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Friday, June 14, 2024

New bench in Raymond honors legacy of community champion George Bartlett

By Ed Pierce

For anyone who knew him, the late George Bartlett of Raymond was a tireless community champion and someone who unselfishly gave of his time to others. Now his kind spirit and generous nature will forever be remembered as a new granite bench in his memory has been dedicated at Raymond Veterans Park overlooking Sebago Lake.

The family of late businessman and community supporter
George Bartlett gather at Raymond Veterans Park on 
Saturday, June 8 as a bench was dedicated in his honor
there and was donated by his fellow members of the
Sebago Lake Rotary Club. From left are George's 
grandson, Owen Bartlett, son George Bartlett, wife
Jane Bartlett, and daughter Vicki Bartlett.
PHOTO BY ED PIERCE
Bartlett was 84 when he died last July following a brief illness. He owned and operated the Busy Bee Laundromat in Windham for 38 years and was heavily involved in the activities of both the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce and the Sebago Lake Rotary Club where he helped organized events that helped those less fortunate in the area.

To pay tribute to his willingness to step up and help his neighbors and his service as an international ambassador for the Rotary Club, members of the Sebago Lake Rotary Club purchased the granite bench and hosted the dedication event for Bartlett’s family and friends. The ceremony included an American Legion Color Guard and a bagpiper and several of his friends and Rotary colleagues shared stories about working with him.

“George was the epitome of what it is to be a member of Rotary,” said Sebago Lake Rotary Club President Robin Mullins. “George was a Rotarian for 38 years and he accomplished so many good things during that time.”

As an international ambassador for Rotary, starting in 1990 and continuing right up until a few months before his death in 2023, Bartlett made numerous trips to Romania, bringing them greatly needed medical supplies and books for students. During a Rotary International project in 1998, he helped to collect and deliver more than $750,000 worth of dialysis and medical equipment for Romanian hospitals. While in Romania, he lived with Romanian families and developed many long-distance, lasting friendships.

He also was instrumental in establishing Rotary-affiliated Interact Clubs for high school students in Maine. While there, he stayed with his adopted Rotary family, making long-distance, long-term friendships. While visiting Romania, he was directly responsible for launching new Interact Clubs in Ramnicu, Valcea, and other seven cities throughout Romania and he also helped a young student from Romania, Gabriella Saftiou, to visit Maine. Bartlett continued to stay in touch with Saftiou and other Romania families he became close friends with on his trips there right up until his death.

Through operating his business, the Busy Bee Laundromat for 38 years, Bartlett kept his finger on the pulse of the community and knew what was important to residents of the Lakes Region.

“I didn’t know George for as long as some of the other people here today did,” Mullins said. “He was someone I valued though and always made time to see him when he came to my office. Once he asked me what I thought would be a great local charity to benefit from the Polar Dip, which was part of the Sebago Lake Rotary Club's Annual Ice Fishing Derby. I recommended the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce’s charitable trust called ‘Feed The Need’ which benefits food pantries throughout the Lakes Region. We then started the Sebago Lakes Region Polar Dip for Feed the Need in 2021.”

His father owned the Bartlett Radio Company when he was young and while helping at his father’s business after school, he became interested in mechanics, and later earned a college degree in mechanical engineering after a stint in the U.S. Army. Being an adept mechanic helped him maintain and repair washing machines and dryers at the Busy Bee Laundromat, which he opened in 1985 in Windham.

Mullins said that Bartlett’s outgoing personality made it easy for him to make friends and encourage others to lend a hand for charitable projects. His energy seemed to be boundless.

“He was a great partner for me in organizing the Polar Dip,” she said. “My job is to take the volunteers and help them work together on projects to benefit the community. There was nobody better at doing that.”

According to Mullins, Bartlett was also deeply spiritual, and she would ask him to give the invocation before Rotary Club meetings.

“His invocations were always hand-written on little pieces of paper, and somehow he never lost his place,” she said. “His care about others was a result of his spirituality.”

State Rep. Jessica Fay of Raymond said that the new bench is a fitting tribute to Bartlett.

“What a great way to remember our friend who spent his life supporting this community,” Fay said. “He just made people feel comfortable. George Bartlett spent so much of his life giving to others and he would want you to think about volunteering if he were here today.”

Bartlett’s daughter, Vicki Bartlett, said that her family was pleased to learn that a bench would be created in his honor by the Rotary Club.

“It’s such an honor,” she said. “Dad did so many wonderful things with the community. He did it his way, but he would be honored and humbled by this gesture today.”

She said something many people didn’t know about her father was that he loved magic and started performing magic tricks at a young age and was also a puppeteer. <

Windham Summerfest returns June 22 for 34th year

By Kaysa Jalbert

Summerfest makes its way back to Windham on Saturday, June 22 taking on the theme “Summerfest Turns Back Time.” New to this year’s Summerfest is an updated parade route designed to give participants the best views and the best parade experience from start to finish.

The parade route for this year's Summerfest is different and
starts at noon June 22 from Stadium Drive at Windham Center
Road, proceeds up School Road, turns right onto Route 202
and finishes on the Windham High School grounds.
FILE PHOTO
This year’s Summerfest is a free event for everyone to enjoy live music and activities, to support local vendors and non-profit food booths, and is packed with many more features to bring the community together.

Parade floats will be based on this year’s theme. Float-makers can be as creative as they choose, but will be judged on specific criteria such as, best depiction of the 2024 theme, best depiction of Summerfest principle of “Bringing Unity to The Community,” most creative, most entertaining, and the judges’ choice.

The parade kicks off at noon on June 22 from Stadium Drive at Windham Center Road and will proceed up School Road to take a right onto Route 202. Staging areas will be at Public Works and Stadium Drive Parking lot. The parade finishes at 1 p.m. on the Windham High School grounds.

“We are excited about this new route and feel it will make it easier for our guests to enjoy every aspect of this exciting parade,” says Windham Summerfest committee co-chair Deb Matthews.

In addition to announcing the new parade route, Matthews said that this year’s Summerfest Grand Marshal will be Rich Drummond, the athletic director for RSU 14.

All the Summerfest booths will be open for the parade and continue into the evening. There will be community booths for local non-profits to share their good works, and the food booths operated by non-profits as a means of fundraising.

The Summerfest business expo is mostly local, and they provide fun activities for attendees while the crafter vendor area provides a wide variety of items for purchase.

“We have so many amazing sponsors that have provided us the ability to offer this event to our community for free,” said Matthews.

More fun and active features included will be a rock wall, two escape rooms, and an inflatable village.

For special guest entertainment, juggler Jason Tardy will perform and address topics such as what is bullying, the roles bystanders play in bullying, how to become an upstander and help fellow students, and what to do if you are bullied. He will also describe his own personal struggle with bullying and how he overcame it.

Other Summerfest performers will include a magician, balloon twisting, Mad Science, and tons of music. Musical performances include Jimmy Macisso playing on the Main Stage at 1 p.m., the Get on Up Band on the Main Stage from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. and Dave Debree performing on the George Hall Memorial Stage from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m.

An Amateur Radio Relay League will be appearing at this year’s Summerfest in which members from the Wireless Society of Southern Maine, WSSM, will be setting-up field day operations in the ballfields directly behind the main Summerfest event venue. Throughout the day and evening, anyone, young or old, is welcome to join the team of ham operators to learn more about Amateur Radio and participate in making radio contact with operators in other distant locations.

Summerfest 2024 will also host a 3 on 3 Basketball Tournament that starts at 2 p.m. and is open to anyone between the ages of 5 and 18. In addition, the Golf Ball drop sponsored by the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce will start at 5 p.m. To end the evening, fireworks will be launched at 9:30 p.m. from the Main Stage.

