Friday, May 27, 2016

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Toby's Dream continues this year with a memorial race event and a raffle - By Michelle Libby

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On Saturday, May 28, the gun will go off on the second annual Toby’s Dream Project Memorial Race event at Windham High School. Last year the event raised $8,000 toward the goal of paving the Windham Veterans Center parking lot, which meant a lot of Toby Pennels, a veteran who gave a lot of his time and resources to the space to make it succeed. The driveway and access road are now paved and through the work of his family and a small group of dedicated volunteers, the initiative will now allow Toby to continue to give back to organizations he loved. 
Stuart “Toby” Pennels passed away after a motorcycle accident in 2014. At the time he was running for political office, sat on the RSU14 school board and had served his country. 

This year the committee will honor Toby by splitting the money between three places. All money raised at the races and through a raffle for a paddle board, flotation device and paddle donated by Kittery Trading Post will go to help programs that mean so much to Toby. The first place the money will go is toward the Toby Pennels Memorial Scholarship Fund, then the remaining money will be split between the veterans center and the Windham High School cross country team, who have given so much for this event,” according to Brenda Pennels, Toby’s widow. “We want to make it something Toby would have wanted.” Two of Toby and Brenda’s children ran cross country and cross country coach Jeff Riddle has spent countless hours working on the races. 

At the race on Saturday there will be a 5K and a 1 mile walk, run or wheel and also a kids’ fun run with ice cream cones donated by The Ice Cream Dugout as a reward. Registration can be done online at the website or on Saturday. There will be Blue Mile markers to honor those who have passed on.
“We are very happy to continue to partner with Brian Berkemeyer, Run In A Race, LLC., to help with online race registrations and online donations and also officially time our races and collect all race results,” said Riddle. 

This year there will be a meet a veteran portion of the event and a station for writing to soldiers. Colonel Scott Venable will fly in from Chicago to talk about what it means to serve and what it was like serving in Iraq with Toby in 2007. There will be “a lot of things going on on race day to honor vets,” said Brenda. That includes a non-perishable food drive. People are asked to bring an item or two for the Windham Food Pantry. The items are collected by the American Legion Post 148. They will also be collecting food in North Windham.  

“All of this happens effectively because RSU14 has again sanctioned this race event in respect and honor of Toby and all that he gave over his years of service to RSU14. It is important to also mention that the Town of Windham and Raymond have been overly supportive of this event and we look forward to continuing those partnerships as well,” said Riddle. 

This year the organizers cut out the breakfast and made the whole event shorter. It’s more organized, said Brenda. 

“Last year, year one, Brenda Pennels, Taylor Pennels, Don Swander and I worked with a few other volunteers to make the event a very successful one, all within a very short timeline to respectfully pull it all off,” said Riddle. “In this second year of the race event,…we have increased our event coordination committee with some amazing community members from the towns of Windham and Raymond.”  

The team effort includes Taylor Pennels as web designer/sponsorship coordinator/Facebook marketer and Don Swander liaison with the Windham Veterans Center and fundraising. Others added are Jennifer and Nelson Breton, Suzie Brockelbank, Abbi Brockelbank, Kristy Appleebee, and Nini and Nate Bennett. 

http://www.lisafriedlander.comMolly Cobb received the Toby Pennels Memorial Scholarship last year and will be given out again at the senior recognition night before graduation this year. The raffle for the paddle board will be drawn on Memorial Day after the community luncheon event and paver dedication that starts at noon on Monday. 

For more information and to register, visit or Facebook. Donations for the scholarship can be made to The Toby Pennels Scholarship Fund,!toby-pennels-scholarship/m4oon.

The event in Summary:

1.  We have a guest speaker coming in from Chicago: Colonel Scott Venable
2.  A kids choir coming to sing
3.  Veterans on-site to story tell and answer questions
4.  A collection-site to support the Veterans centers canned food drive initiative.
5.  We hope to have a 'write a letter to a soldier’ station
6.  A 1 mile race, run, walk, wheel   (see the course map online)
7.  A 5K race   (see the course map online)
8.  A kids race.    (See the course map online)
9.  We will have a 'Blue Mile' within the 5K course out on 202 where we will celebrate military members who lost their lives for our country.  
10.  We will have cash prizes and other prizes for our top runners.  
11.  Along with that we have sponsors and raffle items, including a grand raffle of a paddle board, from Kittery Trading Post.  

The Summit Project honors the memories of Maine's fallen soldiers - By Michelle Libby

"The Summit Project (TSP), a nationally recognized, Maine based, non-profit service organization founded by active duty USMC Major David J. Cote in 2013, is a living memorial that has changed the way an entire state pays tribute to their post 9/11 fallen service members while also inspiring service, strengthening communities and changing lives.”
TSP is an organization created to honor heroes with ties to Maine. Through a web of volunteers, the stories of soldiers who have passed away will not be forgotten. The program is unique to Maine and is like nothing else out there. 

