Friday, December 21, 2018

AARP Maine releases 2019 legislative agenda

Continues Weekly “Tuesdays at the State House” for AARP Volunteer Advocates

PORTLAND: As the 129th legislators are sworn in, AARP Maine announces its 2019 Legislative Agenda which includes a focus on long term care system reform, restoration of home and community-based services, housing and livable communities, financial security, fair utility rates, and broadband expansion.

AARP Maine concluded the 2018 “Tuesdays at the State House” today with nearly 50 AARP volunteer advocates in attendance.  Every Tuesday from January through April, and then once monthly, AARP Maine was represented by engaged volunteers who attended hearings, greeted legislators and delivered testimony before committees during the 128th legislative session. Today, volunteers gathered to welcome legislators to the State House and witness the legislative inauguration and leadership elections.

“On behalf of our more than 230,000 members statewide and our team of member advocates who are in Augusta each week, AARP Maine looks forward to working with legislative leaders from both sides of the aisle in 2019,” said Lori Parham, AARP Maine State Director.  “It is critical that our newly elected and re-elected legislators work together to address important issues that affect residents 50+ for the benefit of all Mainers.” 

One of the priorities for AARP Maine in 2019 is a focus on long-term care system reform. This will continue our work of supporting Maine’s 178,000 unpaid family caregivers, addressing the shortage of paid caregivers, and achieving Medicare and Medicaid coverage for respite and other supportive services. We call on leadership at all levels of government to prioritize Maine’s long-term care system by leveraging existing federal funds to restore home and community-based services such as the Medicare Savings Program and Drugs for the Elderly; programs which are specifically designed to help low-income seniors and disabled adults. 

AARP Maine will also support measures to increase Mainers’ financial security. The top priority is the release of a $15 million affordable senior housing bond that was passed in 2015 by the legislature and approved by 70 percent of Mainer voters. This bond is a critical investment in home repair, weatherization, modification and new home construction for older and working Mainers. The vast majority of Mainers want to age in their own homes and communities. Safe, affordable and accessible housing, partnered with adequate home and community-based services, make communities across our state more livable for people of all ages.

Other financial security policy priorities include property tax relief through the restoration of municipal revenue sharing, student loan debt relief, and policies to address food insecurity.  Further, AARP Maine will persist in our efforts to ensure affordable and transparent prescription drug prices.
AARP advocates for election procedures that facilitate high level of voter participation. We will continue to support voting systems and registration procedures designed to encourage maximum participation in the electoral process.
AARP Maine will also monitor changes to telecom and electric utility rates and services in the state to ensure prices remain fair and affordable. In addition, AARP Maine continues to support expansion of Broadband service throughout the state. Broadband access is often necessary for the use of new technologies such as telehealth and telemedicine that improve the quality of life for people of all ages and help Mainers to age in place successfully. It is also critically important for small business owners and entrepreneurs.

“AARP Maine and all us of volunteer advocates look forward to working with Governor Mills and state lawmakers in the 129th legislative session to ensure that Maine continues to be a place where people 50+ want to live, work and retire,” Parham said.

Sean Murphy, a successful and well-known comic book creator speaks to WHS students

By Lorraine Glowczak

Students at Windham High School who have an interest in or creative flare towards graphic arts had an opportunity to meet Sean Murphy, a comic book creator known for work on books such as: “Batman: White Knight”, “Batman/Scarecrow: Year One”, “Shaun of the Dead”, “Joe the Barbarian” and “Tokyo Ghost”. He spoke to approximately 50 students on Friday, December 7 about the graphic novel writing industry as a career.

Sean Murphy
Murphy, who also works for DC Comics and lives in Portland, was invited by English Teacher, Ryan Lowell to inform students about this genre and to highlight the graphic novel class added to the curriculum. “Our graphic novel class is part of the "choice curriculum" English that we have offered for juniors and seniors since last fall. In the spirit of preparing our older students for college and giving them more choice, we broke junior and senior English into four semesters, and let students pick the subjects that interest them most. The graphic novel class meets all the argumentative writing, speaking and listening skills of a traditional English class, but our texts are all graphic novels and comics.”

Murphy offered real and down to earth information about his career as a graphic novel writer, both as a business and as a passion. His presentation included how he made it into the business as well as tips on how to write a well-written graphic art/novel and publish it. “But I must be honest,” he began. “This is a very competitive business, so be aware that if you choose this as a career you may have to work a full-time job and use your graphic novel writing as a side business.”

