Friday, January 18, 2019

100 years of customer service: Levinsky’s celebrates centennial

By Matt Pascarella

At one time or another, you’ve probably been in Levinsky’s on Route 302 in Windham. Whether you need a sweatshirt, pair of pants, winter clothing or some Patriots or Red Sox apparel, Levinsky’s has been serving the public for years. This April marks their 100th anniversary.

Owner Eric Levinsky’s grandfather, Jacob Levinsky, regularly brought military surplus items like blankets, buckets and clothing from Fort Williams to his barn on 8 Oxford Street in Portland and sold them to the public. The very first Levinsky’s opened in 1919 and that same store remained opened into the 1990s.

Eric Levinsky describes that first store, originally called New England Army Supply as the beginning of it all. “The roots that started that store in 1919 are the same ones that have moved it forward.” It evolved into a men’s clothing store, although early on it carried everything from basketballs to belts to firearms.
Eric describes his grandfather and grandmother as being conservative in their consumption and lifestyle, common for the era. In 1930, during the Depression, Jacob was able to sell a significant amount of army candles, similar to a tea candle, to the Hannaford Brothers during a big ice storm when all the power went out in the Munjoy Hill area. Jacob sold enough candles and made enough money to make it through the Depression.

After the popularity of the bellbottom pant in the 1960s and 1970s, Levinsky’s became a men’s and women’s clothing store instead of just a men’s clothing store. With so many new clothing styles and brands, Levinsky’s popularity skyrocketed in the late 1980s. Levinsky’s opened a store in Freeport on Route One, one in Brewer and in the Windham Mall. Unfortunately, over time the Freeport, Brewer and Portland locations had to close, but the Windham Mall location was very successful until business began to change in the mall. In 2005, Eric decided it would be better to move to their current location as a freestanding store on Route 302.

Eric started working for his father and grandfather in 1972 when he was 13 years old. When he turned 15, Eric began to take on a bit of a managerial role. He attended trade shows with his father and learned how and what type of merchandise needed to be purchased for the store. Eric saw the relationships his father made. He stated that building relationships is important, whether it be for business reasons or otherwise. He enjoys working with people and the sociability of talking with customers. Eric stated that he is especially interested in learning about customers and what products they are looking for and need.

Ad from 1985
Eric described his family as being well embedded in Maine. Often, customers come in and reminisce about past experiences or purchases. Eric said that these intimate connections made with people are so unusual and is what he enjoys about his job.

“Bigger stores could never provide that feeling of community, one-on-one, that we have had for a hundred years,” Eric explained.

“We appreciate our customers, we know our customers and we love our customers. We always put them first. There is always a Levinsky in the store; we try to do it right for our customers ... we have a big heart and care about people. If you want to talk to us, we definitely want to talk to you.”

Happy Anniversary, Levinsky’s!


Strap on your snowshoes and get outdoors for a unique and exciting competition

photo courtesy of Maine Running Photos
By Lorraine Glowczak

When was the last time you ran a 100-meter dash or ran/walked a 5K? For those of you who have – that’s great news. Next question. When was the last time you did either (or both) in snowshoes? Intrigued and wondering how one can go about participating in such a sport?

Whether you have competed in this form of sporting event before or not, now is the time to either participate or try it for the first time right here in Windham. The Le Club Montagnard- Maine Snowshoers-Racquetteurs, which is collaborating with Windham Parks and Recreation, is offering this popular Franco-American event for those who love the great outdoors and wish to compete in a fun and challenging race that will occur on Saturday, February 9 at the Lowell Preserve at 47 Falmouth Road in Windham.

“Le Montagnard is the oldest snowshoe club in the United States,” stated Denise Tanguay of Windham. Tanguay, who is in her early 50s, along with her sister, Diane and brother, Danny have been members of the snowshoe club since before they could walk. Their father, Roland, was the president of Le Montagnard man’s section in the early years of its existence while their mother, Monique, was the president of the women’s section. Both parents were from Quebec where the original club began.

The Tanguay family lived and grew up in Lewiston where there was a large immigrant settlement from the French-Canadian Provinces. In the early years, as there is now among present immigrants, a level of discrimination and outcast was experienced. As a result, in the early 1920s up to and including the 1980s, the Franco-American population stuck together to support one another. One way they did that is through the sports club that also acted as a social support group.  

According to a Sun Journal article written by Dave Sargent and posted online on January 15, 2013, the Le Montagnard was founded by Louis-Philippe Gagne. “[He] stood just 5 feet, 1 inch tall and weighed 110 pounds, but he was a giant in the history of snowshoe clubs and Franco-American culture in this [Lewiston] city. As editor of “Le Messager,” Lewiston’s French newspaper, he wrote political commentary that was read throughout New England and Canada.

He was elected mayor of the city twice. In the early days of radio, Gagne hosted live broadcasts
called “L’Oeil” (The Eye) on WCOU, and he was responsible for bringing notable Canadian performers to Lewiston.

Two years after his arrival in 1922, Gagne had founded Le Montagnard, which was the first organized snowshoe social club in the U.S. It was named after Le Montagnard Club of Montreal, the first Canadian Club, formed in 1895. Lewiston’s Le Montagnard Club adopted the original club’s gray and scarlet uniforms, as well as the club’s motto, “Toujours joyeaux,“ meaning ‘always happy.’”

