Saturday, May 28, the gun will go off on the second annual Toby’s Dream Project
Memorial Race event at Windham High School. Last year the event raised $8,000
toward the goal of paving the Windham Veterans Center parking lot, which meant
a lot of Toby Pennels, a veteran who gave a lot of his time and resources to
the space to make it succeed. The driveway and access road are now paved and
through the work of his family and a small group of dedicated volunteers, the
initiative will now allow Toby to continue to give back to organizations he
“Toby” Pennels passed away after a motorcycle accident in 2014. At the time he
was running for political office, sat on the RSU14 school board and had served
year the committee will honor Toby by splitting the money between three places.
All money raised at the races and through a raffle for a paddle board,
flotation device and paddle donated by Kittery Trading Post will go to help
programs that mean so much to Toby. The first place the money will go is toward
the Toby Pennels Memorial Scholarship Fund, then the remaining money will be
split between the veterans center and the Windham High School cross country
team, who have given so much for this event,” according to Brenda Pennels,
Toby’s widow. “We want to make it something Toby would have wanted.” Two of
Toby and Brenda’s children ran cross country and cross country coach Jeff Riddle
has spent countless hours working on the races.
the race on Saturday there will be a 5K and a 1 mile walk, run or wheel and
also a kids’ fun run with ice cream cones donated by The Ice Cream Dugout as a
reward. Registration can be done online at the website or on Saturday. There
will be Blue Mile markers to honor those who have passed on.
are very happy to continue to partner with Brian Berkemeyer, Run In A Race,
LLC., to help with online race registrations and online donations and also
officially time our races and collect all race results,” said Riddle.
year there will be a meet a veteran portion of the event and a station for
writing to soldiers. Colonel Scott Venable will fly in from Chicago to talk
about what it means to serve and what it was like serving in Iraq with Toby in
2007. There will be “a lot of things going on on race day to honor vets,” said
Brenda. That includes a non-perishable food drive. People are asked to bring an
item or two for the Windham Food Pantry. The items are collected by the
American Legion Post 148. They will also be collecting food in North
of this happens effectively because RSU14 has again sanctioned this race event
in respect and honor of Toby and all that he gave over his years of service to
RSU14. It is important to also mention that the Town of Windham and Raymond
have been overly supportive of this event and we look forward to continuing those
partnerships as well,” said Riddle.
year the organizers cut out the breakfast and made the whole event shorter.
It’s more organized, said Brenda.
year, year one, Brenda Pennels, Taylor Pennels, Don Swander and I worked with a
few other volunteers to make the event a very successful one, all within a very
short timeline to respectfully pull it all off,” said Riddle. “In this second
year of the race event,…we have increased our event coordination committee with
some amazing community members from the towns of Windham and Raymond.”
team effort includes Taylor Pennels as web designer/sponsorship
coordinator/Facebook marketer and Don Swander liaison with the Windham Veterans
Center and fundraising. Others added are Jennifer and Nelson Breton, Suzie
Brockelbank, Abbi Brockelbank, Kristy Appleebee, and Nini and Nate Bennett.
Cobb received the Toby Pennels Memorial Scholarship last year and will be given
out again at the senior recognition night before graduation this year. The
raffle for the paddle board will be drawn on Memorial Day after the community
luncheon event and paver dedication that starts at noon on Monday.
“The Summit Project (TSP), a nationally recognized, Maine
based, non-profit service organization founded by active duty USMC Major David
J. Cote in 2013, is a living memorial that has changed the way an entire state
pays tribute to their post 9/11 fallen service members while also inspiring
service, strengthening communities and changing lives.”
TSP is an organization created to honor heroes with ties
to Maine. Through a web of volunteers, the stories of soldiers who have passed
away will not be forgotten. The program is unique to Maine and is like nothing
else out there.
“I hope this memorial can help tell the stories of a
generation of brave Maine veterans who did not return home but whose service
and sacrifice must never be forgotten,” said Cote, who grew up in Bangor.
“This is a story of our generation of Maine service members — a story that
needs to be told. The Summit Project gives us an opportunity to say to our
veterans you did your job. You served with honor. You made us proud. We
are connected to you and continue to learn from your example. We are inspired
by you because we took the time to learn about you.