Lowell was very pleased with Murphy’s presentation, stating that the knowledge and advice he shared benefitted the students who hope to break into the business. “It's such a rare and impactful opportunity for young writers and artists to be able to talk shop with someone as successful as Sean. As Sean mentioned, storytelling is a very competitive field, but perhaps it seems less impossible now that the students have gotten to ask questions and get honest, constructive answers from a professional who knows. His advice to take advantage of independent funding through sites like Kickstarter provided a realistic first step for students trying to get a foot in the door.” 

Murphy took the time to answer many thought-provoking questions from the students. “I was proud of my students for the thought they put into their questions, and there was a lot to learn from Sean's insightful responses,” Lowell said.

One student, in particular, had many questions for Murphy, as she plans to publish a novel she is writing. Karyn Dion, who is taking Lowell’s graphic novel class this semester, said she hopes to make a career out of writing full-time. “I’ve had a passion for [writing] as long as I can remember,” Dion stated. “I’ve always loved books and I began writing stories down about five years ago. If I can, I'd love to write for a living.”

As for Murphy’s advice of entering this competitive field as a career, Dion said she is going to give it a shot anyway. “The only way to get anywhere in life is to have a positive attitude. So, that’s what I’m doing by writing this book and putting my writing out for the world to see.” 

Dion is making the publication of her book, with the working title of  A Novella of Horror Stories”, her Senior Capstone Project. Briefly, the Senior Capstone Project is a new graduation requirement this year that is intended to help students find their path after high school and show young people it’s not impossible to stay in Maine. Students will write a proposal, complete some short reflection papers, obtain mentor agreements and conduct a presentation to a panel of teachers and students for graduation credit. “Writing and publishing my first book is my entire capstone. So, the goal is to get it published so that I can graduate.”

Dion stated that Murphy’s presentation was extremely helpful as she reaches her graduation goals and requirments. Lowell agreed with Dion in that he believed Murphy provided thorough and encouraging information. “I hope my students left the auditorium inspired to go out into the world and create,” Lowell said. “I know I did!”

Friday, December 14, 2018

Educational Presentation provided tips on holiday scams

By Lorraine Glowczak

Every year, thousands of individuals are tricked into deceptive schemes that can wreak financial and/or emotional havoc on one’s life. These scams not only continue during the holidays, but   tend to increase in number and intensity. To prevent individuals in the greater Windham community from falling victim to highly motivated con artists, AARP Maine Communications Director, Jane Margesson, along with Captain James Boudreau of the Windham Police Department, offered a presentation at the Windham Public Library last Thursday, December 5 at 1 p.m., informing participants of the variety of scams that are popular today.

“There’s nothing festive about fraud,” Margesson began. “During the holidays, scams increase, and we are here to help older adults keep their financial futures secure.”

In the interactive presentation, Margesson offered important information about the various fraudulent and deceptive offers that can easily be mistaken as valid bargains. The following are some of the more popular holiday scams:

Online shopping safety:
“When shopping online, use well-known sites and type in the web address yourself, instead of clicking on a link,” Margesson advised. To do so can download unwanted viruses or may open the door to computer hacking.

For those who enjoy the convenience of online shopping, be sure to make the purchases from home where the internet is secure. “Public WiFi is just that – public! Scammers can obtain important financial information if you place orders in public internet service spaces such as those you might find in a coffee shop or an airport.”
Gift Cards:
There are also behind the scene scams that some may not have heard about. For example, one would not necessarily be suspicious of purchasing a gift card for their loved ones, but Margesson and Capt. Boudreau both warned that gift card numbers can be stolen and once money is placed on those cards, the scammer will be the one to receive the money, leaving the gift card buyer and the gift recipient with nothing but a worthless plastic card. “Buy gift cards online from the retailer or from the store cashier, to avoid compromised cards that may be sitting on gift card racks. And always keep the receipt,” stated Margesson.

Genealogy websites:
One of the most popular and largest scams have occurred through genealogy websites. Be very careful about any personal or financial information that is requested. “Scammers know that genealogy research is a great way to obtain information so beware what you share.”