Denise Tanguaay
Both a sport and a social gathering, the Le Montagnard of Lewiston continued the traditions of parades and events each winter that included colorfully uniformed members from many U.S. and Canada clubs. Many of the events were held in Lewiston.

“I remember playing the bugle in the parade we had each year,” recalled Tanguay. “It was imperative among the parade participants to have and wear as many snowshoes as possible. My dad made me wear snowshoes on my back while playing the bugle just so our club could have the most snow shoes in the parade. I always rolled my eyes. Now that I’m older, I understand his level of commitment and love for this group.”

What Tanguay and her siblings really enjoyed were the ice castles built every year. “Our family really enjoyed the ice castles built during the sporting competition,” Tanguay said. “The ice came in blocks from No Name Pond and we’d always be amazed at its creation.”
Tanguay’s father was so dedicated to the Le Montagnard club and the sport of snowshoe competition that he worked to make snowshoeing an Olympic sport. “I traveled with my father and
representatives from Canada to France prior to the 1992 Olympics to meet with the Olympic Committee to see if we could promote snowshoeing competitions as an Olympic sport,” Tanguay stated. “We discovered that at least three countries have to be involved to be a part of the Olympics.”
As far as attendance and membership in the United States, The Sun Journal article continued by stating, “From its charter membership of 30 members, Le Montagnard’s rolls grew to 1,000 members by 1950. The club built a large chalet at No Name Pond, and from those waters the ice was harvested for ice palaces constructed in downtown Lewiston for numerous snowshoe club conventions.”

Tanguay stated that at one point, snowshoe participation at the International Championships was up
to approximately 5,000 members. But after her father’s death, membership and participation significantly decreased. “When the last race and parade happened in February 7, 2015, my siblings and I knew we needed and wanted to continue this event and club as long as we could,” Tanguay reflected.

As a result, she hopes to make a comeback with this sport by having a race in collaboration with Windham Parks and Recreation.

Roland Tanguay
“While I am always excited about the opportunity to offer an additional recreational opportunity to our residents, I think that this event is particularly exciting due to the history involved with the Snow Shoe Club, as well as the importance of embracing our Maine winters,” stated the Director of Windham Parks and Recreation, Linda Brooks. “Lowell Preserve is one of Windham’s gems, yet many folks have not taken advantage of this wonderful trail network and holding an event there may bring people out who may not otherwise know it exists.”

To register for this event, visit the website at

Sign up before January 24 and get a free t-shirt. The event will begin at 9:30 a.m. with check in and late registrations from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. Along with the 5K run/walk open to all ages, there will be a 25-meter and 50-meter race for those 8 and under and 100-meter race is open for nine and over as well as a 200-meter for those 13 and over.

 For more information, contact Denise Tanguay or Diane Williams at
The Lowell Preserve is over 300 acres of a forested conservation area that has over 8 miles of trails for all types of users from hikers to ATV users.

Whatever your endeavor in life, may you don a pair of snowshoes and toujours joyeaux!

Friday, January 11, 2019

Mrs Windham Maine America defines true beauty

Mrs. Windham, Sarah Boynton
By Lorraine Glowczak

It’s not every day you are asked to be Mrs. Windham and to participate in the Mrs. Maine America pageant. But that is exactly what happened to Sarah Boynton, a special education teacher for the Westbrook school district. “To be in a beauty pageant was not something I ever considered but decided to accept the request to participate when a local recruiter for Mrs. Maine America asked me to consider it,” explained Boynton, then offered a chuckle. “When she first approached me, I thought it was a joke.”

Mrs. Maine America offers an opportunity for married, single and/or divorced women over 18 years old to build a network, supporting one another, with the sole focus on bonding together to create better communities within Maine and beyond. “It provides us a chance to use our gifts, talents and roles in life to serve the community, choosing a platform that we are passionate about,” Boynton said.

For Boynton, she will take a stand on empowering young adults to be confident in who they are, providing tools for self-acceptance.  “As a middle school special education teacher and a mother, I am very familiar with the struggles that children face on a daily basis with self-image and acceptance. 

I strongly believe that every child has unique qualities and talents that should be celebrated. My son is an amazing example of a child with unique qualities that should be celebrated. I will always be his biggest supporter and advocate and will use my passion in this area to be a supporter and advocate for many children in Maine.”

https://www.egcu.orgThere are a variety of ways she plans to promote her platform on youth confidence. Boynton states that she hopes to speak at middle schools around the state to inform and educate young adults on ways to be confident and accept one’s authentic way of being. Although just beginning her role as Mrs. Windham, she has already started the process at Westbrook Middle School by talking with groups of students about things such as kindness, complimenting each other, being true to one’s self, etc. “It is my goal to also speak at other middle schools across the state, including Windham,” she said. “I am looking into working with teen centers such as Preble Street in Portland and the teen center in Westbrook.”

