service to church and community, for which Windham would later become the beneficiary.

Bell earned her teaching degree from Gorham State Teachers College in 1947, the same year she married Fred Albion Bell of Westbrook. The couple settled in Windham where they bought and renovated an 1832 farmhouse on River Road. Here they raised two daughters, Johnna and Joy.

Early on, Edith taught elementary grades in Windham and gave private piano lessons. She later earned two master’s degrees and became a librarian and media specialist at Westbrook Junior High School.
Despite a busy schedule with family and career, Edith became involved in numerous church and community activities. She and Fred joined the Windham Hill United Church of Christ (U.C.C.) where she taught and became superintendent of the church school. In addition, she was the church organist and sang in the choir. Edith would later create the popular hand bell choir in commemoration of daughter Johnna who died during her early years of college.

In the community, Edith’s busy pursuits included the formation of a Girl Scout troop, president of the Windham Historical Society, and trustee of the Windham Public Library.

She created the Cardinal Troop Girl Scout Camp on Dundee Pond that served hundreds of young girls over several years. Becky (Plummer) Delaware remembers week-long outings at the Presumpscot River site, led by Edith and co-leader Betty Pulkkinen.

“They were a brave pair (supervising) 20 girls, ages 8 to 18, doing wilderness camping.” Edith blew Reveille at 7 a.m. and Taps at 9 p.m. “They kept us entertained; we hiked, swam, sang, did crafts, campfire and generally had fun.”

Whether in the classroom, church school or Girl Scout meetings and camp outs, Edith had rules and standards. All were expected to live by them. But Delaware also recalls many instances when Edith was helpful and understanding. At Cardinal Camp, “We had outhouses. At night, after campfire, all 20 or so girls had to use them. Having no electricity, we all had flashlights; inevitably some girl would drop hers ‘down the hole.’ Edith to the rescue. She would retrieve the light, clean it up and return it to the delighted girl.”
Windham history compiled by Bell

Before meals, campers would sing grace. Anyone who was late for the gathering would have to endure the camp’s “sin-song,” “Always behind like the old cow’s taleDelaware pointed out, “It chastised the late one and entertained the rest of us.”

Linda (Bailey) Lunt remembers Cardinal Camp as “…the greatest part of school summer vacation. We had so much fun.” All the leaders and counselors had camp nicknames: Edith was Bucket, Pulkkinen was Cutie-Babe, and so on. “I remember cooking dough-boys over the fire; they were basically Bisquik on a stick. On the first day of camp, Lunt said all the campers brought home-made snacks. The leaders would serve them throughout the week. “When my chocolate coo-coo cookies were never brought out I asked Cutie-Babe what had happened to them. She just said they must be ‘in another box.’ Years later, Lunt said Cutie-Babe (Pulkkinen) admitted she had “always felt bad” about those cookies. It seems she and Bucket (Edith) had eaten them in the hours after Taps because “they were sooo good.” Many years later, Lunt would become a scout leader herself – “I used many of Bucket’s ideas and strategies with my own troop.”

Edith had numerous other busy pursuits in the community. She wrote and compiled historic photos for the book “Images of America – Windham, Maine”, which is still sold today.

Of her friend and fellow U.C.C. parishioner, Laurel Parker says, “Edith was a presence. This woman had two speeds: full (steam ahead) and dead stop.” She said the church’s carillon was donated by Edith Bell in memory of her deceased husband, Fred. She also bought the collection of English bells (to commemorate her late daughter) and trained others to play them. The group, known as the Melody Ringers, played in the church and for various events around Windham. “The church was her world,” said Parker, who is the U.C.C. historian.

Due to declining health and a desire to be closer to family, Edith departed Windham in 2009 to join her daughter Joy and husband Kenneth Mair in Williamsburg, Virginia. Bell’s many contributions and the many stories of her life in Windham remain; especially her legendary affection for ice cream.
“It was her way of celebrating anything. She even had a collection of unique ice cream cups and dishes,” said Parker. Asked about her favorite flavor, Parker answered, “Any kind, any time.”

