Friday, December 31, 2021

2021: Year in Review (Part Two)

U.S. Marine Corps veteran Walter Braley, Jr. turned 90 on 
Sunday, Oct. 10 and was treated to a surprise parade outside
his home in Windham and several presentations for his
birthday. Joining Braley are VFW Post 10643 Commander
Willie Goodman, right, and VFW Post 10643 Adjutant 
Abundant hope for future of Lakes Region evident during second part of 2021 year


Raymond grandfather adopts and rebuilds an ‘ordinary’ family life for four grandchildren

Imagine living in a 37-foot Silverton boat along the Florida’s gulf coast as a bachelor who is living the life of his dreams with no thought of abandoning the carefree and adventurous lifestyle that he’s established for himself.

Now imagine four young children who live in Maine who haven’t seen their mother and father for days and do not know where they are. The parents are missing due to their lifelong substance misuse. The children are left with their grandmother who is not capable of keeping them for an extended period. Texts from the oldest child, age 11, to her parents are returned with broken promises of their imminent return.

Within a week, the children are taken into custody by Child Protective Services and the bachelor receives a phone call he never imagined he would receive, ever.

“When I got the call that my grandchildren were in Maine state custody, they told me that if I didn’t come to get them, they would remain a ward of the state,” 58-year-old Raymond grandfather, Mike Wallace said. “I was called on a Wednesday and by Thursday morning, I was in Maine to give my grandchildren a family life they deserved.”

That was in 2018. In the past three years, these five individuals have experienced many unknowns, some ups and downs and loads of “ordinary” family fun that also includes the typical family quarrels.

Wallace, who grew up in the Gray/New Gloucester area, had been living in Florida for 14 years when he made his sudden and unexpected move back to New England. Longing for the warmth of winter months in the Sunshine State, Wallace considered returning to Florida with his grandchildren until his oldest grandchild, Aubrianna, who is now 14, reminded him of his promise.

“But grandpa – you promised we wouldn’t have to move again,” she said. Wallace remembered his pledge to the children and honored it by purchasing a five-bedroom home in Raymond on a piece of land that provides roaming adventures for Charley, the four-legged member of the family that moved with Wallace from Florida.

“There has been nothing about this that has been easy,” Wallace said. “But like I have always said, ‘Nothing in life is supposed to be easy – it’s just supposed to be worth it.’”

Wallace and his four grandchildren, who in addition to Aubrianna, include Jaelynn (13), Jameson (11), and Dylan (7) have rebuilt their lives together, and so far, all the work it has taken to do so, has been worth it in more ways than one.

Wallace shared some challenges they have faced as they came together as a new family and ways that they have made an adventure out of the life they were given.

“It is important to say that these children have never experienced a birthday, a Thanksgiving, a Christmas or any other holiday in the same place because there was never stability in their lives – they were always moving,” Wallace said. “Since we’ve been together, we have managed to establish a routine like any other ‘normal’ family, but it has taken us a bit to get to that point.”

The first challenge the family of five faced is the actual meeting of one another when Wallace arrived in Maine. It had been a while since Wallace had last seen his grandchildren. He said that due to his daughter’s chosen lifestyle and their personal disagreements, he had yet to meet Dylan and had only seen Jameson once when he was a baby. Both grandfather and grandson Jameson admitted the family reunion was a bit awkward.

“It didn’t take long for us to get to know each other but it didn’t come without our arguments and misunderstandings,” Wallace said. “We had to get to know each other in unusual circumstances. First, I had a difficult time finding a place to rent. No one wanted to rent to a single grandfather with four grandchildren and a dog in tow.”

The first living arrangement was in a RV that Wallace purchased and parked in his brother’s yard. A handy man among many of his professional skills, Wallace worked as an estimator for his brother’s roofing company. Ironically, that job led him to the house he purchased in Raymond when the company was hired to replace the roof.

But perhaps the greatest challenge for the family occurred in March 2020, when the schools closed due to COVID, and it was up to Wallace to act as a home-school teacher.

“Here I am a high-school dropout teaching my grandchildren their assignments from home,” Wallace said. “But somehow, we made it through, and the children are doing quite well in terms of their education. I don’t know how it all came together, but it did. There is one thing for sure that I am proud of, they definitely know their fractions.”

Wallace is referring to the fun family summer project they began last year when they embarked upon an entrepreneurial adventure, building and selling picnic tables.

“We decided that we wanted to make extra cash to have fun as a family during the summer,” Wallace said. “We made enough money last year to purchase a grill and other outdoor picnic items. This year, we made enough money to purchase a pop-up tent and we are going camping in the next couple of weeks.”

Wallace said that the picnic building venture has proven to be successful, selling 120 tables this year with only Facebook posts and word of mouth as their marketing strategy.