“I hope this memorial can help tell the stories of a generation of brave Maine veterans who did not return home but whose service and sacrifice must never be forgotten,” said Cote, who grew up in Bangor. “This is a story of our generation of Maine service members — a story that needs to be told. The Summit Project gives us an opportunity to say to our veterans you did your job. You served with honor. You made us proud. We are connected to you and continue to learn from your example. We are inspired by you because we took the time to learn about you. 

The fallen comrades were not all born in Maine, but all have ties to the state. They have all lost their lives since 9/11. Not all were killed in combat, though most were. It could have been a training accident, but they were all on active duty. 

Each veteran is remembered with a stone picked out by their family. Some stones are from a beach, some from family homesteads or camps, and others from a mountain where they may have had a memorable hike. They are all from a place of significance for the hero and their family. The stones are engraved with the veteran’s initials or name, rank, year of birth, year of passing and branch of service. The stones range in size from a pound up to 30 pounds. The average stone is about five to eight pounds. There are 77 engraved stones for service members and 14 spirit stones engraved with Courage, Date, Country, Teamwork, Bayonet, Family, Service, Strength, Community, Family, Endurance, Sacrifice, and Duty.

Windham resident Russ Shoberg has been a volunteer with the program for a year and a half. Though Shoberg has never been in the military, he has a calling to be a part of tributes like this, getting his first taste of honoring the military when he ran in Run for the Fallen events starting in 2012. “In 2014 I met a charismatic Marine who was carrying a large stone,” he said. “I asked to carry a stone in the Maine Marathon.” He did. “And that’s how I fell into the deep end with TSP. Everyone I’ve met within TSP has a selfless and genuine character. While we honor the heroes and their families, those same families give back to carriers and participants in equal measures.” 

The stones are kept at Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) in Portland in an honor room. “It’s almost chapel like,” said Shoberg. There is also an honor display case that travels around the state to display memorial stones and to share the mission of TSP. 

The stones could also be requested by anyone who wants to honor Maine veterans. Getting involved in easy. Volunteers, anyone from a Scout group to a book group or an individual, just need to fill out and submit a form telling TSP where they would like to take the stone. It could be anything from a backpacking trip in Africa or an adventure on the Appalachian Trail in Maine. “But it doesn’t have to be an arduous thing,” said Shoberg. 

“The primary criteria are to honor the veteran, and that the event is not self-serving. It must be a selfless way to honor them,” said Shoberg. There are three simple rules for the volunteer to follow. 1. Learn as much about the hero as they can. 2. Launch the event and complete the hike, marathon or event that was approved. 3. The volunteer must write a letter to the family of the service member accounting what he/she learned about the family member and what the volunteer will take from the experience of carrying the stone. “The goal is to keep their story and legacy alive,” said Shoberg, who has run in two marathons sharing the story of his stone and the man it represents. “Once you’ve carried and held one, an emotional bond is formed,” he added. He has also met several of the family members of the stones he’s carried, and that deepens the bond. 

Last October Shoberg ran in the Marine Corps Marathon with two veterans, all of them carrying stones. Every mile they stopped to tell the story of their stones to someone watching the event. “We started with ‘Today I carry the stone and story of this Marine hero, and went from there. “We let them hold it for a while too. It’s very tactile response, especially for veterans. They go someplace in their hearts,” Shoberg said, adding that “Running with the stones can sometimes be more emotionally demanding than just the running part.” 

Cote got the idea for TSP after he was invited on a SEAL hike to climb Mount Whitney, the tallest summit in the contiguous United States. Here the SEALS left 10 pound stones engraved for each SEAL brother they lost. Cote was moved by the hike that he wanted to do something similar in his home state. 

“Veterans comprise nearly 15 percent of our state’s population ranking among the very highest veteran populations of any state in America. Put another way, nearly 1 in 7 Maine adults is a veteran. Maine’s patriotism and commitment to service in our Armed Forces is nothing short of extraordinary. We must match with equal devotion, our commitment to them,” he said.

Cote is a reserve Marine Corps Major and an Annapolis graduate. He has known service and has seen the sacrifice. 

Every year TSP sponsors two major hikes, one at Baxter State Park and the other at Acadia National Park. At Acadia the climbers in four groups of 20 hike four different routes up Cadillac Mountain. At the top they gather and present the stories of the stones. At the bottom they gather in a large circle holding the stones, and present them back to the families to conclude the event. 