Charitable giving:
To verify if the charity is a valid organization that will use your donation in the way they promise, one can check with websites designed to help. Two trusted websites for confirm the authenticity of charitable causes are: 1) and 2)

Foreign lotteries:
It is important to note that foreign lotteries are not legal in the United States. Additionally, no lottery will ask a winner for “up front” money in order to receive the winnings. “And, of course, if you didn’t enter the lottery – you most likely didn’t win anything,” Margesson emphasized.

There are preventative measures one can take to safeguard credit. “Turn on the ‘credit freeze’ with all three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and Transunion). It is free to turn the freeze on and off at any time.” A freeze locks the data information until an individual gives permission for the release of the data.  Go to or send an email to for more information.

Shredding important documents is another strategy to keep financial information from being stolen.  AARP Maine will be sponsoring free shredding events again in 2019 starting in April.
Most importantly, keep yourself informed by accessing information and resources through either the AARP Fraud Watch Network at and always report suspected scams to local law enforcement.

Before the memory fades: Ralph Griffin – the apple man of River Road

By Walter Lunt

Kay Soldier, the late Windham historian often posed the question, “Whatever happened to all the characters?” She was referring to certain townies that were, by most people’s standards, unusual, eccentric or quirky. Such characters were more visible and obvious back in the decades of the mid-20th century. One individual who fit Soldier’s definition of “a character” was Ralph Griffin, the so-called Apple-Man of River Road. He was best known for selling corn and apples and for paying his taxes with small change -  more on that later.

The well respected "character", Ralph Griffin
Griffin was a well-known Windham personality who sold vegetables and fruits in front of his white farmhouse just south of the Dundee Park Road. Also known as Red, or Pop, he was a fixture at that location for over 50 years.

Born in 1902 in South Portland, he left school early to help support his impoverished family of three brothers and two sisters.

“I’d do “gypsy work,” he explained, “my father was alcoholic, and he’d dig up money I hid in the back yard. I used to go to rich people’s houses and (collect) milk bottles – you got a nickel deposit for each one.”

Griffin continued to work at odd jobs until his mid-20’s, saving “every penny” along the way. In 1930 he joined the U.S. Coast Guard as a machinist’s mate. He described his duty during World War II as “chasing German U-boats all over the North Atlantic.”

Griffin swore off all banks and written contracts after losing all his savings in the stock market crash of 1929, adopting a “pay as you go” philosophy for the rest of his life. He bought the 40-acre farm on River Road in Windham in 1935; to avoid a bank loan, he made monthly payments in cash to the previous owner.

Griffin soon had cows, sheep, chickens and a multi-acre vegetable garden. He had married Aimee Irene (Loring) in 1932; they raised five children.

“Old Pop was a taskmaster,” according to his son Merrill, “he would leave all of us a week’s worth of chores before shipping off (on his Coast Guard duties).”

Griffin rarely returned home from his Coast Guard base alone. He observed that several of his younger shipmates would drink and fight on weekends in Portland. One was known as “the scrapper.” Griffin brought them home to his farm. “I had to keep them out of trouble.” They worked in his garden, enjoyed home-cooked meals and experienced a measure of family life.  The Griffin family photo album shows these men in later years, married and settled down, and still visiting the Griffin farm.
At his apple stand

Before long, the multi-acre garden was producing more food than the family consumed. He opened the farm stand at the end of his gravel driveway in the early ‘40s. “I need the extra money to pay my (property) taxes,” he would tell his customers. And he was known for chastising the town and its various boards and committees for “spending money they don’t have.” Griffin always spoke his mind at the annual town meeting, usually on financial matters.

In later years he bought a farm tractor and new pick-up truck. In both instances he insisted on delivery so that payment could be made by counting out cash on his kitchen table.
The familiar vegetable stand consisted of two card tables, several wooden boxes spilling over with corn or squash and the open back of Griffin’s green truck. Whether stopping or not, every third or fourth passing vehicle would honk. Griffin would wave, often without looking up. Along with instructions on how to best prepare the food they were buying, customers would be treated to some philosophical and political banter. “I loved talking to Pop, but I never stopped unless I had at least an hour to kill,” said one.
Among his favorite topics, Griffin would muse, “If you can’t afford it, don’t buy it.” Or, “Five things have ruined the world: selfishness, greed, suspicion, notoriety and television (he would often substitute other vices, but the number, five, never changed).” On preparing corn, “Put ‘em in cold water, husk them and put them in a bag in the coldest part of your icebox (refrigerator). Don’t cook them any longer than five to seven minutes. Add a little sugar – makes them tender.” During a lull in customers, Griffin would sit in a plastic lawn chair, waving to passing motorists.