“I feel all our events connect with our attendees. It is so important to the Summerfest Committee and me that we offer this to our community as a free family friendly event,” says Matthews. “I want your whole family to attend with you. I want you to spend the day, and if you cannot afford to spend any money pack a picnic lunch and relax. Watching the kids’ faces, seeing how happy the grandparents are to wave to grandchildren while they run and play, seeing Mom and Dad and the joy they get from these sweet moments.”

Every year presents a new challenge to the Summerfest Committee whether in booking all the acts or coordinating with the town, police, fire department and schools, or just hoping for good weather. According to Matthews, however, the biggest challenge remains in fundraising.

“We changed our sponsorship model last year and had great success,” she said. “We also keep an eye on the sky, fingers crossed and pray for sunshine.”

Matthews says the event will be full of vendors and booths and that annual public attendance for Summerfest runs between 2,500 to 4,000 people.

The Windham Summerfest Committee has been working on this year’s celebration since last June and its members include Deb Matthews, Tommy Matthews, Barb Maurais, Jacob Chouinard, Karen Rumo, and Camille Swander. <

Friday, June 7, 2024

Love of flying ignites dream for 2024 WHS graduate

By Ed Pierce

It’s been said that great pilots are made and not born and that those who complete flight training reach their goal through constant practice and experience. Windham High School 2024 graduate Conner Vail may indeed be one of those individuals.

Windham High School 2024 graduate Conner Vail
is working to obtain his pilot's license and would
someday like to become a commercial airline pilot.
He gave up playing sports in his senior year to
work for an aviation company in Portland.
PHOTO BY ED PIERCE
While other graduates may be looking to secure summer employment, Vail, 18, has been working as an aviation line service technician for MAC Air Group in Portland maintaining fueling systems for aircraft. He’s also racked up 33 hours of the required 40 hours for pilot training and hopes to obtain his pilot’s license within the next year.

“My plan following high school is to continue my flight training and become a professional pilot alongside working in aviation,” Vail said. “I plan on taking online classes toward a bachelor’s degree once I am settled in a flying job.”

His passion for flight is nothing new. Vail said he recently looked at a note he wrote while in fourth grade about what he wanted to do when he grew up.

“I wrote that someday I wanted to pilot a Boeing 777 aircraft,” he said. “This is something I’ve really wanted to do for a while and flying professionally has been a longtime dream of mine.”

Conner’s family, including his mother Kathleen, his father Paul, and his older brother Hunter have come to terms with his desire to fly.

“I think my mom was pretty scared at first, but she’s gotten better with it over time,” Vail said. “They all have accepted that flying is what I really want.”

Wanting to be close to aviation played a part in Vail applying to work with MAC Air Group after school during his senior year of high school.

“I have a passion that is hard to come across nowadays and I do everything I can to be around it,” he said. “My goals in life are unlike others and it seems to make me stand out from the rest of my classmates. I gave up playing sports my senior year and that was hard, but I’m farther ahead now of reaching my goal. My job is fun for me so I have never really considered it a chore, but instead a break from the stress that life can bring while in school.”

As far as academics in high school go, Vail says he just tried to stay on track, focusing on his future dreams and giving his best effort always.

“My greatest strength as a student is my ability to think differently than what I may be taught and not be afraid to use it, especially in math,” he said. “Lots of the math and science classes require formulas and lots of steps to find an answer. If I couldn’t make sense of a formula or solve something, I tried to make something for myself.”

He credits his teachers, school guidance counselors and his parents for prioritizing what he needs to be successful in life.

“My mentors in school such as teachers and counselors have helped me get to the point that I'm at now,” Vail said. “They guided me as a student to succeed in what I want for myself. But above all, my parents’ support and dedication to my future has gotten me the farthest and it continues to outside the classroom.”

Vail’s favorite teachers at Windham High School are Alissa James, Peter Small and Jeffrey Neal.

“They all brought passion to the classroom, cared about what they taught and never treated anyone like a stranger,” he said. “Their kindness and enthusiasm are top notch. My favorite class was U.S. History with Mr. Neal. I have always been a fan of history and learning why certain things exist today. Learning about our history as a nation is rewarding and full of interesting stories. That and every class beginning with current events was always a class I looked forward to.”

Vail also credits his sixth-grade teacher at Windham Middle School, Sarah Hopkins, for helping him to reach one of his goals of completing high school.

“I was by no means a great student in sixth grade. She helped me become a better student and taught me how to focus on what I want as I go through high school and to work hard to accomplish it,” he said.

With his high school diploma in hand, Vail says his immediate plan is to continue his flight training and to eventually become a professional pilot working in aviation.

“I plan on taking online classes toward a bachelor’s degree once I am settled in a flying job and my career goal is to fly for Delta,” he said.

Now that his time as a high school student is finished, Vail says his most enduring memory will be passing in his final assignment.

“Years and years of school and thousands of assignments, and that personal finance assignment was the last one,” he said. “I will never forget that feeling. All the hard work and the long nights, early mornings and it was that last one that took all the stress away.” <

Raymond Beautification Committee kicks off 2024 season

By Kendra Raymond

Most anyone traveling through Raymond via Route 302 is certain to notice the colorful gardens and planters scattered throughout the town. The town is fortunate to have a tireless group of volunteers leading the charge to spruce up the community.

Members of the Raymond Beautification
Committee work on a project planting
flowers at Raymond Veterans Park on
Route 302 in Raymond.
COURTESY PHOTO 
The Raymond Beautification Committee coordinates the work and meets once weekly to plant and perform maintenance. Residents may notice these pops of color in public areas throughout Raymond, including the Route 302 business corridor, Raymond Village Library, Raymond Town Office, Veteran’s Memorial Park, as well as multiple planters located throughout the town.

Volunteers began work for the 2024 season about a week ago. Projects include planning, planting, and weeding. The group is small but mighty.

Raymond Beautification Committee co-chair Sharon Dodson said that support and volunteers are always welcome.

“We have from one to three volunteers at a time usually and meet for two to four hours on Friday mornings. We do weeding, planting, and deadheading during that time,” said Dodson.

The committee recently published its yearly fundraising letter, which was posted on various sites and mailed to some residents. “Plant prices are higher every year and the Beautification volunteers need some financial help to keep Raymond blooming with colorful annuals and bulbs.” Dodson said in the letter, “Most funding for plants and bulbs comes from donations, but the town will help if we don’t get enough.”

Aside from financial help, the group would like to see volunteer numbers increase. This could be a great opportunity for students in need of volunteer hours, church or scout groups, retirees, or anyone interested in the visual appeal of our town – no experience required.

“Beautification volunteers usually meet at the Veterans Memorial Park on Friday mornings. We work more often during the planting season. People can also volunteer on their own if our schedule doesn’t work for them,” said Dodson.

The Raymond Beautification Committee started in 2003 following the completion of the Route 302 improvements project. Dodson said that there was no plan for garden maintenance, so she and resident Donna Johnson started weeding the areas with the assistance of Public Works Director Nathan White stepping in to water the gardens when possible.

“The following winter, Bridgton Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce Director Mike McClellan was talking to Raymond Town Manager Don Willard about what the needs are within the community. Together they decided that something needed to be done about the new unmaintained 70-plus garden areas along Route 302. They had seen us out there working and so Mike contacted me, and we pulled together a committee,” said Dodson. “The volunteer work started in an organized fashion early that spring, and we were putting in over 600 hours those first several summers. The town hired Dick Sanborn to mulch the gardens after we had weeded them, but it was a long process to get the out-of-control gardens back to where they had started the year before.”