The fallen comrades were not all born in Maine, but all have
ties to the state. They have all lost their lives since 9/11. Not all were killed
in combat, though most were. It could have been a training accident, but they
were all on active duty.
Each veteran is remembered with a stone picked out by
their family. Some stones are from a beach, some from family homesteads or
camps, and others from a mountain where they may have had a memorable hike. They
are all from a place of significance for the hero and their family. The stones
are engraved with the veteran’s initials or name, rank, year of birth, year of
passing and branch of service. The stones range in size from a pound up to 30
pounds. The average stone is about five to eight pounds. There are 77 engraved
stones for service members and 14 spirit stones engraved with Courage, Date,
Country, Teamwork, Bayonet, Family, Service, Strength, Community, Family,
Endurance, Sacrifice, and Duty.
Windham resident Russ Shoberg has been a volunteer with
the program for a year and a half. Though Shoberg has never been in the
military, he has a calling to be a part of tributes like this, getting his
first taste of honoring the military when he ran in Run for the Fallen events
starting in 2012. “In 2014 I met a charismatic Marine who was carrying a large
stone,” he said. “I asked to carry a stone in the Maine Marathon.” He did. “And
that’s how I fell into the deep end with TSP. Everyone I’ve met within TSP has
a selfless and genuine character. While we honor the heroes and their families,
those same families give back to carriers and participants in equal measures.”
The stones are kept at Military Entrance Processing
Station (MEPS) in Portland in an honor room. “It’s almost chapel like,” said
Shoberg. There is also an honor display case that travels around the state to display
memorial stones and to share the mission of TSP.
The stones could also be requested by anyone who wants to
honor Maine veterans. Getting involved in easy. Volunteers, anyone from a Scout
group to a book group or an individual, just need to fill out and submit a form
telling TSP where they would like to take the stone. It could be anything from
a backpacking trip in Africa or an adventure on the Appalachian Trail in Maine.
“But it doesn’t have to be an arduous thing,” said Shoberg.
“The primary criteria are to honor the veteran, and that
the event is not self-serving. It must be a selfless way to honor them,” said
Shoberg. There are three simple rules for the volunteer to follow. 1. Learn as
much about the hero as they can. 2. Launch the event and complete the hike,
marathon or event that was approved. 3. The volunteer must write a letter to
the family of the service member accounting what he/she learned about the
family member and what the volunteer will take from the experience of carrying
the stone. “The goal is to keep their story and legacy alive,” said Shoberg,
who has run in two marathons sharing the story of his stone and the man it
represents. “Once you’ve carried and held one, an emotional bond is formed,” he
added. He has also met several of the family members of the stones he’s carried,
and that deepens the bond.
Last October Shoberg ran in the Marine Corps Marathon
with two veterans, all of them carrying stones. Every mile they stopped to tell
the story of their stones to someone watching the event. “We started with ‘Today
I carry the stone and story of this Marine hero, and went from there. “We let
them hold it for a while too. It’s very tactile response, especially for veterans.
They go someplace in their hearts,” Shoberg said, adding that “Running with the
stones can sometimes be more emotionally demanding than just the running part.”
Cote got the idea for TSP after he was invited on a SEAL
hike to climb Mount Whitney, the tallest summit in the contiguous United
States. Here the SEALS left 10 pound stones engraved for each SEAL brother they
lost. Cote was moved by the hike that he wanted to do something similar in his
“Veterans comprise nearly 15 percent of our state’s
population ranking among the very highest veteran populations of any state
in America. Put another way, nearly 1 in 7 Maine adults is a veteran.
Maine’s patriotism and commitment to service in our Armed Forces is nothing
short of extraordinary. We must match with equal devotion, our commitment to
them,” he said.
Cote is a reserve Marine Corps Major and an Annapolis
graduate. He has known service and has seen the sacrifice.
Every year TSP sponsors two major hikes, one at Baxter
State Park and the other at Acadia National Park. At Acadia the climbers in
four groups of 20 hike four different routes up Cadillac Mountain. At the top
they gather and present the stories of the stones. At the bottom they gather in
a large circle holding the stones, and present them back to the families to
conclude the event.
