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Friday, August 19, 2016
Jerry Black served in the Navy at the end of World War II and in Korea. Although it was close to 60 years ago, he remembers details like they happened yesterday. “I was a teenager at the end of World War II. In the Navy, I coasted the Mediterranean because communists were trying to take over those countries,” Black said. Travel has always been a part of his life and that of his wife, Mildred. In July he traveled to Washington, D.C. on an Honor Flight Maine trip to see the World War II monument, the Korean Monument and many other sights in the capital city. As an Honor Flight guest of honor, Black and 27 other veterans were given the royal treatment from the sendoff party to the return celebration at the Portland Jetport.
“It was awesome, as the young people would say,” Black said.
According to the website, “Honor Flight Maine is a non-profit organization created solely to honor America’s Veterans for all their service and sacrifices. We transport our heroes to Washington, D.C. to tour, experience and reflect at their memorials. Top priority is given to our most frail veterans – terminally ill veterans of all conflicts and World War II survivors. Korean and Vietnam Veterans are also transported on a first-come, first-served, space-available basis.”
The Honor Flights are supported by donations from organizations and individuals, except World War II veterans who have not attended an Honor Flight trip.
Black, a member of the local American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars organizations, applied last fall for the Honor Flight. He will be 88 years old in October and he wanted to go to Washington, D.C. some place he had never been. While in the Navy, Black held two ranks, one for engineering as a machinist working on the diesel engines on boats and then as a barber on board ship.
“It was like I was just there when I get to talking about it,” he said.
|Ben Emmons and Jerry Black|
He told a story about an inspection where he cut most of the men’s hair and the officer inspecting the troops commented on it and said what a good job he was doing. During his four years of service, he traveled extensively and made a good name for himself. When he left the Navy, he attended Gorham Teacher’s College. He became an industrial arts teacher.
Honor Flight Maine gave Black two weeks to get ready, to find an escort and get excited. “They told me to bring my wheelchair…don’t need one. They told me to bring my cane…don’t need one. At 88, I was younger than all of them on the trip,” he said.
|Each star represents 100 veterans.|
He found the perfect escort in Benjamin Emmons, who was a paratrooper in Afghanistan and a neighbor. Black has known the Emmons family since 1955, when the neighbor boy was Ben’s father. Having Emmons with him was the right choice, he said. “We were the odd couple and had a good time,” Black added. Emmons was one of the last ones on and one of the first ones off to help with wheelchairs and other things for the veterans.
They were given a motorcycle escort from the airport in Baltimore to Washington, D.C. The procession drove by statues honoring nurses and Seabees. Two of the veterans on the trip were nurses and served for 28 years. They stopped at most of the monuments devoted to soldiers and wars.
When the veterans reached the World War II Memorial, they were lined up in the wheelchairs for a photograph. One of the men counted 228 people taking pictures of the 27 veterans. Black was impressed that they drew such a crowd.
Meals were provided and everything else was supplied. “Everything was on time. We always had ice water in our hands,” Black recounted. “If it was half full, they would get another cold one for us.”
Black made sure Emmons got an up close view of the Lincoln Memorial, something he had never seen. “It’s made out of three pieces. I went to the workshop of the man who carved this,” Black said.
Black especially wanted to see the Korean Memorial. In high school he had four friends who did everything together, hunting, fishing and camping. One friend joined the Air Force, and the other two were drafted and sent to Korea. One friend was wounded, came home and then went back to Korea again. He was captured, and as a POW died of malnutrition.
“This has bothered me the rest of my life,” Black said. Going to the memorial meant a lot to Black. He spoke of the memorial and how it had movement unlike some of the other monuments.
|Jerry and Ben at the Korean Monument|
However, the most exciting and poignant part of the trip for him was helping to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. “They selected me to be leader for the wreath laying. It was fresh from the company that sends wreaths to Washington from Maine. To be honored to do that, if front of everybody and service members. I was really moved,” Black said. The sergeant in charge at the tomb gave commands and Black repeated them to the four men with Black, including Emmons.
“I got weak on my feet. I was really emotional,” he described as he was walking back to the group. “My eyes welled up. You just don’t step up and do those things.” At that moment, he flashed back to all of his friends in high school and college who had been killed. He was doing it for them.