Public works employee Don McClellan has been part of the effort for the past 12 years, providing heavy labor and debris removal in addition to his regular responsibilities maintaining Veteran’s Memorial Park and the beaches.

Looking to the future, Dodson envisions the town taking responsibility for the pruning and weeding, while the committee would handle planting annuals, bulbs, and maintaining the existing perennials. She said that the lighter scope of work might help attract more volunteers.

Dodson sees the vision of the committee as a partnership between businesses, the town, and volunteers.

“Making things pretty is appealing to volunteers and gives us a sense of gratification,” said Dodson. “We really appreciate your consideration and look forward to continuing our 20-year tradition of making our town just a little more beautiful.”

To learn more or if you are interested in volunteering, contact the committee through their Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/RaymondBeautificationCommittee

Volunteers can also call the Raymod Town Office at (207) 655-4742 or simply show up at Veteran’s Memorial Park Friday mornings at 8am. Just look for the fluorescent green Raymond volunteer shirts – and you have found them. If Fridays don’t work for you, Dodson can set up a time to meet to point out potential projects that can be completed independently.

To donate to the Raymond Beautification Committee, simply drop off or mail a check to: Town of Raymond, 401 Webbs Mills Road, Raymond, Maine 04071, Attn.: Beautification Committee. <

Friday, May 31, 2024

Fairytale house a whimsical landmark in Raymond

By Nicole Levine

Find yourself in a fairytale when traveling down Main Street in Raymond. There lies The House That Jack Built, a peculiar town landmark that transports you into the world of a child's imagination.

An old postcard show The House That Jack Built in its heyday
on Main Street in Raymond Village. The former gift shop and
ice cream parlor is long gone but the building remains and
is a local landmark in the town. COURTESY PHOTO 
The House That Jack Built has a distinctive look that stands out amongst the rest of the houses within Raymond Village. It has playful yellow-colored walls with cyan blue framing around its doorways and windows. The house is built to look crooked, resembling an imperfect, yet magical children’s drawing.

To people passing by, its presence is a mystery. However, to many locals who have lived in Raymond for years, it is a nostalgic memory and sentimental reminder of their past.

The House That Jack Built was not created by Jack but was originally constructed in the 1930s by the Foster family of Raymond. Its fantastical look is inspired by the nursery rhyme that was favored by their daughter, The House That Jack Built.

The Fosters had opened an ice cream parlor and tea shop within the building, where they sold a variety of knick-knacks in their Maine-inspired gift shop. Some of their products included moccasins and maple syrup products. They also had their own soda fountain within the parlor.

Lucy Foster, also a former teacher, was often seen working within the shop. Many today still have very high regard for her heartfelt dedication to her students and her community. Don Foster, who also owned the business, was said to be “quite the character and funny” during his time working in the shop.

This used to be a very popular destination, as Route 302 originally ran past The House That Jack Built, before it was redirected to go by Raymond Beach in 1955.

The ice cream parlor was a favorite spot for teenagers during the time it was open. It was “the place to be” for local teens to hang out and socialize with their friends.

One customer reminiscing about the business, says “It sure was a popular place and one all the teens in the 50’s loved.” Another said, “I had my first banana split there.”

Many of the teens who used to frequent the ice cream parlor would often sign their names on the walls within the interior. The list of those names gives a unique glimpse into the past of those who used to call this their hangout when they were young.

The business within The House That Jack Built was open for around 25 years before it eventually closed. The property was then sold by the Fosters to the Timmons family.

Even though the business that brought so many teenagers fond memories had closed, The House That Jack Built continued to remain in many locals’ hearts.

Alice Bradeen, secretary for the Raymond-Casco Historical Society, grew up right next to the house. She was close with the Timmons family, who were residing on the property at the time. She spent many of her days exploring and playing there.

She described how there was also a wishing well added on to the back of the property. It was something that kids could climb inside and play. The wishing well just created all the more magic to this already fairytale-inspired home.

When describing the inside of The House That Jack Built, Bradeen says it was incredibly “quirky and neat” to go along with its eccentric exterior.

“You could picture how the tables were set up, and there was a bar where they served the ice cream with stools,” she said. It was almost as though she could still visualize what it once had looked like, when it was a thriving town scene. “Because it was something I saw every day, I did not appreciate how unique it was until later on.”

Nowadays many of us pass by this one-of-a-kind treasure, wondering to ourselves, “What is this quirky storybook-like building?”

The truth is, this Town of Raymond gem is truly something magical and serves as a looking glass back into local history.

Today, The House That Jack Built remains in the Timmons family. There has been some discussion of preserving the house as a historical landmark, however its future is unknown.

This charming feature of the town of Raymond brought a fairytale to life, and has created many fond memories for local residents, thanks to the Foster family. <

Public Safety Memorial a tribute to Windham first responders

By Ed Pierce

When Windham’s first responders and public safety members moved into their newly remodeled building on Gray Road in 2022, something was missing. Plans had been underway for several years to create and place a monument outside the building as a tribute to those who render assistance to the public when emergencies arise, put out fires, and keep residents safe 24 hours a day.

The new Windham Public Safety Memorial
was officially dedicated during a ceremony
on Memorial Day outside the Windham
Public Safety Building on Gray Road. The 
black granite monument honors current and 
past first responders, firefighters, police
officers, dispatchers, and emergency medical
technicians who have devoted their lives to
serving the town. PHOTO BY ED PIERCE    
Lengthy delays from the monument company prevented that from happening, but on Memorial Day, Windham’s Public Safety Memorial was unveiled and dedicated outside the facility. The monument recognizes the contributions that police officers and firefighters have made to the town through decades of service and is intended as a permanent way to say thanks to those who have served as a member of Windham Fire/Rescue, Police, Rescue Association, or as a dispatcher for the Town of Windham.

Surrounding the monument is a courtyard made up of benches to sit and reflect and special brick paver stones for families of first responders. The monument itself is black granite and stands 6 feet in height with white lettering and contains logos of the Windham Police and the Windham Fire/Rescue Departments, an eagle, and the American flag. Space is available on the monument to memorialize the names of police officers or firefighters should they perish in the line of duty in the future.

During the dedication event, Windham Police Chief Kevin Schofield and Windham Fire/Rescue Chief Brent Libby shared their thoughts about the monument.

“Today’s activities are the culmination of two to two-and-a-half years of work,” Schofield said. “This recognizes people in public service to the community, and it means a great deal to all of us.”

Schofield introduced Karen Lewsen, the wife of the late former Windham Police Chief Richard B. “Rick” Lewsen Jr., whom he replaced as top law enforcement officer for the town in 2015. A granite bench in the courtyard is dedicated to Chief Lewsen, who died in 2022.

“We are grateful for the work that Nancy Graves, Fire Rescue Coordinator for Windham Fire Rescue did on this and for all those who placed the paver stones and worked on this monument,” Schofield said.

Windham Fire/Rescue Chief Brent Libby said the goal of the project has been to salute current and past public safety members, volunteers, and call company members, and hundreds of individuals who have served through the years with the Windham Fire Department and the Windham Police Department.

“Our goal is to dedicate and unveil this monument as a tribute and remembrance,” Libby said. “The space on the monument is reserved for those who give the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty, but it hasn’t happened, and we’re committed to keeping it that way.”

Libby also pointed out that another of the black granite benches in the courtyard is inscribed “Honor Valor Sacrifice” and he said that exemplifies the mindset of everyone who serves as a firefighter, police officer, or emergency medical technician in Windham.

“Those are core tenets that police and firefighters live by every day,” Libby said.