In addition to preserving the memory of the fallen heroes, TSP also offers assistance to Gold Star Families, those who have lost a service member in combat, to allow them to spend Memorial Day weekend in Baxter. They also provide assistance to Gold Star families in need, and many TSP families participate as volunteers in Wreaths Across America.“Through the sincerity of the people who are part of this you become part of the TSP family. They don’t care if you’re a vet, what you do for a living or even if you’re born in Maine. We all want to make sure the families are supported and that their heroes are remembered,” Shoberg said. “Egos get checked at the door. It’s not about position, it’s about what we are doing together.” “People really, really care and want to spread the story to keep the memories alive,” said Shoberg. 

 For more information on The Summit Project or to get involved, visit, visit them on Facebook or Twitter @MaineMemorial.

Friday, May 20, 2016

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In loving memory of Thomas William Gleason 1948-2016 - By Walter Lunt

"We miss you already, Tommy.” (Windham Town Hall staff)
To family and to those who knew and loved Tommy Gleason, he will be remembered as the guy with the big Irish heart and a passion for all things mechanical.

Gleason died of heart failure on May 11 while he and his wife, Nancy, were visiting an aunt in New Jersey. The sudden and tragic event left his family, friends and community in shock.
Hundreds gathered at three separate devotional services last Tuesday to remember and pay final respects to the family man, town councilor, engineer, mechanic, handyman, gardener and all-around good guy who always had time to say hello, lend an ear or help out.

Nancy Gleason said the outpouring of support at the Dolby Funeral Chapel, Our Lady of Perpetual Help and Town Hall auditorium was “Beyond my wildest dreams.” She singled out eulogies delivered by Tommy’s older brother, Tim, and by Windham Town Manager Tony Plant as particularly inspiring. That was Tommy, “…they hit the nail on the head,” commented his younger brother, Todd.
“Everything was done with class and dignity,” said Nancy. But the procession from Town Hall, through Windham, to the church was the most moving and impressionable for her. The hearse, limo and police and fire vehicles departed past a line of town workers holding a sign “We miss already, Tommy,” and proceeded over Windham Center Road, River Road to Newhall, Gray Road to Foster’s Corner, and then Route 302 to the church in North Windham. Town workers stood in solitary beside their freshly shined vehicles at the public works garage, public safety building and fire house. One family member commented on the procession, “He (Tommy) is standing on the roof of that lead fire truck, smiling and waving and loving every minute of this.”

Gleason was born in New York City. He developed a penchant for building and fixing at age 12 when he helped his father rebuild the family home in Queens. He repeated a similar task with his own family years later when he and wife Nancy upgraded a historic farmhouse in Windham.

After high school, Gleason pursued a career in bio-chemistry, attending St. Francis College in Biddeford (now University of New England). 

“He was a whiz in math and science,” according to Nancy. Finding limited opportunities in that field, he returned to New York and found his calling in mechanical engineering. After a few years of operating cranes and other heavy equipment he became director of training for the trade that was his passion. He taught newbies in the classroom and on the job.

By the 90s, Tommy and Nancy were ready to leave the stress and crowded living of New York. Recalling his days in Biddeford and later in Portland attending engineering seminars, Tommy moved with Nancy and their two daughters, Melanie and Kathleen, to Gorham, and later to Windham. Soon after the move, Tommy became interested in local politics while protesting an inventory tax. It was during this time he met Lane Hiltunen. The two became fast friends and political pundits, often attending and speaking out at local municipal meetings. 

“When we showed up at the meetings you’d hear people say, ‘Here come the two troublemakers’,” Hiltunen said. Their banter and opinions soon took to the airwaves on Standish community radio station WJZF – 97.1. For two years The Tommy and Lane Show featured guests and gab and covered all topics from local roads to international relations. It was during one of their once a week, two hour broadcasts that Lane assigned a nickname to his broadcast partner. Station owner and producer, the late David Patterson, had playfully inserted sound effects of explosions and gun fire under Tommy’s more opinionated remarks, earning him the title Tommy Gun.

Soon after the radio show ran its course, Gleason decided to make a run for local political office. His first attempt at a seat on the Windham Town Council ended in defeat, but a second try in 2010 was successful.

“He wanted people to be happy with their government,” according to Hiltunen, “he’d give you the shirt off his back, but he wouldn’t give you somebody else’s shirt.” And people weren’t intimidated by him. “His constituents were not afraid to call him.”

Fellow town councilor David Nadeau found it difficult to discuss his close relationship with Gleason. “How do you explain a friend?” he said. But he did discuss two of Gleason’s more passionate issues: Budgets and rural character.

“He wanted to move Windham forward through planning a smart budgeting. He believed in long range planning, anticipating problems down the road, and setting budgets that would reflect that,” Nadeau explained. He said crisis management was not his style. And Gleason was an ardent supporter of Windham’s 21st Century Downtown plan designed to improve traffic and pedestrian movement and sense of place in North Windham. Wife Nancy affirmed her husband wanted to maintain Windham’s rural character.