In addition to promoting self-confidence among young adults at area middle schools and teen centers, Boynton, along with other Mrs. Maine America participants across the state, volunteers time for other important causes. So far, Boynton has volunteered for a fundraising event hosted by the American
Heart Association with a focus on children who have heart disease and she was a bell ringer for the Salvation Army during the Christmas season. She is also reaching out to local food pantries and will be participating in other fundraising events promoted by Mrs. Maine America.

All this is currently occurring in her role as Mrs. Windham and she hasn’t even won the crown yet - holding the title of the 43rd representative of Maine for the Mrs. America Pageant. What will she do if the crown lands on her head on May 12, 2019 at the DoubleTree Hotel in South Portland?

“I aspire to leave a positive impact on everything I am a part of. I want my children and students to know that when you work hard, care for others, and are true to yourself, amazing things can happen,” Boynton began. “If selected, I want to take the opportunity to make a bigger difference and will do that by working with young adults, paving a way to sincere confidence.

Boynton’s focus is on young adults and making sure they are confident and accept their true way to walk in the world. But what are her thoughts on beauty? “There is nothing more beautiful than an authentically confident person who loves and accepts themselves and other people – just as they are,” Boynton stated.

In fact, when asked by the Mrs. Maine America Pageant committee what she thought would be an important question the judges should ask all the contestants, she recommended the following: “The young girls in our state, along with the country, struggle with body image and their perception of what makes us beautiful. What advice would you give them on what truly is beauty?

Boynton lives in Windham with her husband, Jeff and their five-year old son, Jordan. She also has a step-daughter, 13-year-old, Madison as well as a soon-to-be adopted 25-year-old step-daughter, Taylor, who lives in the greater Augusta area.

The current title holder of Mrs. Maine America is Kimberly Mastropasqua of South Portland. She is spending her reign bringing awareness to bullying and suicide prevention, as well as volunteering for
various causes around the state.

We wish you the best, Mrs. Windham!

There’s no such thing as “can’t” for Raymond adaptive skier

Anita Emery (photo:Disabled Sports USA/Hartford Ins. Co.)
By Matt Pascarella

Anita Emery is unstoppable. Born with cerebral palsy and told by doctors she would never walk, Emery has been skiing with Maine Adaptive Skiing (formerly Maine Handicapped Skiing) since she was seven years old. Now 22, she recently participated in her third Ski Spectacular, a nationwide race camp for disabled young racers held in Breckenridge, Colorado.

The Ski Spectacular, in its 31st year, is sponsored and largely funded by The Hartford Insurance company. Participants are evaluated and grouped with similarly skilled skiers. Everyone there has a disability of some sort. They understand and can learn from each other. “You get to meet so many people that might have a different disability than you and seeing how they do things is really cool,” observes Emery, who is an alpine skier and racer.

Participants, who get four days of training, are trained in both the slalom and giant slalom. A fun race where participants get to create their own teams is how the training session ends. Emery’s team came in second this year.
Of the twelve coaches at the Ski Spectacular, at least ten of them are Paralympians. “They have so much knowledge and they want to share it. It’s really cool to talk to them and get their point of view,” explains Emery.

Born in Latvia, her adoptive parents Frank and Christine Emery brought Anita and her brother to the United States when Anita was just under two years old. Born with cerebral palsy, doctors told her she would never walk, but after multiple surgeries and physical therapies she proved them wrong. She keeps going. She has played soccer and basketball and swims in the summer. She currently goes to the gym to train.

Emery got interested in skiing through her adoptive father. She quickly fell in love with the sport. She enjoys being outdoors and enjoys the thrill skiing provides. “It’s freeing,” she says. “[When it comes to] racing, I like the competitive aspect whether I’m racing against a clock or racing against someone else and I’m always pushing myself to become better and learn new techniques.”

Emery has recently started volunteering with Maine Adaptive. She goes skiing with individuals for the day and teaches them techniques and helps them in any way she can. She says it’s fun to ski with others and learn their story.

(Photo taken by Reed Hoffman)
Emery feels very blessed to be where she is today. She prefers to look at the positive side of things; how much she’s overcome and how she’s learned to adapt to different things in her life. “I think of how I can inspire others and share with people my story and how blessed I am to be able to do it. I try to focus on that and see where skiing takes me,” she reflected.

Emery’s goal for the upcoming season is to race at the end of March in Winterpark, Colorado which would earn her a classification to compete nationally. The classification is based on her abilities. This classification would enable her to participate in the 3-4 days of racing. She also has a long-term goal to get to the Paralympics.

She loves the support and sense of community and family events like the Ski Spectacular and programs like Maine Adaptive provide.

“I really love this sport; I’ve met some great volunteers and great people and I have great coaches that have supported me along this journey.”

Friday, January 4, 2019

Reading challenge opens up a new world to students at Raymond Elementary School

By Lorraine Glowczak

Fun and imaginative reading challenges are nothing new at Raymond Elementary School. Every year, the teaching staff organizes exciting ways to spark the love of reading among their students. But what makes this year’s reading challenge different from past contests is that it is the first time, as a whole group, that the challenge has been combined with a service project.