Rev. Tim Higgins of St. Ann’s Episcopal Church said he recognizes the courtyard and the new monument at the Windham Public Safety Building as a sacred and meaningful space.

“When you come to this space to be quiet and sit and remember those who came before us, it’s really like visiting a sacred space,” Higgins said. “Sacred space is critical in our community as it is holy.”

Higgins then offered a blessing to those to whom the new monument is dedicated.

“Bless them and bless their safety,” he said. “And bless the holy space.”

He then led those attending the monument dedication in reciting the Firefighters Prayer and the Police Prayer.

Additional paver stones are available for the Public Safety Building courtyard and may be purchased by calling Nancy Graves at 207-892-1911. <

Friday, May 24, 2024

Windham student's speech wins state Speak Out competition

By Ed Pierce

A Windham High School junior’s moving speech about firearm violence won the state Speak Out competition during the recent Maine Lions Convention in Bethel.

Windham High School junior Molly Plati, center, is joined
by Camille Swander of the Windham Lions Club, left, and
WHS teacher Karyl Hazard after Plati won the state Speak
Out competition during the Maine Lions Convention in
Bethel. Plaati's speech about gun violence won a $500
cash prize. SUBMITTED PHOTO   
Molly Plati, 17, first captured the local Speak Out title sponsored by both the Windham and Raymond Lions Clubs, then won the regional Speakout level in Gorham to qualify for the state championship. In Speak Out, students choose a topic of local, state, national or international interest and research it to develop a four- to six-minute speech. The student speeches are judged for voice, enunciation, pace, appearance, construction, interest and replies to questions posed about their topic.

“My speech was about how stronger red flag laws could reduce firearm-related violence in the United States. I explored different regulations the government has explored and their effectiveness in lowering mass casualties,” Plati said. “Furthermore, I researched the different mass casualties that have happened across the United States, specifically in the last 10 years. I studied the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, the Las Vegas, Nevada shooting, and finally, the Lewiston, Maine shooting on Oct. 25, 2023. I explored how mass casualties tragically affect the nation and how a reduction of these mass attacks can lead to a better country overall.”

During her speech, she said all of this cannot happen without public support for government research on assault weapons, as well as an increase in Red Flag laws.

“I presented this topic because of our research paper in my AP English class. The assignment was to choose a critical issue that we felt passionate about,” Plati said. “I chose this topic because gun violence is something that can affect every citizen in the United States. It has created unrest in students across the country, with an increase in school shootings each year. School is where we should feel safe, a place that is a second home, as some students spend more time in this building than at their own homes. With an increase in shootings done by assault weapons, student safety is jeopardized. All students deserve to feel safe at school, and I think increasing regulations and knowledge about gun control policies is how we can feel safe again.”

She said the most challenging part of creating this speech was delivering a persuasive speech about a sensitive and controversial topic.

“When preparing it, I did not know what kind of audience I was walking into and their various beliefs,” Plati said. “I tried to base my opinions on facts backed up by research, but delivering a speech on a controversial topic took a lot of work, as I could not predict how the audience would react. I was introduced to this project because we worked on a circle issue research paper in my AP English class. We worked on this project from late December to mid-February, resulting in participation in the Lions Club Level process. My teacher, Karyl Hazard had assigned weekly checks for our research progress. The method of researching, taking notes, annotating, and synthesizing into a final essay took around two months to complete.”

According to Plati, Hazard was very generous in mentoring me through this experience.

“She would not hesitate to allow me to practice in her room before, after, or during the school day,” Plati said. “She helped me refine my speech for every competition level and practice my public speaking skills standing on a podium rather than a stage. I practiced two to three times a week with Ms. Hazard and independently.”

Hazard says that Plati has clear strengths in English Language Arts as a reader, writer, and speaker.

“She has proven to be a conscientious, motivated, and dedicated student here at WHS,” Hazard said. “She is genuinely interested in learning, she is a doer, and she is a respected leader. These are all fabulous strengths that have and will continue to serve her well in life. The perfect complement to her academic, leadership, and performance strengths are her kindness and compassion for those around her.”

Gun control can be an emotional and heated topic to address publicly, especially for a teenager, but Hazard said researching this topic was important to Plati and her passion for it showed in the content and delivery of her speech.

“Molly’s love for and training in musical theater serves her well in public speaking,” Hazard said. “She applied her knowledge of rhetorical strategies from our class and her talent in performance to deliver a passionate and persuasive speech about the need for expanded gun control laws. Molly is quick-thinking and articulate, but she is also quite humble. Not only did she deliver her speech with passion and poise, but she also navigated the questions from the judging panel and engaged with members of the audience with maturity and ease.”

Camille Swander of the Windham Lions Club said everyone who has heard Plati’s speech has been impressed.

“We are extremely proud and impressed with Molly’s presentations at all levels of the contest. She demonstrated confidence, poise and was extremely knowledgeable about her topic,” Swander said. “She was approached by many in attendance at the state level, thanking her for her insight, her manner of delivery and her ability to really connect with her audience. We also want to thank all the students that participated at the local level of the competition. The topics were quite varied, and all students were wonderfully prepared to share their knowledge. Windham High School and community definitely should be proud as are we of these talented students we were lucky enough to meet and listen to their speeches through this program.”

Plati is the daughter of Josh and Heather Plati of Windham, and she received a $500 cash prize for winning the state Speak Out competition. She is a performing artist and actress and is also involved with the Windham High School Drama Club and One Act Play. She is an officer for the Windham Chamber Singers and a recreational dancer, taking classes at Atlantic Dance Arts in Gorham.

After completing high school, she plans to attend a four-year university to study communications, specializing in advertising and media studies and minoring in musical theater and public relations. <

Not forgotten: Memorial recalls loss of two World War II British pilots in Sebago Lake

By Ed Pierce

A gathering in Raymond 80 years and one day after a fateful crash during World War II remembered two British Royal Navy pilots killed while flying over Sebago Lake on Friday, May 17.

British Royal Navy Commander Vincent Owen salutes a new
memorial for two World War II British pilots who crashed
and died on a training mission over Sebago Lake in 1944
during a ceremony May 17 at Veterans Park in Raymond. 
Looking on is a contingent of U.S. sailors from the USS
John Basilone. PHOTO BY ED PIERCE       
Representatives from Great Britain and the United States dedicated a new memorial at Veterans Park in Raymond in the memory of the British aviators with two nephews of one of the lost pilots in attendance. The special ceremony included sailors from the USS John Basilone, the British Royal Navy, State Senator Tim Nangle, State Representative Jessica Fay, members of the Raymond Select Board, Raymond town officials and Dr. Peter Abbott, the British Consulate General for New England.

On May 16, 1944, a squadron of British Navy D4V Corsairs took off from Brunswick on a low-level formation training flight intended to give the pilots experience flying at low altitude over a body of water. Among the group of pilots that day were British Royal Navy Sub-Lieutenant Vaughn Reginald “Reggie” Gill, 24, who was flying aircraft JT-132, and Sub-Lieutenant Raymond Laurence Knott, 19, piloting aircraft JT-160. Both men were assigned to 732nd Squadron based at nearby Brunswick Naval Air Station in Maine.

As the formation passed over Sebago Lake near Raymond, Gill’s Corsair JT-132 suddenly banked sharply and struck the lake, sending a large plume of water flying into the air striking Knott’s aircraft, causing it to also crash into the lake. Within a matter of seconds, both aircraft quickly sank below the waters of the lake and disappeared. A military search and crash investigation began for the pilots using amphibian planes and U.S. Marines and a U.S. Navy diving bell was deployed in Sebago Lake, but no aircraft debris was ever found except for a Corsair D4V radio antenna and a small piece of an aircraft headrest.