In addition to preserving the memory of the fallen
heroes, TSP also offers assistance to Gold Star Families, those who have lost a
service member in combat, to allow them to spend Memorial Day weekend in
Baxter. They also provide assistance to Gold Star families in need, and many
TSP families participate as volunteers in Wreaths Across America.
“Through the sincerity of the people who are part of this
you become part of the TSP family. They don’t care if you’re a vet, what you do
for a living or even if you’re born in Maine. We all want to make sure the
families are supported and that their heroes are remembered,” Shoberg said.
“Egos get checked at the door. It’s not about position, it’s about what we are
doing together.” “People really, really care and want to spread the story to
keep the memories alive,” said Shoberg.
information on The Summit Project or to get involved, visit www.thesummitproject.org, visit them
on Facebook or Twitter @MaineMemorial.
miss you already, Tommy.” (Windham Town Hall staff)
family and to those who knew and loved Tommy Gleason, he will be remembered as
the guy with the big Irish heart and a passion for all things mechanical.
died of heart failure on May 11 while he and his wife, Nancy, were visiting an
aunt in New Jersey. The sudden and tragic event left his family, friends and
community in shock.
gathered at three separate devotional services last Tuesday to remember and pay
final respects to the family man, town councilor, engineer, mechanic, handyman,
gardener and all-around good guy who always had time to say hello, lend an ear
or help out.
Gleason said the outpouring of support at the Dolby Funeral Chapel, Our Lady of
Perpetual Help and Town Hall auditorium was “Beyond my wildest dreams.” She
singled out eulogies delivered by Tommy’s older brother, Tim, and by Windham
Town Manager Tony Plant as particularly inspiring. That was Tommy, “…they hit
the nail on the head,” commented his younger brother, Todd.
was done with class and dignity,” said Nancy. But the procession from Town
Hall, through Windham, to the church was the most moving and impressionable for
her. The hearse, limo and police and fire vehicles departed past a line of town
workers holding a sign “We miss already, Tommy,” and proceeded over Windham
Center Road, River Road to Newhall, Gray Road to Foster’s Corner, and then Route
302 to the church in North Windham. Town workers stood in solitary beside their
freshly shined vehicles at the public works garage, public safety building and
fire house. One family member commented on the procession, “He (Tommy) is standing
on the roof of that lead fire truck, smiling and waving and loving every minute
was born in New York City. He developed a penchant for building and fixing at
age 12 when he helped his father rebuild the family home in Queens. He repeated
a similar task with his own family years later when he and wife Nancy upgraded
a historic farmhouse in Windham.
high school, Gleason pursued a career in bio-chemistry, attending St. Francis
College in Biddeford (now University of New England).
was a whiz in math and science,” according to Nancy. Finding limited
opportunities in that field, he returned to New York and found his calling in
mechanical engineering. After a few years of operating cranes and other heavy
equipment he became director of training for the trade that was his passion. He
taught newbies in the classroom and on the job.
the 90s, Tommy and Nancy were ready to leave the stress and crowded living of
New York. Recalling his days in Biddeford and later in Portland attending
engineering seminars, Tommy moved with Nancy and their two daughters, Melanie
and Kathleen, to Gorham, and later to Windham. Soon after the move, Tommy
became interested in local politics while protesting an inventory tax. It was
during this time he met Lane Hiltunen. The two became fast friends and
political pundits, often attending and speaking out at local municipal
we showed up at the meetings you’d hear people say, ‘Here come the two
troublemakers’,” Hiltunen said. Their banter and opinions soon took to the
airwaves on Standish community radio station WJZF – 97.1. For two years TheTommy
and Lane Show featured guests and gab and covered all topics from local
roads to international relations. It was during one of their once a week, two
hour broadcasts that Lane assigned a nickname to his broadcast partner. Station
owner and producer, the late David Patterson, had playfully inserted sound
effects of explosions and gun fire under Tommy’s more opinionated remarks,
earning him the title Tommy Gun.