When Black’s group returned to Maine he was shocked at the number of people who came to the airport to support them. Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Masons, family members, ROTC people and more, all appeared to cheer for the returning veterans. “It makes the tears run. I took my hat off to show my appreciation. This was different, moving,” he said.
He was also given a packet of letters from family and friends thanking him for his service. “It’s really emotional,” he said.
“It had a connection to me. It was just more than a trip for me. That’s why I want to volunteer for Honor Flight Maine. I’d like to see others go.”
Another Honor Flight trip is scheduled for September with 48 veterans and their guardians.
For more information about Honor Flight Maine, visit www.honorflightmaine.org.
After traveling out of the country for a month, Windham Town Manager Tony Plante returned to Maine in time to be recognized as the Linc Stackpole Manager of the Year by Maine Town, City and Country Management Association last Thursday at a special dinner in Newry. Many of the town officials were in attendance at the event. Including, Phyllis Moss, the assistant town manager, who filled in for Plante while he was on vacation with his family.
“Tony does amazing work not only for the town, but for the greater Portland and lakes region communities. He is passionate about public service and it’s inspiring,” she said, she told the audience on Thursday night. “He goes from early morning to late at night. It’s amazing,” she added.
Monday afternoon, town employees surprised Plante with a reception celebrating his award. He was humbled and grateful for the recognition.
“It’s an unexpected honor and something I hope to live up to,” Plante said. The award has a history behind it, as it is named for a city manager from the early 1970s. “He was the consummate professional and dedicated to the community,” Plante said. He hopes he can live up to that standard.
“Being a town manager is not an easy job, and if anyone switched jobs with him they would find that out in a hurry. A manager needs to be on top of everything, 24/7. You need to be dedicated, and Tony is,” said town clerk Linda Morrell.
“He’s a very easy boss to work for. He gives us a lot of autonomy. He’s very analytical, thoughtful and well spoken,” said Police Chief Kevin Schofield. “He promotes a family atmosphere with in all the departments and employees.
“For those who put in the nomination packet, I really do appreciate that, and I appreciate all you do every day. I am overwhelmed,” Plante told the employees on Monday. “It’s an unexpected honor and something I hope to live up to. A manager is only as good as the people he has around him.”
Despite the soggy and cool conditions on Saturday morning, August 13th, a large crowd of runners and walkers found their way to the Windham High School campus to donate their time, money and honor the memory of Kelli Hutchison at the 6th Annual Kelli’s 5K.
This year’s run/walk was a success in many ways. At the time of this writing, $3,500 had been raised thus far. Donations were still coming in and are being accepted. The final dollar amount, less expenses, will be known in a few weeks.
A portion of this year’s donations were a result of sponsorships from the following organizations: Bob the Screenprinter, Casco Bay Steel Structures, Betty ReeZ WhoopieZ, Capozza Tile & Floor Covering Center, Sebago Trails Paddling Co., Dr. Podhouse at Orthodontic Associates, Grondin, Blue Rock Stone Center, Pike Industries, St. Ann’s Episcopal Church, Rowe Westbrook, Homestead Mortgage Loans, Primerica, Titcomb Associates, Joe and Suzanne Joyce.
Congratulations go to the fastest teen male and overall winner of this year’s event - William Chandler with a running time of 18:48. He was followed by the fastest male Eric Martin. The fastest female was Megan Curtis, followed by the fastest teen female, Analyse Harris.
Along with the winners of the event, many others came out in support of this community cause. One such person was George Vooris. George was present because raising awareness and funds for cancer is important to him. He is the organizer of the Second Annual Naples Causeway 5K Walk or Run that will occur this year on August 28th. Proceeds from that event will go towards the Patrick Dempsey Cancer Center and the local food pantry. Originally, George’s intention was to run the Kelli’s 5K but as a result of recently hurting his ankle, he volunteered instead.
Becky Delcourt of Windham has been a walker for this event since 2008, when it began as the St. Ann’s 5K. Delcourt stated, “I have known Kelli’s family for a long time and my son is a member of the WHS class of 2017.” As a result, she stated that it was especially important for her to participate again in this year’s event since 50 percent of the donations are going to the Windham High School 2017 Project Graduation, of which Kelli was also member. Becky’s friend, Michelle McCartney, joined the race for the first time. She was moved by Kelli’s story and wanted to make a contribution to this year’s cause and to honor the memory of the amazing and loving person that Kelli was known as by her family, friends and the community.