The families of the lost pilots back in England were notified of the crash by telegram in 1944 and both pilots were declared missing in action by the Royal Navy.

In the 1990s, the Corsairs were discovered and photographed underwater in Sebago Lake more than 300 feet below the surface. A project was planned to recover the Corsairs but in 2003, a judge ruled that the aircraft and the pilots’ remains are not to be disturbed and considered to be war graves.

Last fall, the nephews of pilot “Reggie” Gill, Giles Bradley of Exeter, England and David Gill of Oxford, England, first heard about an effort to create a memorial for the pilots at Veterans Park in Raymond. “Reggie” Gill was born in India to British parents and had studied at the university level before wanting to serve his country as a Royal Navy pilot.

Bradley and Gill had heard stories through the years about their late uncle from relatives and both say they consider themselves fortunate to be able to travel to Maine and represent their family for the dedication. Surviving family members of Sub-Lieutenant Knott were unable to attend the ceremony.

“We think it’s amazing that they finally have a memorial,” Bradley said. “It’s a splendid occasion for such a fitting tribute.”

David McIntire of Raymond, the lone member of Raymond’s Veterans Committee and a retired U.S. Army officer, worked closely with James Normington, a representative of the British Commonwealth and Remembrance Project – USA to create a lasting memorial lakeside for the two Royal Navy pilots Gill and Knott.

A granite memorial was purchased from Collette Monuments in Lewiston and designed by David McIntire and Collette Monuments and approved by the British and Commonwealth Remembrance Project and the British Consulate General Peter Abbott.

Funding for the memorial was paid for by the British and Commonwealth Remembrance Project. That is a British organization situated in New England, which recognizes the service and sacrifice made by British and Commonwealth service personnel in times of war. Its volunteers help look after more than 200 British war grave sites throughout the New England area from World War I and World War II.

The day before the memorial’s dedication, the Maine Warden Service took “Reggie” Gill’s nephews out on Sebago Lake by boat and showed them where the Corsairs crashed, and where the planes sank below the water.

“We feel very privileged and honored to have done that,” Gill said. “And for us to be here on the 80th anniversary of the accident is very moving.”

The memorial dedication ceremony included speeches by Royal Navy Commander Vincent Owen and USS John Basilone Commander Carne Livingston.

Wreaths were placed on the memorial recalling the pilots’ ultimate sacrifice by Abbott and Peter Richardson, president of the British Officers Club of New England.

Normington said that dedicating the memorial almost 80 years to the day that the pilots died reinforces how difficult it was to serve in the military at that time.

“We remember what brought them here to Maine to begin with and we cannot forget,” he said. <

Friday, May 17, 2024

WHS senior places third in Maine App Challenge

By Kaysa Jalbert

Creativity was on full display in this year’s Maine App Challenge as a Windham High School senior, Alex Pooler, placed third among participants, winning a $1,000 scholarship from Tyler Technologies.

Matt Jones, software engineering manager for Tyler
Technologies, left, and Chris Webster, president of
Tyler Technologies' ERP & Civic Division, right, 
congratulate Alex Pooler of Windham High School
for placing third in the annual Maine App Challenge
for students. Pooler earned a check for $1,000 for his
app called Good Morning Class, an interactive
check-in app for elementary teachers and students.
PHOTO BY WHITNEY J. FOX PHOTOGRAPHY 
Pooler designed an app that makes it quick and easy for educators to assess a student’s well-being. He created the app called Good Morning Class, an interactive check-in app for elementary school teachers and students.

He says that he started working on his app idea in fall of 2022. One day at the start of his junior year, he was talking with a primary school teacher, Mrs. Farrin, who thought it would be a good idea to design an app to make it easier for teachers to check-in on their students.

"Last year I developed Good Morning Class using MIT App Inventor, a block-based coding program,” said Pooler. He first developed a prototype for the app and then tested it with the help of Mrs. Farrin. After testing, he revised the app to better fit her classes.

“This year, I developed version two in Python, a coding language, and Kivy, a graphical framework. This was a major improvement and difficulty, as I was still learning both languages,” says Pooler.

Mrs. Farrin would use a Google survey to check in with her students. Although it is a survey program, its design is not specific to an elementary classroom, leaving room for user error and confusion.

Pooler said that he wanted to make life a little easier for teachers and students through his creation and thought it would be a nice project for his high school Capstone.

Jennifer Pooler, Alex’s mother said her son has always been creative.

“Alex has been making games since he was very young, board games, card games, which eventually led to his interest in making video games,” she said. “I don't think Alex thought too much about developing apps until Mrs. Farrin suggested he explore that for his Capstone project, but it aligned well with his interests.”

Prior to working on his Good Morning Class app, Pooler says he had never developed an app before.

“In my sophomore year I took a computer science class, but most of what I learned was on the fly,” said Pooler. “In between last year’s submission and this year’s, I took an online computer science class.”

After high school, Pooler will be studying Game Design and Development at Rochester Institute of Technology.

“I can't wait to hear about and hopefully see the projects Alex works on at RIT and after,” Jennifer Pooler said. “My hope is that he'll build a solid foundation at college to be successful in developing video games or apps or whatever he decides to create.”

In addition to the scholarships, the top 10 finalists of the Maine App Challenge also received Beats Headphones and are granted a guaranteed internship interview at Tyler Technologies.

“I was very excited for Alex to win third place in the Maine App Challenge,” Jennifer Pooler said. “I was already so proud of him for putting in months of work to see it through, but I have to say it was really special to see him recognized by Tyler Technologies for all of the effort.”

The Maine App Challenge is a contest hosted annually by Tyler Technologies Inc., a Plano, Texas-based provider of software and technology services with around 1,200 employees in Maine. Each year, students develop their own mobile software programs that introduce them to science, technology, engineering, and math, also known by the acronym STEM.

Prior to the contest, Tyler Technologies collaborates with the Foster Center for Innovation at the University of Maine to host a series of free workshops for students to help with brainstorming, prototyping, and testing their applications. According to its website, Tyler Technologies also partners with the University of Maine on a Fundamentals of Innovation course available online to high school students as an early college course that allows them to earn college credits while designing an app submission for the Maine App Challenge.

Since its inception, the Maine App Challenge has gifted more than $100,000 in 529 college savings plans to students in Maine. <

Memorial Day activities in Windham taking shape

By Ed Pierce

Since 1971, the last Monday in May is designated as Memorial Day in the United States and it’s a holiday where all Americans can pause to reflect on and remember those who have been lost in military service to our nation. This year Memorial Day falls on Monday, May 27 and to mark the occasion, members of Windham’s American Legion Field-Allen Post 148 have planned a full slate of activities that the public can attend and participate in.

Memorial Day activities include a parade,
a ceremony at Windham High School
and a picnic lunch and gathering at the
Windham Veterans Center. The public
is welcome to attend and participate in
these activities. COURTESY PHOTO

For several weeks now, Legion members have been assisting in cemetery cleanups across the town. They also have been placing more than 100 American flags on utility poles on major highways in Windham as a reminder that Memorial Day is more than the annual kickoff of summer and the holiday honors those who have died defending America’s freedom and liberty. The flags will fly through Labor Day in town.

“This year the American Legion Field-Allen Post has its own set of memories as it celebrates 86 years of service to our veterans and the Windham community,” said Post 148 Adjutant David Tanguay. “The Post remembers it founders, World War I veterans, leaders in the community, who established it in 1938 to honor one of their own, Lt. Charlies W.W. Field of Windham who was killed in action while leading a charge against an enemy machine gun emplacement.”