Edith Bell is also remembered for some of her unique personal characteristics. Daughter Joy said her mother disliked woodchucks and snakes; woodchucks because they ate the plants in her garden and snakes because, well, they were snakes. “Mom,” she continued, “would always confront her problems head-on – rarely seeking help from others.”

One weekend, as Joy returned to the Windham farm from college, a neighbor sought her out and proclaimed, “Your Mother!” It seems the previous week Edith had confronted both challenges in her own way. She told Joy, “I went up to Libby’s Rent-all, got a chainsaw and some instructions on how to use it, and cut the mess around the well-house – then I had a bonfire and cooked hot dogs on a stick.” Apparently, that took care of the snake den; next, the woodchucks.

Ignoring the advice of her neighbor, Edith purchased a 20-gauge shotgun – and practiced firing it. After many misses, she managed to bag the marauding marmot, whereupon she boxed it up….and put it on the neighbor’s porch.

Joy said among the family photos at the Windham farm she found one of her mother wearing a baseball cap, holding the 20-gauge gun and striking a distinct Annie Oakley pose.
Edith Bell will be remembered at a special commemoration on Saturday, Jan. 12 at Windham Hill Church at 11:00 a.m. The public is invited. Among other activities, the hand bell choir will play the hymn “Beautiful Savior”. And of course, ice cream will be served.

Among the numerous messages on Facebook following her death was this from one of her many friends and admirers: “It better snow ice cream when you get to heaven.”  <

Friday, January 4, 2019

Book Review of “The Great Believers” written by Rebecca Makkai

Reviewed by Jennifer Dupree, Circulation Supervisor at the Windham Public Library

Rebecca Makkai’s “The Great Believers” is a novel of enormous breadth and depth.

It opens with a haunting scene of a memorial service for Nico, who dies of AIDS in 1980s Chicago, when gay men were just beginning to be diagnosed and died quickly. In the 1980s chapters, the central character is Yale Tishman, a kind, sweet man involved in what he thinks is a monogamous relationship with Charlie Keene. The memorial service itself sets off a chain of events that propels the story to its inevitable conclusion.

Nico’s little sister Fiona, who in the 80s chapters is a minor character, moves to the forefront in 2015 as she travels to Paris in search of her estranged daughter. Fiona is the only one left from the group of Chicago friends, and because she was the one to care for many of the young men as they died, she is both strong and wounded. Her story is one of the left behind, of what to do when you’ve already given so much.

This is a novel about mortality because it would be impossible to talk about HIV and not mortality, but it’s more about the relationships of these young men, with each other and with the world at large. It’s impossible not to love these characters, and to hope beyond reason that a cure is discovered by the end of the novel. It’s also the story of the repercussions of the disease through time, because the fact of the matter is that people are still dying from AIDS, and their loved ones are still bearing witness to it.

Preventing frozen pipes in your home this winter

During the winter, the possibility of damage to your home can increase. “Frozen pipes are often consequences of frigid weather,” explained Windham State Farm Agent Tricia Zwirner. “A 1/8-inch crack in a pipe, for instance, can spew up to 250 gallons of water a day, causing flooding and serious structural damage.”

The three central causes of frozen pipes are quick drops in temperature, poor insulation and
thermostats set too low.  “Following these simple tips may protect your property,” stated Zwirner.

Insulate pipes that run along outside walls, floors, ceilings and in your home’s crawl spaces and attic. Exposed pipes are most susceptible to freezing. The more insulation you use, the better protected your pipes will be.

Disconnect outside garden hoses and, if possible, use an indoor valve to shut off and drain water from pipes leading to outside faucets. This reduces the chance of freezing in the short span of pipe just outside the house.

Seal leaks that allow cold air inside near where pipes are located. Look for air leaks around electrical wiring, dryer vents and pipes, and use caulk or insulation to keep the cold out. With severe cold, even a tiny opening can let in enough cold air to cause a pipe to freeze. 