after the radio show ran its course, Gleason decided to make a run for local
political office. His first attempt at a seat on the Windham Town Council ended
in defeat, but a second try in 2010 was successful.
wanted people to be happy with their government,” according to Hiltunen, “he’d
give you the shirt off his back, but he wouldn’t give you somebody else’s
shirt.” And people weren’t intimidated by him. “His constituents were not
afraid to call him.”
town councilor David Nadeau found it difficult to discuss his close
relationship with Gleason. “How do you explain a friend?” he said. But he did
discuss two of Gleason’s more passionate issues: Budgets and rural character.
wanted to move Windham forward through planning a smart budgeting. He believed
in long range planning, anticipating problems down the road, and setting
budgets that would reflect that,” Nadeau explained. He said crisis management
was not his style. And Gleason was an ardent supporter of Windham’s 21st
Century Downtown plan designed to improve traffic and pedestrian movement and
sense of place in North Windham. Wife Nancy affirmed her husband wanted to
maintain Windham’s rural character.
Bartell, Windham’s Economic Development Director, remembers serving on the town
council when Gleason attended the meetings regularly.
start out thinking this guy’s an adversary,” he remembered, “but then you
realize our intentions are similar.” He was speaking from the standpoint of
working out the differences. “He respected good government and liked a good
recently Gleason was the council appointed member of the Windham Economic Development
Corporation, which Bartell now directs. “His common sense and clear thinking
was a calming factor. His construction background added perspective” when big
projects were under discussion. His attitude was “Let’s not get this one wrong.
This is very important. He was a very practical thinker.”
chairperson Donna Chapman’s feelings echoed those of others who worked closely
with Gleason. “He was an awesome, big-hearted man.” She said even if you didn’t
see eye-to-eye with Gleason you knew he respected your views and was always
ready to work through problems.
Chapman helped spearhead the “dignitary
funeral” for Gleason. “It’s a fitting way to send him off.”
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reflected on Gleason’s misfortunes. “He been down a lot, but he always gets
right back up.” A few years ago, the car he was driving was struck by a drunk
driver, leaving Gleason with months of convalescence and the loss of some
feeling on his left side. “I would tell him,” said Hiltunen, “I’m not standing
close to you if you’re carrying a hammer in your left hand.” Gleason twice
suffered from a lung infection and was undergoing dialysis. Worst of all was
the death 12 years ago of his younger daughter, Kathleen of a brain tumor at
the age of 24.
about their life together, Nancy recalled their first date, which didn’t
happen. “He stood me up to go with his friends to a race at National Speedway
on Long Island. He called me the next day to ask when we could go out. I told
him “How about tonight? Or never.” They did go out. And their next anniversary
would have been their 45th.
never know, this could be our last year.” A phrase uttered many times over the
past couple of decades by the Hawkes family while serving customers at the
familiar farm stand located south of the Foster’s Corner rotary in Windham.
This year, it’s a settled fact.
get teary eyed when I tell my regular customers,” said proprietor Florence
Hawkes. “We thought it was the end back along, but we were able to keep going.
It had to happen sometime – this is it.”
explained that after her husband, Frank, died in 2004 the future of the decades
old vegetable/fruit stand was in doubt until their son Bob stepped up. Investing
60 to 80 hours a week, he almost single-handedly kept the operation going, from
the greenhouses, the multi-acre growing fields on Windham Center Road to the
farm stand itself. But this year, a promotion at his full time job will
preclude him from committing the time needed to keep the 84-year-old farm stand
going. Bob was the third generation family member to operate the farm and road
said she feels bad for the scores of faithful customers who’ve relied on the
stand for fresh produce for so many years.
want you to tell them that we are very sorry. We had wonderful customers who
came from far and wide, year after year.”
been the reaction of customers so far? “They talk about the corn,” said
Florence. Hawkes stand is renowned for its several varieties of corn on the
cob, along with advice on how to prepare it. Some prefer the large ears, some
like them tough, but most have a favorite variety of sweet corn, all grown near
the top of a hill off Windham Center Road.
addition to corn, customers had come to rely on different kinds of tomatoes,
peppers, cucumbers and squashes, along with peas, beans, eggplant, carrots,
beets and beet greens. Some fruits and flowers were also sold. The stand opened
at 10 a.m. for a reason. All the produce was guaranteed fresh that day. Early
morning was set aside for picking.
and son Frank, opened the farm stand in 1932. Originally located at the state
owned rest area, now closed, near the Nash Road intersection, Florence said the
building was moved up the highway to its present location in 1948 at five in
the morning. “In those days you had to wait for traffic to go by.”