“We have been doing two or sometimes three reading challenges a year for many years at Raymond Elementary School, but this is the first time we have participated in the Heifer International Read to Feed challenge as a school,” explained Patricia Gordan, RSU14 music teacher and organizer of the event. “We often offer theme reading challenges with current events, for example, reading our way through the Iditarod at so many pages per mile. When they met the goal, we had a real musher come to school and demonstrate the use of his dog and sled. Last year we had them earn Olympic medals during the 2018 Winter Olympics. Sometimes the challenges are just silly fun as when they had to read to earn baby pictures of staff members; then they tried to guess the identities of the staff members. But this year, we decided to combine the challenge with a service project.”

Front Row L to R: Isaak Ronfeldt, Tatianna Lanning, Elyse Silvia, Christian Ladd Allie LeBourdais, Emma Horowitz, Maevelyn Armstrong Back Row L to R: Brooklynn Wing, Anna Bowie, Taliah Worthing-Shriver, Anica Messer, Quinn Atchinson. Missing: Summer Bush (was also a top reader)

In the Read To Feed program, students read to earn money. From the money raised, animals can be purchased through Heifer International for farmers in developing countries. According to the Heifer International Read To Feed website, “Children (individually or as a group) get sponsors for each book they read during a time frame set by their Read to Feed leader. At the end of the program, the group pools its funds and donates them to Heifer International to help Heifer assist millions of families around the world feed their families and reach self-reliance.”

The reading challenge ran from November 5 until December 14 and the students received sponsorships and pledges from families, friends and area community organizations and businesses. The students from each homeroom who had read the most pages or minutes formed a group to decide which animals to purchase. students who met the challenge and read the most pages or minutes included: Isaak Ronfeldt, Tatianna Lanning, Elyse Silvia, Christian Ladd, Allie LeBourdais, Emma Horowitz, Maevelyn Armstrong, Brooklynn Wing, Anna Bowie, Taliah Worthing-Shriver, Anica Messer, Quinn Atchinson and Summer Bush.

They raised over $800 and the animals purchased were: a water buffalo, a llama, a pig, a trio of rabbits, a hive of bees and a flock of chicks.

But that is not all they purchased. There’s more to the story.

Although it is true that reading develops vital language skills and deepens the understanding of the written word, reading also opens new worlds and enriches the lives of children. According to children’s librarian, teacher and author Barbara Freedman-De Vito, “Through books, children can also learn about people and places from other parts of the world, improving their understanding of and concern for all of humanity. This, in turn, contributes towards our sense that we truly live in a "global village" and may help us bring about a more peaceful future for everyone.”

This is exactly what occurred and was the unexpected learning outcome with the students at Raymond Elementary School.

“I met with the group of top readers when it was time for them to choose what to buy from Heifer,” Gordan began. “I assumed they would be most interested in choosing animals and was very touched by their passion to send a girl to school. In fact, they were distressed to learn that there are places in the world where children, and especially girls, do not have the opportunity to go to school. They were also very interested in buying a biogas stove and were shocked to learn that some people in the world have open cooking fires in their houses.”

From this reading challenge, not only did farmers receive animals that help to provide income, food and self-sufficiency, but one girl gets to go to school and one family gets to cook on a stove instead of an open fire. Simply as a result of reading.

The written word is alive and well and the love of reading changes lives in so many ways.
Big kudos to the students at Raymond Elementary School and the following organizations that contributed financially to the challenge:
Raymond Lions Club
Raymond Village Church
Sebago Storage
Camp Pinehurst
Flynn Land Surveying
Camp Nashoba North
Wohelo Camps
Krainin Real Estate
Ultimate Hair Salon

Group plays Bunco for fun and good cause

Members of the Bunco group
By Elizabeth Richards
While Bunco is the primary reason for their monthly gathering, a group of local women have also created a community of giving that extends far beyond the dice game.

Diane Loring and a group of friends and neighbors began gathering to share a friendly game of Bunco each month 49 years ago. Though membership of the group has changed over the years, due to life circumstances, the game has gone on. “We’ve been through marriages, divorces, births and deaths. We’ve lost four of our original members over the years,” Loring said. She and her longtime friend, June Pierce, are the only remaining original members, though some joined them shortly thereafter.

The game of Bunco requires twelve players each time, since they play three tables of four, Loring said. That’s why the group includes twelve regular members, and four alternates. If one of the regulars is unable to play, an alternate is called. group meets once each month, drawing in November to determine when each member’s turn to host.  They pay to play the game, because they play for prizes, and a few years ago they began to contribute extra money each month to a special fund. Originally, this fund was started to send flowers or a gift to members of the group when they were ill, Loring said, but at the end of the year they’d end up with a few hundred dollars, so they began to give back to the community as well.

The group decides together what their fund will be used for, and over the years they have supported individual members in times of need as well as people and groups in the community. They’ve donated to the food pantry, purchased backpacks for children at the beginning of the school year, and contributed to neighbors helping neighbors, among other things.  This year, the Bunco group put together 42 bags for the residents at Ledgewood nursing home that contained lap robes and other small necessities.

Loring said that the group, most of whom are in their seventies and live in Windham, mainly comes together for their monthly game. “Some of us are friends outside of Bunco, but a lot of us, we see each other once a month and we have a great time,” she said. It feels good to be able to do something for the community as well, Loring said.