A trickle of hot and cold water might be all it takes to keep your pipes from freezing. Let warm water drip overnight, preferably from a faucet on an outside wall.

Keep your thermostat set at the same temperature both day and night. You might be in the habitat of turning down the heat when you’re asleep, but further drops in the temperature – most commonly overnight – could freeze your pipes.

Open cabinet doors to allow heat to get to un-insulated pipes under sinks and appliances near exterior walls.

Way to help avoid frozen pipes while on vacation

Set the thermostat in your house no lower than 55°F.  Also, be sure to replace the battery in your thermostat.

Ask a friend or neighbor to check your house daily to make sure it is warm enough to prevent freezing.

Your pipes have frozen. What do you do?

What if yours pipes freeze despite your best preventive measures?  First, don’t panic. Just because they’re frozen doesn’t mean they’ve already burst. Here is what you can do:

If you turn on your faucets and nothing comes out, leave the faucets turned on and call a plumber.
Do not use electrical appliances in areas of standing water. 

Never try to thaw a pipe with a torch or other open flame. Water damage is preferable to burning down your house!

You may be able to thaw a frozen pipe by using a hair dryer. Start by warming the pipe as close to the faucet as possible, working toward the coldest section of pipe.

If your pipes have already burst, turn off the water at the main shutoff valve in the house, and leave the water faucets turned on. Make sure everyone in your family knows where the water shutoff valve is and how to open and close it.

“Unfortunately, frozen pipes affect a quarter-million families each winter,” explained Zwirner.  “Hopefully, the above tips will keep your home free of frozen pipes.”

This article was brought to you by Tricia Zwirner of State Farm in Windham. 

Coach/Teacher spotlight on mother and son team

By Matt Pascarella

Lisa Hodge and her son, Mitch have education and athletics in their veins. Aside from both being coaches, Lisa is a Language Arts and Social Studies teacher at the Windham Middle School and Mitch Hodge is a Behavioral Interventionalist at the Windham Primary School.

Lisa graduated with a communications degree and was unsure of what she wanted to do after college.
Mitch and Lisa Hodge
Hodge loved working with children, so she volunteered to work and observe in a classroom. After spending one day in a South Portland Middle School classroom, she thought ‘this is fun!’ South Portland appreciated how comfortable she was with the kids and asked if she would apply for the educational technician opening they had. She did and was hired. This opportunity encouraged Lisa to go further into her new-found career, by eventually obtaining her master’s in education.'

Lisa’s path to Windham began with tutoring. She was trained in a reading program designed to help dyslexic adults. Windham needed an educational technician the following year and she got the job. The year after that, a language arts position opened at Windham Middle School and Lisa was hired.

She had always played sports. Lisa volunteered working with kids and did a lot of supervising of South Portland recreational programs. She coached her kids when they were little. “Playing sports is something we just do,” Lisa explained. She had volunteered to coach fourth and fifth grade basketball through the South Portland Recreational Department and this adventure created an opening to become a middle school coach. She currently plays in a senior women’s basketball league and coaches eighth grade girls’ basketball, middle school swimming and first team girls’ soccer.

Mitch Hodge says that teaching is a quality embedded in him based on the attribute his caring mother passed on to him. In high school, becoming a teacher crossed his mind, but it wasn’t until after high school when he began working with special needs adults that it was clear he wanted to keep helping and teaching in order to make other people’s lives better.

Hodge originally wanted to be a psychologist but decided that wasn’t a good fit.  He took an acting class as an elective in college and the teacher saw something in him and pushed for Hodge to continue with acting. Hodge got his degree in acting with a minor in psychology. “Acting helps with teaching,” Mitch stated. “You have to have a sense of humor and be on your toes.”

He got a job working with special needs adults at Community Resources for Justice in New Hampshire. Mitch later worked for Woodfords Family Services in Maine providing in home support.