Tanguay said that following World War II, the name Allen was added to its name remembering the ultimate sacrifice made by U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. James Allen of Windham, who was killed in the Pacific Island campaign leading a patrol against the enemy forces.

“Both are local heroes, and both now are the namesakes of the American Legion Field-Allen Post 148-Windham,” Tanguay said.

According to Tanguay, the American Legion plans and conducts the traditional Memorial Day events and is looking for public involvement in staging this year’s Memorial Day Parade in Windham.

“The Post is asking the community to increase their involvement with floats or decorated vehicles to replace some of the more traditional entries that may not be available,” Tanguay said. “At one time in the past the Memorial Day parade was the largest parade in town. Let’s make the 2024 parade an event to remember.”

He said that teams of veterans will cover the 22 smaller cemeteries in the town to place new flags on the graves of all local veterans.

“On Saturday, May 18, weather permitting, teams of veterans and community members will meet at 9 a.m. at Arlington Cemetery in North Windham adjacent to the Fire Station to place the final 350-plus flags on the veteran’s graves,” Tanguay said. “For any families or groups interested in helping, this is a great opportunity for the community to have a teaching moment and share in the flag program.”

At Smith Cemetery in Windham, ROTC cadets from Windham High School will place flags on veterans’ graves there and will also put more than 200 flags along the Route 302 Rotary.

On Memorial Day itself, Windham’s Memorial Day Parade starts at 9 a.m. and runs from the Windham Town Hall on School Road and proceeds onto Route 202 in the direction of Windham High School.

“The best vantage point for viewing is from the area around the intersection of Windham Center Road and Route 202,” Tanguay said. “This year the Legion is asking for business and community support to make the parade truly memorable by marching or walking in the parade, entering a float or decorated vehicle, or offering a ride to a vet who may not be able to walk the distance. To sign up, call 207-892-1306.”

Tanguay said there is a need for open vehicles with convertibles preferred to provide rides for some of the post’s less ambulatory senior veterans.

At 10 a.m. in front of Windham’s Veterans Memorial Flagpole at Windham High School, a formal Memorial Day Ceremony will be conducted with the guest speaker being American Legion Past National Commander Vincent James Troiola, who now resides in Windham.

Master of ceremony for the event is Post 148 Commander Tom Theriault. Ceremonial events will include patriotic selections performed by the Windham High School Band, a wreath laying, bell tolling for Windham veterans who died in the past year and the ceremonial burning of tattered flags removed from veterans’ graves, followed by the traditional rifle salute and the playing of Taps. To wrap up activities that day, American Legion Field-Allen Post 148 will host an open house at noon at the Windham Veterans Center, 35 Veterans Memorial Drive in Windham, with a picnic-style luncheon open to the public. There will also be a brief wreath ceremony prior to the picnic in the Windham Veterans Center Memorial Garden. <

Friday, May 10, 2024

Mini horses making large impact at Riding To The Top

By Nicole Levine

Riding to the Top, Windham’s local non-profit therapeutic horse riding center, has welcomed two new mini horses, AppleJax and Apollo, to their farm.

AppleJax is a 9-year-old mini horse who joined
Riding To The Top Therapeutic Riding Center
in Windham last fall. He has carriage driving
experience and is expected to become part of
RTT's carriage and unmounted therapy sessions
along with RTT's school-based programs, field
trips, and summer camps. SUBMITTED PHOTO 
Riding to the Top (RTT) has been serving the Windham community for 31 years and offers services such as therapeutic riding, therapeutic carriage driving, equine assisted learning, and hippotherapy for individuals ranging in age from 3 to 90-plus. They assist with a wide range of disabilities.

Despite their size, mini horses are classified as horses and not ponies. They have a significantly longer lifespan than larger horse breeds, and can live into their 30s. Because of their size and calm nature, they are known to make fantastic therapy animals, providing individuals with comfort and companionship.

RTT has been home to mini horses for many years, however when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, much of the farm’s normal operation was up in the air.

During this time, a friend and donor of the farm was looking to find some companions for her own horse. The minis that were living at RTT in 2020 were then relocated and integrated into her herd. This became the mini’s new home, and it was later decided that it was in their best interest to stay where they were, and not relocate them back to RTT again.

The organization had continued to work with their generous friend, and began providing mobile field trips during COVID, where they would take the minis on the road.

“This proved to be very popular and we realized that the minis were easier to transport and less intimidating for people of all ages,” said Sarah Bronson, RTT’s executive director. “In 2023, we started looking to have minis at the farm again.”

Currently, RTT has two mini horse residents. AppleJax, who, following an assessment in Western Massachusetts was donated to the farm last fall, and Apollo, who is a new addition just this spring.

Both of the mini horses work with unmounted therapy sessions, and are planned to be an active part of RTT’s school-based programs, field trips, and summer camps.

AppleJax also has carriage driving experience and is planned to join the program for that at RTT in the near future.

Currently age 9, AppleJax has been doing very well on the farm. Bronson describes him as having a curious and adventurous personality.

“AJ's been working on his ‘office skills’ and is pretty comfortable visiting all of our staff in their offices,” she said.

Apollo is 17 years old and is continuing to adjust to his new environment, after arriving only a few weeks ago. He is a “free lease” horse, meaning he has an owner, but resides on the farm where RTT takes care of his needs.

Following protocol, Apollo was in two weeks of quarantine to ensure the safety and health of the rest of the herd on the farm. He's been doing well, and is slowly being introduced and spending more time with his new mini buddy, AppleJax.

Apollo is currently located in the mini paddock also known as RTT’s ambassador area. Although visitors do not have access inside the gated area, people visiting the farm can easily see the minis and can pet them through the fence.

RTT volunteers say that the minis are much less intimidating due to their size, which could serve as a great introduction to equine riding and therapy for those new to horses. Although less intimidating, they still need as much care and leadership to guide them, just as the other horses require, especially in any new circumstances.

The minis, like the rest of the horses, eat hay and grain, but in significantly smaller amounts. Their veterinary and farrier costs are roughly the same as the rest of the ponies and horses, which is estimated to cost around $5,000 per year.

RTT’s minis also require the same grooming and farrier care as the other horses at the farm.

However, due to their size, they require more flexibility from their groomers while picking their hooves and trimming their feet. By utilizing a pedestal, this process is made easier and more comfortable for AppleJax and Apollo. It is still one of the challenges that come along with grooming the minis.

RTT is excited to welcome back mini horses to their farm and programs. They make a wonderful addition to the diverse group of horses at the farm.<

“We believe that the minis will be a great fit to have at RTT again and are looking forward to being able to have them active in all sorts of programming.” explained Bronson. “Training is an ongoing process and involves lots of people handling them, working them in a variety of environments at the farm and then expanding their horizons to off-farm activities.”<

Wellness Walk inspires students at Raymond Elementary School

By Ed Pierce

Outdoor experiences have been proven to help improve academic and physical performance for many students and that’s the concept behind RSU 14’s Wellness Program. To demonstrate the benefits of being outdoors, Raymond Elementary School hosted a special Wellness Walk and Nature Talk on Tuesday, May 7.

Loon Echo Land Trust Executive Director
Matt Markot leads Raymond Elementary
School students on a Wellness Walk
and Nature Talk around Frog Pond in
Raymond on Tuesday, May 7. His visit
to the school is part of an effort by the
RSU 14 Wellness Program to inspire
children to get outside and love nature.
PHOTO BY DONNA MORTON 
According RSU 14 Wellness Coordinator Donna Morton, Loon Echo Land Trust Executive Director Matt Markot led students on the walk and promoted the idea that being outside is one of the best things that students can do.