Apples were his mainstay. Many residents and out-of-towners remember the red apple-shaped signs with white lettering posted on both sides of the driveway. He was proud of the quality and variety he sold: Macs, Baldwins, Snows, Red and Yellow Delicious and Miltons (a cross between a Mac and a Snow). Because there were no visible apple trees on the property, he would often be asked, “Where do you get your apples?” He would always answer, “Up country – I select them myself.” This was truthful. A family member once accompanied Griffin “up-country” to collect several bushels of apples. It was a huge apple orchard operated by an accommodating farmer; Griffin inspected the bounty carefully as one would examine gem stones. On the return trip, the passenger was sworn to secrecy as to where they had been.

Heading to town hall to pay his taxes - in coins
The years following W.W. II were good at the farm on River Road for the Griffins and their extended family. Ralph and Irene enjoyed hosting picnics at a riverside get-away spot on the eastern edge of his “back-40.” The strip of property was owned and controlled by the S.D. Warren Co. Always one to avoid legal written agreements, Ralph had secured verbal permission to set up camp there many years earlier. He and the family had cleared the area, built a small camp and dock and hauled sand for a beach and swimming hole. In 1966, however, S. D. Warren agreed to donate approximately 25 acres of its land bordering Dundee Pond and the Presumpscot River to the Town of Windham for a public park. It was the same piece of land Griffin had prepared and used for almost 30 years. Griffin protested what he called “the land grab” for two years, asserting squatter’s rights and claiming the park would be costly to taxpayers. His name became a household word as he spoke passionately at town meetings and wrote letters of protest to newspapers and town, state and U.S. officials. Then Senator Edmund Muskie responded, “…this is a local matter which should be settled between you and the Town of Windham.” Senator Margaret Chase Smith went a bit further by inquiring at the U.S.
Dept. of the Interior, but finally conceded that the town’s application for a park development grant had been handled properly. The rest, she stated, was a local matter. Despite Ralph’s continued efforts to oppose the park and his ongoing feud with the Windham Planning Board, the town’s first picnic and swim park, Dundee Park, opened in the late summer of 1967. In a final gesture of good will, the town granted the Griffin family a life-time pass to the new park. A move characterized by Griffin as “salt in the wound.”

Ralph Griffin again achieved town-wide fame ten years later. The town had undergone property tax revaluation. Griffin’s taxes skyrocketed. That year, the farm stand failed to produce enough revenue to cover his taxes. For the first time, he was forced to use his savings. He was determined not to pay without fanfare. Griffin filled empty milk cartons with small change earned from his roadside vegetable sales. Call it a sense of humor, or defiance – Griffin notified the local press, proceeded to town hall and blanketed the counter with coinage; to be exact: $100 in pennies, $250 in quarters, $150 in dimes, $10 in half-dollars and four one-dollar bills. He’d made his point.

The town responded by prohibiting the practice, so the following year Griffin paid in one-dollar bills.
Following many months of declining health and home health care, Ralph Griffin died in 1996, age 93, just days after being told his cash savings had run out and he’d have to go to a nursing home. He’d been adamant about never resorting to that.

Full disclosure, Pop Griffin was this writer’s grandfather. This is written as a special tribute from his family, and as a special memory to all who knew him.

To this day, people approach members of his family to recall the memories and say things like, “Hey, I knew your grandfather, he was quite a character, wasn’t he.”  

This was the final installment of The Historical Record for 2018. This special series of Before the Memory Fades will resume in January.

“A Charlie Brown Christmas” comes to life at Schoolhouse Arts Center

By Elizabeth Richards

The holiday season inspires nostalgia and tradition. Watching “A Charlie Brown Christmas” is a little of both – a long standing tradition and a reminder of childhood.  So, what could be better than watching this holiday classic come to life on stage? The answer is simple: watching it come to life with a few additions from other Christmas favorites.

Schoolhouse Arts Center has put together a show with perfectly portrayed members of the Peanuts gang, a beautiful performance by the Bonney Eagle Select Chorus and a few additional snippets from other classics to round it all out. 