It wasn’t until he substituted for Jody Colangelo at Windham Primary School that he found his calling. He was working one-on-one with a girl and it was working so well, the Primary School asked if he wanted to stay. Mitch admitted his mom lead him to the path of teaching, but Colangelo’s influence helped him narrow down what he wanted to teach. Mitch is a Behavioral Interventionalist and is also working on his masters. In two years, he plans to have his own classroom as a special education teacher.

Mitch has played sports most of his life. When he was much younger, he spent a lot of time with his mom, who coached a lot. After college, Mitch knew he wanted to be on the field again. As a result, he is currently the freshman boys’ soccer coach; a position multiple people encouraged him to take.
The comradery created on a team is important – it’s another family. Mitch enjoys being a part of the kid’s lives.

Both mom and son agree they feel lucky to be able to do what they do, and they enjoy their jobs so much they admit it doesn’t feel like work.  

Remembering American Legion member Norman Spear

By Dave Tanguay

At the height of the cold war, when the Soviet Union and U.S. were in the midst high stakes’ nuclear sword rattling, in the waters of North Korea, the North Koreans intercepted and captured a U.S. Navy vessel purported to be in international waters. The ship? The USS Pueblo. 
Norman Spear

From that moment the crew of the Pueblo became pawns in an ugly, international game of chess and a black mark on the Nixon Administration. In that ship’s crew, in the engineering department was a Navy Sailor from Maine, Norman Spear. He and his fellow crew members endured brutality and severe conditions prior to their release eleven months later. The ship, after fifty years, remains a memorial in North Korea dedicated to the sins of the West.

Norman Spear passed away about a month ago. He was a Windham resident and a quiet man.
I met Norm on March 21st, 2016.  I remember the day because it was the first day of the American Legion Post 148’s Veterans Coffee Social advertised as a drop-in for local veterans to gather each Wednesday. Norm was one of the early arrivals and sat quietly on the far side of the table.
From all appearance he was a man who had seen a hard life, bent, but not broken. He didn’t say much that first encounter and I wondered if he would return the following week.

He did, and except for illness, never missed a Wednesday gathering in two and a half years; always the first to arrive to claim his seat. After a few weeks, the group learned more about his military service and his status as a former POW in Korea. He never spoke much about his service, but occasionally would pass on a little bit about his past. Many days he half-heatedly played a game or two of solitaire as he listened to others in conversation and would occasionally join in.

In the spring of 2017, I was working on a project to locate the grave of a Medal of Honor recipient buried in Forrest City Cemetery, South Portland. Norm overheard the conversation and perked up. He had worked in Forrest City Cemetery in an earlier time in his life and felt he might be of help in the search. He was. Within two weeks, Norm had located the pauper’s grave site and was able to get copies of documents that confirmed the location of Emile Lejeune, the Medal of Honor recipient. With that information, I was able to forward the information to the Medal of Honor Association and get approval for a dedication of the grave by the VA with a VA provided bronze plaque.

On October 10th of that year, a formal Medal of Honor dedication ceremony was conducted with the assistance of the Legion Post 35 in South Portland. Many dignitaries from the state and city were present. Norm was invited to attend and was included in the ceremony with the duty of placing the Medal of Honor flag on the grave. You could see the sense of pride as Norm undertook the task. It became a defining moment in his life which he would speak about often.

Norm continued to come to each coffee hour without fail. He could also be seen almost daily, sitting in his car in the parking lot of the Windham Veterans Center with a cup of coffee, his newspaper and a pack of smokes. Norm enjoyed the solitude of the Center and even when he could not drive due to a recent accident, would ask family or Post members to drive him, stop by McDonald's for a coffee and take him to the Vet Center.  It became his second home.

Norm had his own table and an elevated chair that allowed him to sit more comfortably. His table always had the same vets around him. They were family.

Norm was a bit of an eccentric, but, noted once to me that the Legion Post, “was an organization worth belonging to.” Norm was a member worth having in the Field-Allen Post and will be missed at the weekly gathering.