Morton said Markot guided the students around Frog Pond near the school and answered their questions about the environment surrounding the pond and how it affects all of them every day.

“Not only did they learn about the eco system, but they also learned about how nature makes them feel better,” Morton said. “Hopefully it builds a lifelong love of the outdoors for the students.”

Markot was a great choice to lead the walk for the students. Prior to joining Loon Echo Land Trust in 2017, he worked for the Nature Conservancy in Maine as its Northern Maine Lands Steward, and he served as an AmeriCorps Environmental Steward with the Maine Natural Areas Program, and as an environmental educator at Kieve-Wavus. He’s been the land trust’s Executive Director since 2019.

The intent of having him come and talk to the students about nature and the outdoors is to have them love and care for nature,” Morton said.

The Frog Pond Trail at Raymond Elementary School is a family trail about 1.93 miles in length of easy to moderate terrain centered around a scenic nature pond. The trail offers a short walk to a pond with easy access for the whole family that connects to a trail network extending into the woods.

During the pandemic, the school set up an outdoor classroom space near the pond and other spots for teachers to gather with students for learning activities outdoors and Markot’s walk with students fit right into that outdoors theme.

The RSU 14 Wellness Program strives to show that time spent learning and playing in nature benefits the whole child and can help children attain their full potential.

Spending time in nature enhances educational outcomes by improving children’s academic performance, focus, behavior and love of learning, Morton said.

“Get Outdoors is the RSU 14 Wellness Theme for May,” she said. “There are so many benefits to bringing nature into wellness. Time outside brings mental and physical health. It elevates our moods while lowering blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and stress. Being outside raises levels of Vitamin D, helping to build strong bones and our immune systems. It just feels good.”

For children, access to safe, natural areas can enhance children’s physical and mental health, from improving cardiovascular vitality and weight management to reducing stress and ADHD symptoms. In addition, regular access to high-quality green space inspires strong connections to the natural world.

Morton says that outdoor play is not only beneficial, but also crucial for the brain's healthy development. Research studies have shown that the frontal cortex, which is responsible for controlling emotions and problem solving, is activated during playtime and imaginative play and child development go hand in hand.

Another area addressed by children being outdoors is childhood obesity. Morton says children playing outdoors are running, jumping, climbing, squatting, and rolling which are great forms of exercise and assist in motor skills development, a better sense of balance, and enhancing bone strength. And safe and protected exposure to sunlight helps keep children’s immune systems strong, Morton said. <

Friday, May 3, 2024

Windham women’s football player tackles new opportunity with Maine Mayhem

By Ed Pierce

Every time that Kendra Cummings of Windham walks onto the practice field behind Deering High School in Portland, she’s making history as part of a movement striving for women’s equality in sports.

Windham nurse and mother of six Kendra
Cummings is now in her second season of
competition as a defensive end and tight end
for the Maine Mayhem women's tackle football
team in the World Football Alliance.
COURTESY PHOTO
Cummings is now in her second season of playing tight end and defensive end positions for the Maine Mayhem, a women’s tackle football team that competes in the Women’s Football Alliance. The Mayhem provides opportunities for women ages 18 and over to play full-contact football, a sport traditionally dominated by male athletes and it’s something that Cummings welcomes.

“I became interested in playing after watching my daughter, Niyah, play youth tackle football in Windham,” she said. “The Maine Mayhem is the only women’s tackle football team in the state. We practice at Memorial Field at Deering High School and at the Portland Sports Complex during the snowy months. We practice twice a week for a total of five hours.”

A registered nurse at Maine Medical Center and the mother of six children, Cummings had never played football before suiting up last season with the Mayhem. The team is coached by former Bonny Eagle High School head football coach Bryant Oja.

Despite never having played previously, she caught on fast, racking up nine solo tackles and assisting on five others and recovering a fumble in a game against the North Connecticut Nightmare and running it in from 38 yards out for a touchdown. She also caught one pass for 29 yards during a Mayhem game at tight end.

While the mission of the Maine Mayhem is to give women the opportunity to both learn and play tackle football in an encouraging environment that focuses on the fundamentals and techniques necessary for a positive experience in football and life, it also offers a chance to win and excel on the playing field.

In 2023, the Mayhem team finished the year 5-3 overall and captured the Division III Northeast Regional championship, while advancing to the second round of the national playoffs. Even more is expected of Cummings and her teammates in 2024.

“I love football because it’s challenging and competitive. I enjoy being taken out of my comfort zone and it’s a nice stress reliever being allowed to hit people,” Cummings said.

According to Cummings, playing tackle football last season was stressful, nerve-wracking, and exciting because it was her first year playing and I didn’t know quite what to expect.

“This season, I’m hoping that we can make it all the way to the Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio and win the Division III championship,” Cummings said. “Personally, I’m just looking to improve my game and contribute to the team’s overall success.”

Standing 5-foot-8 and weighing 178 pounds, Cummings says she’s learning more about the intricacies of football with each game she plays.

“The most difficult aspect about playing football is that there is so much to learn,” she said. “However, my coaches and teammates are so helpful and are good teachers.”

She says that her favorite professional football player is Rob Gronkowski, who played 11 seasons in the National Football League for the New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

“He’s the reason that I wear Number 87,” Cummings said. “Gronk was a big and strong player that could do anything. He was a great blocker and had great hands.”

In its first game of the 2024 season, the Mayhem fell to the New York Knockout, 24-6, last Saturday evening at Lasalle Institute in Troy, New York. The Mayhem will look to rebound with a win in its first home game of the year at 6 p.m. Saturday at Memorial Stadium in Portland against the Connecticut Ambush.

“I think the team had some first game jitters, but we are ready to knock the rust off and make the changes necessary for success moving forward,” Cummings said.

Cummings says although her choice to play tackle football is a bit unusual, she’s sticking with it.

“Football has taught me that you’re never too old to try something new. Football has given me tremendous confidence and cemented my belief that if you work hard, anything is achievable,” she said. “My family, friends, and coworkers are very proud of me, and they also think that I’m a little nuts. I don’t disagree. However, I feel very lucky to have so much support.” <

Raymond memorial honors British pilots lost over Sebago Lake in 1944

By Ed Pierce

It’s recognition that’s long overdue and something that’s now firmly etched into the annals of Lakes Region history. On Friday, May 17, some 80 years later, Veterans Park in Raymond will be the site of a special dedication ceremony paying tribute to two long-lost British aviators who died in a collision over Sebago Lake.

A formal ceremony in Raymond dedicating a memorial to
two British pilots killed while in flight training over
Sebago Lake in 1944 will be held Friday, May 17 at
Veterans Park in Raymond. The event will include
representatives of the British military and of King
Charles III of Great Britain. COURTESY PHOTO  
Just before noon on Tuesday, May 16, 1944, a squadron of British Navy D4V Corsairs took off from Brunswick on a low-level formation training flight to give pilots experience flying at low altitude over a body of water. Among the group of pilots that day were British Royal Navy Sub-Lieutenant Vaughn Reginald Gill, 19, flying aircraft JT-132, and Sub-Lieutenant Raymond Laurence Knott, also 19, piloting aircraft JT-160. Both men were from Lee-on-Solent in Hampshire, England and were assigned to 732nd Squadron based at nearby Brunswick Naval Air Station.