This time of year, a chance to relax can be difficult to find. The brevity of this show makes it a perfect respite from all the chaos. It’s short enough to hold the attention of even very young children, but long and varied enough to satisfy avid theater fans. The show follows the television special’s script very closely, adding just enough extras to stretch it appropriately. Injecting additional material could pose a problem if done awkwardly, but that wasn’t the case at Schoolhouse. The addition of an adult Charles Brown to narrate the show fit well into the overall flow. Scenes featuring characters from other holiday classics were well placed transitions that didn’t pull attention away from the main show.

The familiar, well-loved Peanuts gang were portrayed as teenagers, rather than young children, which worked quite well. The age change didn’t alter the essence of the characters. Snoopy’s exuberant antics prompted laughter in all the right places as did Lucy’s self-assured bossy nature. Charlie Brown was a bit hard to hear at times, but he clearly expressed, through body language and dialogue, both his frustration at the commercialized nature of the season and his hopefulness that it might change. And Linus, quiet but self-confident, conveyed the true meaning of the season in a touching, compelling way.

The action throughout was true to the original special, especially the dancing scene where each performer smoothly executed their character’s signature moves.  It can be difficult to put on a show with such nostalgia attached and meet the high expectations of an audience who can’t help but have preconceived notions of how each character should look.  Schoolhouse Arts Center rose to the challenge, leaving the audience smiling and humming as they exited the theater.

“A Charlie Brown Christmas” runs through December 16, with performances on Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $14 for adults, $12 for students/seniors. Tickets can be purchased online at or at the door.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Age is just a number to marathon swimmer

By Matt Pascarella

There is no stopping Pat Gallant-Charette. Last year, I introduced you to the marathon swimmer who had broken six world records at the age of 66. A year later, Gallant-Charette has broken eleven world records and still wants to take her swimming career as far as she can.

A Westbrook resident who gave a presentation to the students at Windham High School last year, Gallant-Charette began her swimming career when she was 58 and swam the Peaks to Portland. Her initial intention was to only do that one swim, but she fell in love with the sport and it took off from there.

Gallant-Charette and her nephew after her Lake Tahoe swim
Since I last spoke with Gallant-Charette, she has completed four marathon swims within two months. She broke world records for three out of those four swims. She was also nominated for World Open Water Swimmer of the Year for the fifth time since she turned 60.

Ned Dennison, Chairperson of the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame, surprised her during the Open Water Swimming Conference in California. She was there as a guest speaker when Dennison announced she was to be inducted as an honoree member into the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame in Australia in March of 2019.

“I’m still stunned by it because I didn’t start my marathon swim career until the age of 58. I’m 67 now and to be inducted, I’m taken aback by it, it still hasn’t fully sunk in,” Gallant-Charette stated.
Aside from doing phenomenal in the marathon swimmer’s world, Gallant-Charette is a full-time grandmother, watching her three grandchildren, ages ten, eight and six. She recently started tapping trees to make syrup with them but makes time to train six days a week, swimming at least two hours a day.

Her upcoming swims or ‘bucket list’ swims, as she referred to them, are to finish a marathon swim in February in New Zealand, the final swim of the Ocean’s Seven (a marathon swim consisting of the seven open water channel swims); Lake Memphremagog in Vermont, her final of the Monster Swims (the others being Loch Ness and Lake Tahoe); a Switzerland swim and then she will go after the Stillwater Eight, eight very challenging lake swims in the world. It’s important for Gallant-Charette to convey the message of never being too old to accomplish your dreams and goals.

Although she has shattered so many records, when Gallant-Charrette sets out on a marathon swim, her goal is to not break records. She wants to complete the swim. The swims are fun challenges for her and if she breaks a record, great, if not, that’s ok too and it’s on to the next swim.

“I love the sport a lot; I have no intention of quitting,” she said. “I have a great crew that helps me. My brother and his wife, my sister-in-law and my son. I have family members that come with me, it’s a team sport even though I’m a solo swimmer. It really takes a really great crew to have a swim be successful.”

Gallant-Charette really wants to see what her capabilities are. She is a grandmother not only breaking records but doing some very challenging swims people in their 20s would have trouble doing (like the North Channel).

“For right now it’s a lot of fun, I just never imagined it’d get to this point.” You’re never too old says Gallant-Charette. “For me being 67, this was my strongest year ever in swimming.”