Farm Stand will no doubt be remembered for more than just fresh produce,
however. Hundreds of Windham kids have worked the farm over the decades,
particularly in the 50s and 60s when the Hawkes’ produced strawberries and
apples as well as the garden variety vegetables. They benefited with extra
spending money and regular lessons in work ethic.
young worker, in his later years, recalled an incident with Frank’s father,
Alley. The elder Hawkes had strongly suggested that the lad use two hands to complete
a certain barn task. Later, in the fields picking beans, the boy sarcastically
asked his boss if he should use two hands to pick. Alley sardonically replied,
“No, but you don’t have to work here either.”
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of the Hawkes family were among the founding families of Windham in the 1700s.
Later, the so-called Old Grocery at
Windham Center, now a Windham Historical Society museum, was established by
Frank’s great grandfather, the first Alley, who ran it with his son, Frank.
Frank’s son, the second Alley, ran the dairy and vegetable farm on Windham
Center Road and started the Route 302 road stand in 1932 with his 14-year-old
son, Frank. From the late 40s on, Frank and Florence grew the business together
until 2004. Florence, son Bob and daughter Diane have carried on, until now.
In a performance titled “Stand Out”, students from Main
Stage Academy sang, danced and acted their message against bullying and
encouraging third and fourth graders to be the author of their own future and
have the power to decide what they will be. They also made a pledge, “I can
choose not to be defined or limited by bulling or the negative opinions of
others.” The eight themes presented were given to the attendees and asked
parents to discuss the themes with their children.
The talented students from Main Stage range in age from
10 to 15 and attend schools in Windham, Gorham and Cumberland. They have been
working on this performance since January, when Suzy and Brice Cropper, owners
of Main Stage, talked to those performers about bullying and their experiences
with it. From there, Suzy and Brice wrote and choreographed the show using
specific stories from the actors to help make the point.
“I like doing this because I’ve been bullied a lot. I
like teaching other people it’s okay to be different,” said Daphne.
“A lot of bullying starts younger and grows. Look at
yourself. Are you bullying? Then change,” said Kaila.
The message throughout the show is that if we dream big
and work hard, we can make a difference in the world.
“We are all writing a story every day…the story of our
lives,” said one actor in the show.
The energy was electric as the show built a pyramid of
needs from safety to friendship to self-esteem. With audience interaction, the
dancing and positive messages written at a level that 8- and 9-year-olds can
relate to. “When I’m speaking, I’m really connecting with the audience,” said
“A lot of people want to dream big and be a better
person. It’s okay to be different. You don’t have to follow in people’s
footsteps,” said Samantha.
The company is going to perform at schools in Gorham,
Cumberland and New Gloucester for school aged children to spread their message
about standing out.
“I like how a lot of this is all different genres. If
people are bullying you can push away, it’s not going to matter at all. You
should never feel down on yourself. And, it’s always important to help other
people,” said Emma.
The only boy in the group is Will. “I chose to be here. I
like to sing and people said I had a good singing voice. I wanted to make friends
with girls, too. I’m definitely standing out,” he said. “I was bullied because
I sing and not play sports. I show other guys that if you like singing you can
stand out and join other things,” he added.
The message about dreaming big and standing up for what
you believe resonated with Amy Cropper. “It tells people that you don’t have to
do what you’re told just because you’re a kid.”
Throughout the show Suzy has used “teachable moments” to
encourage the students. “You’ve made those choices to stand out,” she told
There will be one show for friends and family at Gorham
Middle School at 7 p.m. on May 27. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for
One girl who was currently being bullied about her acne
said it was hard to cope with it. “I feel really safe here. We’re just a group
of friends doing what we love.”