Tom Bartell, Windham’s Economic Development Director, remembers serving on the town council when Gleason attended the meetings regularly. 

“You start out thinking this guy’s an adversary,” he remembered, “but then you realize our intentions are similar.” He was speaking from the standpoint of working out the differences. “He respected good government and liked a good debate.”

More recently Gleason was the council appointed member of the Windham Economic Development Corporation, which Bartell now directs. “His common sense and clear thinking was a calming factor. His construction background added perspective” when big projects were under discussion. His attitude was “Let’s not get this one wrong. This is very important. He was a very practical thinker.”
Council chairperson Donna Chapman’s feelings echoed those of others who worked closely with Gleason. “He was an awesome, big-hearted man.” She said even if you didn’t see eye-to-eye with Gleason you knew he respected your views and was always ready to work through problems. 
Chapman helped spearhead the “dignitary funeral” for Gleason. “It’s a fitting way to send him off.”
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Hiltunen reflected on Gleason’s misfortunes. “He been down a lot, but he always gets right back up.” A few years ago, the car he was driving was struck by a drunk driver, leaving Gleason with months of convalescence and the loss of some feeling on his left side. “I would tell him,” said Hiltunen, “I’m not standing close to you if you’re carrying a hammer in your left hand.” Gleason twice suffered from a lung infection and was undergoing dialysis. Worst of all was the death 12 years ago of his younger daughter, Kathleen of a brain tumor at the age of 24.

Asked about their life together, Nancy recalled their first date, which didn’t happen. “He stood me up to go with his friends to a race at National Speedway on Long Island. He called me the next day to ask when we could go out. I told him “How about tonight? Or never.” They did go out. And their next anniversary would have been their 45th.

Friday, May 13, 2016

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Hawkes Family Farm Stand to close - By Walter Lunt

"You never know, this could be our last year.” A phrase uttered many times over the past couple of decades by the Hawkes family while serving customers at the familiar farm stand located south of the Foster’s Corner rotary in Windham. This year, it’s a settled fact. 

“I get teary eyed when I tell my regular customers,” said proprietor Florence Hawkes. “We thought it was the end back along, but we were able to keep going. It had to happen sometime – this is it.” 

Hawkes explained that after her husband, Frank, died in 2004 the future of the decades old vegetable/fruit stand was in doubt until their son Bob stepped up. Investing 60 to 80 hours a week, he almost single-handedly kept the operation going, from the greenhouses, the multi-acre growing fields on Windham Center Road to the farm stand itself. But this year, a promotion at his full time job will preclude him from committing the time needed to keep the 84-year-old farm stand going. Bob was the third generation family member to operate the farm and road side stand.

Florence said she feels bad for the scores of faithful customers who’ve relied on the stand for fresh produce for so many years. 

“I want you to tell them that we are very sorry. We had wonderful customers who came from far and wide, year after year.”

What’s been the reaction of customers so far? “They talk about the corn,” said Florence. Hawkes stand is renowned for its several varieties of corn on the cob, along with advice on how to prepare it. Some prefer the large ears, some like them tough, but most have a favorite variety of sweet corn, all grown near the top of a hill off Windham Center Road.

In addition to corn, customers had come to rely on different kinds of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and squashes, along with peas, beans, eggplant, carrots, beets and beet greens. Some fruits and flowers were also sold. The stand opened at 10 a.m. for a reason. All the produce was guaranteed fresh that day. Early morning was set aside for picking. 

Alley, and son Frank, opened the farm stand in 1932. Originally located at the state owned rest area, now closed, near the Nash Road intersection, Florence said the building was moved up the highway to its present location in 1948 at five in the morning. “In those days you had to wait for traffic to go by.”

Hawkes Farm Stand will no doubt be remembered for more than just fresh produce, however. Hundreds of Windham kids have worked the farm over the decades, particularly in the 50s and 60s when the Hawkes’ produced strawberries and apples as well as the garden variety vegetables. They benefited with extra spending money and regular lessons in work ethic. 

One young worker, in his later years, recalled an incident with Frank’s father, Alley. The elder Hawkes had strongly suggested that the lad use two hands to complete a certain barn task. Later, in the fields picking beans, the boy sarcastically asked his boss if he should use two hands to pick. Alley sardonically replied, “No, but you don’t have to work here either.”
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Ancestors of the Hawkes family were among the founding families of Windham in the 1700s. Later, the so-called Old Grocery at Windham Center, now a Windham Historical Society museum, was established by Frank’s great grandfather, the first Alley, who ran it with his son, Frank. Frank’s son, the second Alley, ran the dairy and vegetable farm on Windham Center Road and started the Route 302 road stand in 1932 with his 14-year-old son, Frank. From the late 40s on, Frank and Florence grew the business together until 2004. Florence, son Bob and daughter Diane have carried on, until now.