“We’ve sold picnic tables to individuals across the state as well as to the Raymond Library, Raymond Parks and Recreation – and even the Raymond Town Manager purchased one!”

The new family of five became official when Wallace signed the adoption papers on May 10 this year. “Can you spell Wallace for me?”, Wallace asked his grandson Dylan during this interview. “W-A-L-L-A-C-E,” Dylan said without hesitation, spelling out his new last name.

It does seem that all five individuals have faced their share of trials and difficulties as they have come together through extraordinary circumstances to become what most humans desire, a simple and an ordinary family experience. But like Wallace always says, “Nothing in life is supposed to be easy – it’s just supposed to be worth it.” <

Windham’s 10-12 softball All-Stars ready for East Regionals

In 2020, when there were not a lot of summer sports going on, many of the players from the 10-12-year-old Windham Little League All-Star softball team, and several coaches held a sandlot league where these players were able to work on their skills. This play during a time where other towns may have been idle, helped propel the younger girls’ transition to what would become the 2021 All-Star Maine state championship team.

The 10-12-year-old Windham Little League All-Star softball team’s recent 9-1 state win over Ellsworth on July 13 in South Berwick, earned the team the state title and secured a berth in the East Regional tournament. Windham will take the experience and skills that they’ve acquired and use it as fuel heading to Bristol, Connecticut to play Maryland in a first-round East Regional tournament game this weekend.

The 10-12-year-old All-Star team scrimmaged at The Edge Academy on Tuesday, July 20 in Portland against several previous Windham Little League All-Star players who won state tournaments in 2018 and 2019. Coaches say this will help the current team prepare against tough competition in the East Regional tournament.

“I think it helped us (experience) faster pitching and how the ball is going to be in play more,” said seventh-grader Sarah Smyth. “I think it prepared us to be more alert (for when we play in Connecticut).”

Eighth-grader Ashley Cloutier said this scrimmage against the older players was a bit of a reality check that the teams Windham will face in Connecticut won’t be easy teams, but probably some really good ones.

Coach Nick Caiazzo has scouted Windham’s first opponent, Maryland and says he is familiar with the state tournament games that Maryland played. Caiazzo said he knows what kinds of hitters Maryland has, where they like to put the ball, how their best players play on the field and how Windham can use that information to get an advantage over Maryland.

Coach Caiazzo also prepared for the tournament by talking with past Windham Little League softball coaches Shayne Bryant, Kregg Jarvais and Jason McLeod. They provided information and advice on what to expect when Windham heads to play in Connecticut.

Bryant, Jarvais and McLeod told Coach Caiazzo to relax and want him to know that Windham’s opponents will also be 10-12-year-old girls and while there’s a lot happening during this tournament, the game is not played differently.

Many lessons have been learned during the course of this year’s All-Star tournament and Smyth said she has to stay as focused as possible and minimize distractions.

“We’re really excited,” she said.

Cloutier said that communication is key in the game of softball and seventh-grader Evelyn Anderson said she feels Windham’s overall confidence during games will make a difference.

Coach Caiazzo said that he encourages his players to learn from their mistakes, but not to dwell on them. He describes baseball and softball as games where failure will happen, and the players need to be able to take the good with the bad. It’s a game that is supposed to be fun, he said, and in perspective, it’s never as bad as it seems.

“I’m expecting that there is going to be a lot of good teams and that we need to be prepared for some really good pitching,” said Cloutier.

She said she’s excited for the new competition, but also a little nervous as she doesn’t know what to expect.

Assistant Coach Ronnie Higgins said this is a good group of kids who kept their focus pretty well throughout the whole (tournament). He thinks they’re very good and they’re going to be ready to go when the time comes.

“Our girls have had to grind out some of their victories along the way. No matter who they will face in the Regional, our players will give us all they have, and they won't quit,” said Assistant Coach Stephen Napolitano.

Coach Caiazzo said the team has done the work during practices and are prepared. They must feel confident in the work they have done up to this point and he said if the kids can stay focused, they will do well.

“I know our team is really good when we do our best, said Anderson. “I know the teams are really good (at Regionals). If we play our best, I think we have a really good chance.”

The team’s games during the regional tournament will air on ESPN+ television. <

Windham Public Safety Building renovation and expansion begins

It’s been a long time coming, but ground has finally been broken on the $4.3 million expansion of Windham’s Public Safety Building at 375 Gray Road.

In a special groundbreaking ceremony conducted on July 2, members of the Windham Town Council joined Windham’s Police Chief and Fire Chief and construction officials in celebrating the start of the highly anticipated project.