Loring said the group has donated quietly throughout the years. “We’ve been under the radar, and we’re not out there to make a name for ourselves,” she said. “But we have done quite a bit when you put it all down on paper,” she added.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Never miss an opportunity: The extraordinary life of middle school teacher Lee LeRoy

Having fun with life was a part of what Lee LeRoy was about. Here she is on the right with fellow teachers Gwen Roberts, AJ Ruth and David Elder as they dressed up for 80s day.
By Lorraine Glowczak

“Beach~Bum,” was the title of the poem. “Little did she know that it was her last cup of coffee. She packed her school bag, grabbed her purse and headed out for the day. Her day went on as usual, spreading love, laughter, kindness and joy.”

This was the first stanza of a poetic tribute for Windham Middle School (WMS) Health Teacher, Lee LeRoy by fellow WMS teacher and friend, Emily Stokes. LeRoy passed away unexpectedly at her home in Portland on Thursday, December 13. She was 59 years old and could run circles of joy around the most enthusiastic among us.

Anyone who exits this world too soon leaves a deep chasm for those left behind, and Mrs. LeRoy was no exception. Or, perhaps she was a very special exception who was loved by many and whose lives were impacted by her presence in many positive ways.
“She would always stand at the end of the hallway every morning to greet the students with laughter and compassion,” stated AJ Ruth, WMS math and science teacher. “It was as if she was a bright and shining presence who greeted us every day, always taking the time to have a conversation during a busy day in the most sincere and kindhearted way.”

“And, she would stop an adult conversation, to listen to what a student had to say,” added long time friend and fellow WMS teacher, Gwen Roberts.

It seems her brilliant light that spread love, laughter, kindness and joy was LeRoy’s calling and purpose for which she was put on earth. She filled that mission in her roles as a friend, teacher, mentor, wife and mother. She lived her life’s calling with exuberance, never missing an opportunity to be a part of others’ lives – embracing everyone she knew.

 “Laughter, camaraderie and honest involvement with everyone is what Lee was about,” stated Roberts. “Lee was sort of a gatherer of people from every area of her life - because she valued people. Spending time and having fun with family and friends was very important to her.”

Some of LeRoy’s favorite ways to spend time with others was by going to the beach, golfing on Tuesdays, participating in competitive and fundraising events such as Tri for a Cure and having pool parties at her home. In every circumstance, LeRoy was always celebrating life.

Lee LeRoy
And flip flops. She loved flip flops. “She had every variety of L.L Bean flip flop and she wore a different pair every day as long as the season would let her. She also loved her clothes from Talbot. I don't know if Lee had more Talbot sweater sets or L.L. bean flip flops, but this I do know, she is the only person who could put them both together and make it work," Roberts said with the kind of laughter that gives a break from grief.

The only thing that may have been more important to LeRoy than flip flops was her dedication to health education. “Lee was devoted to teaching students how to make healthy choices,” stated WMS Assistant Principal, Kim McBride.

Last spring, LeRoy worked with colleagues Roberts, Ruth and Doug Elder to develop a creative, hands-on, and interactive project-based learning opportunity for the seventh and eighth grade students. The students spent months learning about the dangers of opiate use. They researched information to use for video public service announcements, newspaper articles, and science projects on the dangers of opiates and their effects on the brain. Students found inspiration in the movie “Back to the Future” and used it as an analogy, giving rise to the theme “Taking Back Maine’s Future.” Students learned that depending on the decisions you make in using opiates, your future can be healthy or tragic.

The final portion of the educational project ended by inviting the public to share what the students learned. According to the press release written by Laura Morris, director of Be The Influence, “The event was complete with an actual DeLorean car parked out front. Ushers escorted attendees into the Windham Middle School cafeteria where one future was set up in the dark, with trash around and featured students with their news articles on the tragic future ahead if the opioid crisis continues. The other future was well lit and featured students with news articles on how bright the future will be if we combat the opioid crisis in Maine.”

https://www.egcu.orgMorris was so impressed with the project that she submitted it to the national CADCA (Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America) organization. Out of the many national educational drug prevention projects submitted, “Taking Back Maine’s Future” was selected and will be featured at the 2019 National Leadership Forum in Washington D.C. in February. LeRoy and Ruth were going together to present the project.

“Last Wednesday, we were talking about our trip and the poster presentation,” Ruth reflected. “Lee and I were giddy and excited to be traveling together. But now, I will be traveling without her and will present the project alone – the project she initiated.”

Every person LeRoy touched will remember her in their own way and each taking from her, wisdom she left behind. But Vice-Principal McBride captured the greatest lessons she taught and reflect what so many found endearing about LeRoy: “Enjoy life to the fullest. Stay in touch with friends. Spend time with family. And, never miss an opportunity.”

And perhaps, Stokes portrayed the feeling experienced by so many toward the end of her heartfelt tribute to LeRoy, “The dismissal bell rang, and she watched hundreds flee the building at high speed rates. ‘See you tomorrow!’ came with a smile. Little did she know she had taught her last lesson and had said her last good-byes. Little did she know this would be her final walk down the hall.”

“Little did she know her dash would soon be followed by a number. She knew how to live her dash. She laughed, she celebrated, she loved, but most of all, she smiled.”