As the formation passed over Sebago Lake near Raymond, Gill’s Corsair JT-132 suddenly banked sharply and struck the lake, sending a large plume of water flying into the air striking Knott’s aircraft, causing it to also crash into the lake. Within a matter of seconds, both aircraft quickly sank below the waters of the lake and disappeared. A military search and crash investigation was immediately launched using amphibian planes and U.S. Marines, and a U.S. Navy diving bell was deployed into Sebago Lake, but no aircraft debris was found except for a Corsair D4V radio antenna and a piece of an aircraft headrest.

Both pilots were subsequently declared dead and missing in action by the Royal Navy. Years passed and in the 1990s, the Corsairs were discovered and photographed in Sebago Lake more than 300 feet below the surface. During a court case in 2003 seeking to recover the aircraft, a judge determined that the aircraft and remains are not to be disturbed as they are considered war graves.

Through the decades since, thoughts of placing a memorial nearby for the pilots arose, but in recent years, that effort intensified.

Raymond resident David McIntire helped to spearhead the project through to completion.

“As a member of Raymond’s Veterans Committee, I think I became the likely candidate to work toward a solution for a memorial,” McIntire said. “I worked closely with the British representative from the British Commonwealth and Remembrance Project – USA, since day one, when he called the town in July 2023 interested in something as a remembrance for the pilots.”

McIntire says that he had heard the story about the pilots’ crash into the lake, but he didn’t realize that the pilots were British.

“At that point, I worked to come up with a suitable memorial for the two British pilots Gill and Knott,” he said.

According to McIntire, he said he feels the most significant aspect of the memorial for future generations of Raymond residents will be the work put in by town volunteers to help determine a design of an appropriate memorial to recognize the pilots and their loss and entombment in Sebago Lake.

“I believe Raymond has the only Veterans Park right on the shores of Sebago Lake where they died,” he said. “This has taken 80 years to place a lasting memorial, but I think the cemetery style monument is very appropriate, recognizing the sacrifice of the pilots during World War II.”

From a personal standpoint, McIntire said that he’s proud to be part of the initiative starting with an idea to somehow recognize Pilots Gill and Knott, and seeing it through to having an actual monument placed at Veterans Park to honor their loss.

“Unless people are aware of the crash in 1944, I think they would be surprised to read the inscription on the monument for the British pilots,” he said. “Because their remains were never recovered their location was classified as a War Grave, much like the sailors lost during the Pearl Harbor attack.”

Melissa McConkey, Raymond Town Administrator and Communications Director, said a dedication ceremony for the memorial will be held at 11:30 a.m. Friday, May 17 at Veteran's Park in Raymond and the public is welcome to attend the event.

The granite memorial was purchased from Collette Monuments in Lewiston and was designed by David McIntire and Collette Monuments and approved by the British and Commonwealth Remembrance Project and the British Consul General. Funding for the memorial was paid for by the British and Commonwealth Remembrance Project.

In an email with the U.S. Navy, McIntire said James Normington of the British and Commonwealth Remembrance Project has been the liaison for planning this event. He said descendants of Sub Lt Gill have been traced and a few of his family members will be at the ceremony. Normington indicated there will be 12 to 15 people flying over from England for the ceremony, including the British Consul General in his official capacity as the representative for King Charles III, members of the Royal Navy, The British & Commonwealth Remembrance, and The British Officers Club.

The British and Commonwealth Remembrance Project is a British organization situated in New England, that recognizes the service and sacrifice made by British and Commonwealth service personnel in times of war. Its volunteers help look after more than 200 War Grave sites throughout the New England area from World War I and World War II.

McIntire said Normington explained to him that there was a meeting between the British Consul General to New England and Maine Gov. Janet Mills and the subject of the World War II crash of the two airplanes into Sebago Lake came up.

“I think because Raymond Veterans Park is right off Route 302 and on Sebago Lake, we became a likely candidate for a memorial,” McIntire said. “I didn’t realize until I started researching the event of all the aviation support the United States provided the British during World War lI. As you know, NAS Brunswick hosted and trained many British pilots in US aircraft used in the war effort.” <

Friday, April 26, 2024

Windham author publishes second children’s book

By Masha Yurkevich

Jeanine Faietta Eastman is not your typical children’s book author. Along with her books being entertaining, fascinating, and captivating to young eyes, they also add a historical element for young minds.

Windham author Janine Faietta Eastman will be
available to meet the public and sign copies of
her new children's book called 
'Blizzard the Ice-Harvesting Horse' at Sherman's  
Maine Coast Book Shop in Windham on June 8.
COURTESY PHOTO
She was born and raised in Maine and currently resides with her family on Highland Lake in Windham, where generations of her family have spent summers together.

“I have fond memories of my grandfather’s stories of ice harvesting that took place on the lake during the early 1900s,” says Eastman. “I wanted to share the story to the younger generation of today so that they would have an idea of what life was like during that time. And, how the frozen lake garden provided such an important commodity to so many families. Everyone worked together; life certainly was very different then compared to our lives today. After all, walking two miles to school, every day, uphill both ways during a snowstorm was a thing!”

Prior to writing a book, Eastman says that she does research to make sure that her books are not only interesting, but also factually correct. When writing her most recent book, “Blizzard the Ice-Harvesting Horse,” Eastman researched the history of ice harvesting in Maine, the process used, and the tools involved.

“And of course, I had all the stories told to me about the harvest,” she says.

Her motivation for writing her most recent book “Blizzard the Ice-Harvesting Horse” was all about the importance of history to be shared.

“I hope that children will learn about the past in an informative and fun way,” she said. “With Blizzard the horse telling his story straight from the mouth of the horse, I also hope that it will also be a fun read for adults as well.”

Although there are so many wonderful children’s books and authors, Eastman says that she wanted to add to the genre with a story about ice harvesting in Maine. She also wanted to present children with something new to learn about and have lots of smiles while doing so.

“I love when the story comes together, how a story flows when writing it, along with the perfect illustrations that help tell the story and move it along,” says Eastman.

She prefers to write pen to paper and then type her manuscripts when the pen to paper process is complete and the manuscript is ready to be submitted to her publisher.

So far, Eastman has written two children’s novels and plans to write more books in the future.

Her first children’s book, “The Very Same Moon” was published in 2023 by Page Publishing, Inc. Her second book, “Blizzard the Ice-Harvesting Horse” was published just last month.

“When you read ‘The Very Same Moon,’ you will know that every boy loon sings a different tune,” reads the summary from the back of the book. “It’s true! They even have their own boy band and perform for the very same moon. So come hang out for a while, as the very same moon leads the way with a glowing light. Just like it has since the very first night. Meet all the animal friends and neighbors that have been guided through the lake waters and forest trees. Then, you will surely know why Maine is the way that life should be.”

All of Eastman’s books are available online at Amazon and from Barnes & Noble Booksellers. They can also be purchased at Sherman’s Maine Coast Bookstore in Windham.

“I encourage everyone to support local, small Maine business and purchase my book there,” says Eastman.

Here’s a sneak peek into the summary of her most recent book, “Blizzard the Ice-Harvesting Horse.”

“Blizzard is the ice harvesting horse. Isn’t it so cool that ice was harvested from the frozen waters of Highland Lake? That’s how it was done during the early 1900s, so many years ago! Saddle up as Blizzard shares his adventures while he and his neighbors work together during the frigid Maine weather. With the cold wind blowing, it messes up his long mane. Oh well, lake hair, he doesn’t care. After all, Blizzard’s mane keeps him warm. He can make it through any storm! Neighbors helping neighbors, you will surely see why Maine has always been the way that life should be!”

Eastman will have a book signing for Blizzard the Ice-Harvesting Horse at Sherman’s Maine Coast Bookstore in Windham, scheduled for Saturday, June 8, with the time of that event yet to be determined. <