When construction work is finished, the existing 17,000-square-foot building will add a 15,247-square foot renovation including joint space for both the Windham Fire Department and the Windham Police Departments. The project features a two-story 5,840-square-foot addition that will house five apparatus bays, a public safety decontamination space, bunk rooms, kitchen and offices for the Fire Department and an additional 1,305-square-foot standalone three-bay space for vehicle and evidence storage for the Police Department, along with the creation of a second elevator for the building.

Construction work will be performed by Great Falls Construction of Gorham, that has worked on four other projects for the town of Windham and many public safety buildings throughout southern and central Maine.

“We’ve looked at the needs of our police and fire departments for a while and this is a much-needed expansion of Windham’s Public Safety Building,” said Windham Town Manager Barry A. Tibbetts. “We thank the voters for their support and to the Windham Town Council in moving this forward.”

Renovation will take place throughout the entire building and will include HVAC and lighting upgrades to increase efficiencies and updating finishes throughout the building, to include a revised locker room space. Work on the facility during the project will create an additional 10 new parking spaces and a 1,305-square-foot, single-story secured evidence locker that will be located on the corner of the property, along with additional parking, patio space, a dumpster area and a new generator for the building.

Jon Smith, the owner of Great Falls Construction attended the groundbreaking event, as did Architect Mike Hays of Grant Hays Associates of Falmouth, and Owens McCullough of the civil engineering firm Sebago Technics of South Portland and representatives of the structural engineering company Allied Engineering of Portland.

Smith said the entire project team is based in Maine and it’s a great way to give back to the Maine community and support Maine’s workforce.

To accommodate the renovation project, Windham firefighters have temporarily moved out of the building for the duration of construction work, while the Windham Police Department will continue to use the facility as the work progresses.

In 2020, Windham residents approved up to $4.9 million in bonds during the Annual Town Meeting for capital improvement projects, including funding the expansion for the town’s public safety building. Additional funding for the building renovation is derived from town impact fees, which typically run about $300 to $3,500 for new residential developments, with fees for new commercial buildings figured based on purpose and overall square footage.

The current Public Safety Building on Gray Road was built in 1988 at a time when none of the town’s firefighters were full-time staff members and Windham only had about 15 or so police officers on duty. Through the decades as Windham has grown, the town now employs eight professional firefighters and the town’s police force has doubled in size to 30 officers.

Windham Fire Chief Brent Libby said that firefighters have adapted the best they could to the current public safety facility but welcome and appreciate the new expansion.

“It’s a great transition,” Libby said. “There was no room in the current building for future expansion and now we’ll have more space and room to grow. It will provide us with a classroom for training and bathrooms. This project is huge for us and this location is very important for us allowing us to reach wherever we are needed in the town in a short period of time.”

Windham Police Chief Kevin L. Schofield said police officers are grateful for the extra room created from the expansion.

“It’s nice to see that the town and the community has invested in itself,” Schofield said. “It will result in a more modern professional workspace for us as our staffing has doubled in size. It will be adequate space for them for the foreseeable future.”

Police officers first started using the existing Windham Public Safety Building in April 1990.

Mike Hays, the architect who helped create the final design for the building expansion, said he’s humbled to be part of such vital work.

“It’s a great day for Windham’s first responders and I’m excited to be part of such an exciting project. It will be home base for first responders who serve all of the residents of this town.”

Owens McCullough said Sebago Technics is thrilled to work on the project and everyone involved with the renovation and expansion work is eager to get going.

“It’s really a team that makes this happen,” he said.

Construction work is expected to take about 10 months to complete, Tibbetts said. <


Speed reductions ahead for motorists in Windham

Maine’s Department of Transportation has authorized a request by Windham officials and local residents to lower the speed limit on three heavily traveled roads in the town.

In October 2019, Windham Police Chief Kevin Schofield requested that the Windham Town Council ask the MDOT to reduce the current speed limits for Gambo Road, a portion of Nash Road, and for William Knight Road on those thoroughfares and to conduct speed studies to reduce the potential for accidents there. Now with Windham’s request approved by the MDOT, reposting of new signs indicating the lower speed limits on those roads will begin by the town’s Public Works Department.        

In his original memo to the Windham Town Council, Schofield said that as Windham has grown and traffic has increased, the need to consider reduced speed limits for those roads has risen.

“Many of these areas have changed over the years to include, walking trails, youth soccer fields, discontinued bridges and increased development and traffic Schofield said. “So lower speeds, and hopefully slower traffic should help increase safety and quality of life in these areas.”

The current speed limit for William Knight Road, which runs between Varney Mill Road and Route 302, is 45 mph. At 1.17 miles in length, it has a rural appearance to it, but with development over the years, Schofield said that there are now 22 residential dwellings on William Knight Road and five intersecting roads off it with 24 residences abutting the roadway.