Jeremiah Merrill, a 2016 graduate of WHS, who grew up in the same neighborhood as the Hutchisons shared, “I remember playing with Kelli and her brother Cory. This is the first time I have participated in Kelli’s 5K but it is important to me to be a part of this year’s event. It is a special year since Kelli would have graduated in June 2017.” Jeremiah volunteered as parking attendant and participated as a walker.
Emily Skvorak and Celine Baker, both members of the 2017 graduating class, didn’t let the rain stop them either. Both of the runners were friends with Kelli and expressed how much they miss her presence. They both agreed that it was important for them to “honor and remember Kelli as a member of the graduating class.” They also spoke of Shane Donnelly, another class member who passed away unexpectedly in late spring of 2015. Celine stated that “the passing of Kelli and Shane brought the community and the class together in unexpected and special ways. It’s difficult to go through life without them.”
Emily continued with that same thought, “Whenever I am doing something for the first time, such as prom, I think it would have been so much more fun to have Kelli here, doing this with me.”
Another Kelli 5K volunteer also shared her story. Beverly Robertson, Kelli’s Aunt, has been volunteering since the Kelli 5K began in 2010. She believed Kelli’s spirit looked down upon Saturday’s event, “Kelli would be very pleased with the outpouring of caring happening today.” It seemed Beverly knew Kelli’s spirit was there as she shared a very special story. “On the day Kelli was laid to rest and as my husband and I were driving home, I asked Kelli for a sign.” Within a few minutes, it seems Kelli honored her aunt’s wishes by displaying a rainbow on a sunny day without a cloud in the sky. Not once, not twice, but three times. Beverly continued, “When I got home, I called Melissa (Kelli’s mother), and told her about my experience. As we were talking, a rainbow appeared just outside the window for Melissa to also see.”
Kelli’s parents, Melissa and Mike as well as her brother Cory wished to express their gratitude to all who participated and made donations. Overwhelmed with the spirit of community, the Hutchisons are happy beyond measure at this year’s successful Kelli’s 5K. It is their hope that Kelli’s essence remains a presence in the Windham community. Her love for life, her deep passion and caring for others, as well as the joy she had despite the challenges she faced at such a young age. May each individual in this small community see their own rainbows on difficult days and remember to enjoy it all, despite it all, Melissa said.
To make a financial contribution for the playground and 2017 Project Grad, visit the website at www.kellis5k.com.
Friday, August 12, 2016
On a perfect summer day in Raymond, community members and tourists stopped by the Mill Street Park to sample the wares and listen to the sounds from the New England Jazz Band at the second annual Everyone Loves Raymond, ME day. Organizers worked on the event throughout the year to plan for the affair. Although there were some grumblings, the event was fun for those who attended.
“I think it was a huge success. We had visions of torrential rain all day, but we lucked out. The weather was perfect!” said one of the organizers, Nick Hardy.
A community parade kicked off the day with pockets of community members dotting the route. The grand marshal was Wayne Holmquist and his wife Anita. Wayne was one of the co-founders of the Raymond Revitalization Committee, which came up with the idea for the festival. Some parade officials rode in convertibles donated by Macdonald Motors for the occasion.
“I was thrilled to see so many young families and children at the event,” said Hardy. After the parade, the Sheri Gagnon Park on Mill Street was the gathering place featuring local businesses and crafters, food vendors dishing out grilled corn, cotton candy and snow cones. There was also a dunk tank and a few games.
Representative Mike McClellan joined in the fun by getting dunked. “This is very nice. A nice group of people,” he said. He was excited for an event that showcases Raymond, a town he raised his children in and is proud of, he said.
“Many of the people I spoke with enjoyed themselves. It was nice to see the community involvement that we are trying to build come together, including all the participants and volunteer efforts,” said one committee member.
“I would like to thank all the help and volunteers that made our event a great success,” said chairperson Carrie Colby. “The band was a great success and a donation from Frank who won them in an auction and donated to our event,” she added.
The committee will meet September 8 at 8 a.m. at the Village Donut Shop on Route 302 for a review of the event. Going forward the