Santa mailbox adds a touch of magic to Windham neighborhood

4 year-old, Harper Maxfield, sends a letter to Santa
By Elizabeth Richards

Sometimes, Santa needs a little help gathering stories. Windham residents, Joanne Mattiace and Maggie Terry, have set up a festive holiday display outside their home, complete with a mailbox to collect letters for Santa.

The couple encourages children to write letters telling Santa what Christmas means to them. Children who have dropped off letters have received a couple of small presents, an ornament, and a letter from Santa in return. 

Town Councilor Jarrod Maxfield lives in the neighborhood and said his four-year-old daughter, Harper, “couldn’t have been more excited when we walked through the neighborhood to see the display and Santa mailbox.”  She was also very excited to receive a response from Santa, though she was worried that she hadn’t put cookies out until she was reassured that Santa would be back, Maxfield said.

The Santa mailbox is something new for Mattiace and Terry this year. The idea came spontaneously, Mattiace said, when she and Terry were at the Christmas Tree Shop. “We saw this great mailbox and thought ‘let’s decorate it and ask the kids for their letters,” she said.

The display draws people out in the neighborhood, especially at night when it’s all lit up. “It’s a nice thing for the neighborhood to bring people together,” Maxfield said.

Although giving Santa a helping hand is new to the pair, charitable giving is not.  We’ve done a lot of charitable events at Christmas time,” Mattiace said. Each year the products attorney reaches out to clients for product donations. “They almost all come through for us,” she said.  Clients donate many household items, like blankets, comforters, sheets and pillows, as well as personal items. This year, Samsonite donated 120 backpacks. So, they reached out to other clients for things like toiletries, gloves or mittens, and hats, and donated the stuffed backpacks to the Preble Street Resource Center and the women’s crisis center.

When Mattiace and Terry began their holiday giving projects, they focused on the women’s crisis center. The first year they put some products under the tree for the women and their children. Over time, they collected enough donations to give things to the center to hold for women so that when they found a new place to live, they had some things to get them started.  Then Samsonite donated backpacks, and the charitable giving was extended to Preble Street.  “This year, we had so many additional donations of cash and checks from our family and friends that we extended the donation to the Windham Food Pantry,” Mattiace said.

Her clients respond eagerly to her requests for donations, and this year over $7000 worth of products went out, Mattiace said.  She added that they only donate to 501c3 organizations and tell clients that they can provide tax documentation if requested. “In the eleven years we’ve done this, one company, one time, has asked us for documentation. These companies are doing it because we ask them to, not because they want a write off,” she said.

Next year, Mattiace said they plan to expand their giving to Westbrook, after a recent visit to that city reminded them that there are some organizations there who also need some help. When she retires, in the next year or so, Mattiace said she hopes to start a foundation that will reach out to at-risk teens, children, and residents of nursing homes.

“I really think that Maggie and I have focused on charitable giving at Christmas time because we adopted a young boy years ago…and Christmas has meant a lot to him,” Mattiace said.  “Everybody needs a little holiday cheer, whether you’re Christian or Jewish or whatever, whether you’re old or young, straight or gay. We all just need to be a little kinder to each other,” she said.

Friday, December 14, 2018

There’s a new face at the Windham Public Library

Sam Cote with a few of her new friends
By Jennifer Davis

There was a big welcome this past Thursday, December 6 at the Windham Public Library (WPL) as staff and residents formally welcomed Sam Cote as the new children’s librarian. With popcorn and cookies, brownies and juice, the conference room was filled with many excited community members. The welcome party was a success and a fun way to introduce Ms. Cote to all the library patrons.
Cote was hired as the children’s librarian this past October, following the retirement of Mrs. Laurel Parker who had been the children’s librarian for 25 years.

Liam and Fiona Shaw, along with their mother Liz, were among many who came to greet and welcome Cote. “It’s great,” five-year-old Liam said of the party as he played with plastic dinosaurs that were on display with pictures from the recent Dinovember event.

Cote, who grew up in Saco and was an avid reader from a very young age, is excited about this opportunity and the staff and community members are looking forward to working together with her at WPL.  Cote joins the library from Winslow, where she was the Youth Services and Technology Librarian.  “I have always loved books,” Ms. Cote said.  “But it didn’t occur to me until college to become a librarian.” 

Cote began her path to becoming a librarian during a work study program at Smith College where she majored in Women’s Studies and Public Policy.  Originally thinking she would work at a nonprofit dealing with issues such as domestic violence and sexual abuse, her time working in the work study program led her in a direction. “I found that my talents work better in the library world,” Cote said.  “So, I completed my Masters of Science degree online through the University of South Carolina while I worked full-time.”

Since graduating Cote has had time working at Baxter Memorial Library in Gorham, McArthur Library in Biddeford, and Jackson Memorial Library in Tenants Harbor in various roles, all leading her to the role she is most passionate about: children’s library services. Cote has many hopes and dreams for the Windham Public Library.  “It’s great to see so many families already using the library on a regular basis,” Cote said. “I look forward to coordinating family programs with our adult services department, as well as groups like Windham Parks and Recreation, Windham’s schools, preschools, daycares, and Be the Influence.” 

This month, the library has two programs taking place during vacation that Cote and the staff have been working on. One event will be aimed towards older kids making snowflakes and slime and the other will be geared towards families, opening an opportunity for younger children to participate in welcoming in the New Year with a “Noon” Year’s Eve celebration. 

Some events that the library is currently working on are programs for fourth through sixth graders such as a Lego Club and crafting session. With her love for music, Cote hopes to bring programs that include dancing and singing to supplement future story time events. “I would love to continue the great work Mrs. Parker did and put my spin on it,” stated Cote. 

The library just wrapped up Dinovember, where plastic dinosaurs caused mischief in the library and are currently working on the Wishing on a Star display.  “I love seeing families work together on filling out their feather or star and having a conversation about their wishes,” said Cote.  “I look forward to getting to know Windham better and making the library an even better place to come and visit.”

Cote got married in September and her husband works for the Maine State Library in Augusta.  Although she does not have any pets currently, she hopes to have cats and dogs in the future.  She has a love for music and dancing and plays the clarinet.

You never know where the path of life will take you, but you always end right where you need to be. If you are interested in meeting Ms. Cote, you can find her most days the library is open in the children’s library section. Stop by to say hello and welcome her to the community. As Dr. Seuss said in the book “Oh the Places You’ll Go. Congratulations! Today is your day. You’re off to Great Places! You’re off and away.”

For whom the bell tolls: Windham’s first church congregation turns 275

By Lorraine Glowczak

Those who live or work on Windham Center Road near the intersection of Pope Road may hear a lot of ringing in their ears on Friday, December 14 between the hours of 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. If this is the case for you, be reassured that you most likely do not have tinnitus (serious case of ringing or buzzing in the ear). What you will be experiencing, instead, is the chime of the church bell from the belfry of Windham Hill United Church of Christ (WHUCC) as they celebrate their 275th anniversary.

“We will begin ringing the bell 23 times at 9 a.m. this Friday,” began WHUCC Historian, Laurel Parker. “And we will continue to ring the bell 23 times on the top of the hour every hour until 8 p.m., at which time the bell will ring 22 times – adding up to a total of 275 rings.” to a press release submitted to and published in The Windham Eagle in June 2014, WHUCC, presently located at 140 Windham Center Road, has historical significance to the Town of Windham as it was the founding church for the town. In New England, during the 17th and 18th century, the law mandated that states enforce religious devotion. All towns were required to establish a church and support a minister by levying taxes. Over the next century, the congregation met in a few different locations throughout the Windham area. In 1834, the church that now stands in its present location was constructed and has remained there over the last two centuries. 

When that church was built, it gained a bell that also contains historical significance. “It [the bell] has been a part of our church since it was built in 1834-35,” explained Pastor of WHUCC, Sally Colegrove, in a previous interview. “The bell comes from a foundry in the Boston area out of one of the workshops of Paul Revere. The bell rings every Sunday but is also rung on special occasions for the community with the hope of peace. It was rung at the end of the Civil War, World War I, World War II and on 9/11.”

Parker further explained that whenever there is a call to ring bells across America for other momentous and time-honored events, the bell at WHUCC will always be heard ringing in unison with other bells across the nation. “Of course, the bell always rings every Sunday morning at 9:20 for the call to worship,” Parker said, referring to the 9:30 a.m. weekly service.

The Windham Eagle newspaper’s very own historian and writer, Walter Lunt, offered a bit of background history on Windham’s first church in his bi-weekly history series that was published in the March 24, 2017 edition.

“Windham Congregational Church [as it was named at the time] has occupied at least three separate locations, all on high points of land. Whether for protection, circumstance or perhaps a closer talk with thee, the church buildings were constructed on two separate hills (each named Anderson) and on Windham Hill……. local historians record the full or partial construction of no fewer than five churches between 1743 and 1834. In addition to their pioneering spirit, Windham’s early settlers needed certain essentials to achieve their goal of carving a prosperous township out of a barren wilderness: shelter, food, clothing and (yes, an essential) spiritual nourishment.”

Lunt also stated, “Attempts to construct a church atop Anderson Hill, off present-day River Road, were hindered by hostilities related to the French and Indian Wars. The partially framed edifice was torn down and the timbers used to help construct a fort to protect the early families. Under the pastoral guidance of Rev. John Wight, a 1729 graduate of Harvard College and the township’s first minister, the first services were conducted inside the fort. Early records indicate Rev. Wight was highly respected and remembered for his dedication and loyalty to the needs of the infant settlement - a devotion that impaired his health. Wight died in the fort, leaving behind a congregation that grew from seven to 25 members during his tenure.”

Approximately 200 members strong today with Rev. Colegrove at the helm for the past 15 years, the congregation officially changed its name from The First Congregational Church of Windham to what we know it today as Windham Hill United Church of Christ in January 1972.

With such a rich Windham heritage and history, the ringing of the bell is a celebration that not all communities can own. “As I sit in the pews every Sunday morning, what amazes me the most as a historian is the fact that this congregation began before George Washington was President,” stated Parker.

WHUCC raises funds and participates in numerous social and charitable causes on local, national and worldwide levels. This includes support for the Windham food pantry, the free Monday Meals program for seniors and others, E-waste collection and the international Heifer Project, which distributes live animals to third-world countries – to name just a few organizations that benefit from their missionary outreach. a look back on the church’s history, the original clerk’s book of the congregation that began in 1743, is available online and can offer a valuable source. Visit:

“But you must always keep the original/paper source safe, if possible,” warned Parker. “Although we believe digital access will remain an obtainable resource forever – we must remember that we once thought of that with the floppy disk. Now, anything that has been placed on a floppy disk is not easily accessible.” 

As for the ringing of the bell on Friday, December 14, Parker joked that those in the congregation who have offered to ring the bell this Friday will face a certain challenge. “It’s a heavy bell and I’m certain those who will be pulling on the 1-inch thick rope for a very heavy bell with 23 or 22 repetitions will surely be exhausted when they are done.”

Happy Birthday, Windham Hill United Church of Christ. Thank you for providing the historical and spiritual roots to Windham. Based upon the rules of 17th century New England, the town would not be here without you.

Friday, December 7, 2018

The great outdoorsman: The amazing life of Dick Proenneke

Dick Proenneke at his cabin in 1985 (photo: NPS)
By Matt Pascarella

Richard “Dick” Proenneke was a true wilderness man. A member of the Navy, a carpenter, a diesel mechanic and a salmon fisherman are just some of the occupations Proenneke had over the course of his life. He built a cabin by hand with his own tools in Twin Lakes, Alaska where he would live separate from society for thirty years.

John Branson, a historian at Lake Clark National Park and Preserve in Alaska and the son of the noted country doctor of Windham – Dr. Sidney Branson, presented a program titled, “Dick Proenneke – One Man’s Wilderness, Twin Lakes, Alaska” on Monday, December 3 at the Little Meeting House in Windham. Branson examined Proenneke’s life before and during his 30-year residence in the Alaskan wilderness.

Proenneke enlisted in the United States Navy the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor and served as a ships carpenter. He spent close to two years at Pearl Harbor. He caught rheumatic fever while hiking after being stationed in San Francisco and was hospitalized for six months. By the time he was discharged in 1945 the war was over.

After his discharge from the Navy, Proenneke went to school in Portland, Oregon to become a diesel mechanic in 1949. He had a strong love of nature and while he was a very good mechanic, he later moved to Oregon to work at a sheep and cattle ranch. the early 1950s, Proenneke worked on the Naval Air Station as a heavy equipment operator and repairman in Kodiak, Alaska. He spent the next several years working throughout Alaska as a salmon fisherman and diesel mechanic. When friends of his took him to a cabin of theirs in Twin Lakes, Alaska in 1962, Proenneke enjoyed the connection the cabin brought to the wilderness. He continued making trips to this cabin until 1967.

In May of 1968, he began building his own cabin, and then retired to Twin Lakes, at the age of 51. He would live in solitude for the next 30 years.

In talking with Branson, who was his friend and a historian, he described Proenneke as an independent soul and operator, who eventually got tired of working with machines and wanted to live in the ‘back of beyond.’ This phrase coined by George Washington Sears, an early conservationist in the 19th century, meaning pure wilderness (mountains, glaciers, tundra); away from civilization.
Proenneke loved nature and didn’t want to disturb it. He was influenced by people (authors like Thoreau and individuals like Sears) but didn’t need to be around them. He kept his own council adds Branson, though he could be very sociable and personable. It was very important for Proenneke to live in harmony with nature.

The white spruce tree provided him with many of his needs; a dominant tree in Twin Lakes, he was able to use this tree for cabin logs, wood for his stove, handles for his tools as well as woodenware, which are utensils, such as spoons, made of wood

Proenneke was very competent with his tools, a skill he likely learned from his father who was a skilled carpenter and mechanic. He knew just how sharp to keep the tools so that they were most effective. Proenneke’s thirty years living in the wilderness, he kept very detailed journals as well as took photographs. According to Branson, after he had filled a journal, he would send that journal to friends in Anchorage and they would then send it to Proenneke’s brother, Raymond. After Proenneke’s death in 2003 at the age of 86, his journals, all 119 pounds of them, were donated to the National Parks Service. These journals have been turned into books that Branson has annotated covering the years 1967-1996. The books were donated to the Donellson, Iowa Public Library in Proenneke’s hometown; where there is a Richard Proenneke Museum. These books are sold through non-profit cooperating associations and proceeds go to support the museum.

Branson noted that he never knew anyone to document his life in his cabin as thoroughly as Pronneke did. Branson said he had to be thinking of posterity and his life for future generations. The cabin itself is quite valuable in that it touches people’s souls. Visitors have been known to weep while and after seeing it. Pronnenke had a message of personal freedom and to live the life you want, living simply and in harmony, within your means.

If you would like to read more about Proenneke’s life, Sam Keith, a friend of his who worked for the Fish and Wildlife Services and knew Proenneke from Kodiak, Alaska, wrote a book entitled, “One Man’s Wilderness” which was published in 1973 and is the start of Proenneke’s journey. There is also a two-part documentary currently airing on PBS called, “Alone in the Wilderness.”