He said topography plays an important part in the potential for accidents on William Knight Road.

“Approximately in the midpoint of this section of road there is a steep dip into a ravine. This causes a blind spot for a residential dwelling in this area,” Schofield said. “As prior residents would give instruction when leaving the property to look left, right then left again and count to five to make sure a car did not appear out of the dip at a high rate of speed, they reported many near misses over the years.”

In his memo in 2019, Schofield cited that since 2015, there were four crashes on William Knight Road in 2015, one in 2016 because of icy roads conditions, one in 2017 involving a deer and two in 2019 caused by a line-of-sight issues and driving too fast.

The MDOT has authorized dropping the speed on William Knight Road to 40 mph, according to Cathy DeSouza, MDOT’s Southern Region Assistant Traffic Engineer.

For Nash Road between Windham Center Road and Route 302, Schofield said that the current speed limit there is 35 mph and runs about three-tenths of a mile long.

He said the topography of Nash Road, lack of sidewalks and its short length frequently leads to speeding there.

“I receive complaints about speeding on this section of road, in particular about the rate of speed vehicle crests the steep hill on the west end or the road near Windham Center Road,” Schofield said. “When traveling this section of road at 35 mph it feels too fast for the conditions.”

The speed on Nash Road will dropped to 30 mph, Schofield said.

On Gambo Road, starting at the intersection of River Road and running southwesterly for four-tenths of a mile, the current speed limit is 35 mph, but it does pose a safety issue because of its location.

“Formerly the bridge over the Presumpscot River accommodated vehicular traffic into the town of Gorham, this is no longer the case creating a dead-end road,” Schofield said. “The mountain division recreation trail also crosses the lower end of Gambo road.  Probably most significant is the location of the recreation fields located near the end of the road that accommodate various recreation programs.  This situation creates more traffic than one would expect on a dead end road with few dwellings.”

He said every year the Windham Police Department receives speed complaints on the road and efforts officers make to slow traffic down on Gambo Road haven’t worked.

In a letter from the MDOT to the town of Windham, DeSouza said the agency has authorized a speed reduction for Gambo Road to 30 mph. 

“Within the past several months three roads were reviewed for speed limits as requested by residents,” said Windham Town Manager Barry A. Tibbetts. “Chief Schofield has been in contact with the State MDOT, which is the only agency to modify a speed on public roads. The process can take up to nine months or more.  The agency looks at a number of factors, ranging from safety conditions, site distances, number of curb openings (driveways), vertical inclines, road widths, traffic volumes, crash data points, engineering judgements, etc.  The agency has recommended lowering the speed limits on two different road sections, Gambo and Nash Roads, by 5 mph per hour and establishing a new speed limit of 40 mph on another, William Knight Road. These reviews provide excellent guidance in maintaining safety and traffic flow within Windham.”

According to Schofield, once all of the new signs have been put in place by Windham DPW crews, Windham police will begin enforcing the new speed limits for these roads and also alerting drivers of their speed on others through the use of the police department’s electronic road sign. <

Grueling ‘Guardian Ride IV’ nearing for Windham veteran

When Brian McCarthy of Windham had to deploy with his U.S. Army unit to serve in the Gulf War, the last thing he needed to worry about was the well-being of his wife Kristin and daughter Logan at home. McCarthy learned first-hand the peace of mind that organizations like the 488th Military Police Company’s Family Readiness Group give to soldiers serving overseas, helping families solve problems at home while their loved ones are miles away.

When McCarthy retired as an Army Sergeant First Class following a 20-year military career, he vowed to do whatever he could to help continue the important work of the 488th’s Family Readiness Group and in a few weeks, he’s going to embark on his fourth 350-mile “Guardian Ride” to raise money for the organization.

All money pledged to McCarthy during his summer bicycle ride is donated to the Family Readiness Group and used for such things as the purchase of back-to-school supplies for military dependent children, a summer cookout for unit families and single soldiers alike with water sports and camping, a catered unit Christmas party with a visit from Santa, emergency relief funds for families in need, and for keeping unit families in touch with their loved ones stationed overseas.      

McCarthy, a South Portland police officer, will depart from the Windham Veterans Center for this year’s trip on Aug. 23 and hopes to return to Windham on Sunday, Aug. 29. Through three previous “Guardian Ride” trips across Maine, he’s raised more than $10,000 for the Family Readiness Group and will use a 23-year-old HARO mountain bike with an Allen Sports cargo trailer for his adventure.

“My route this year will be an out-and-back ride from Windham to Moosehead Lake and back, and possibly a loop route to Moosehead, then west to Jackman, and then home, depending upon what I see for road conditions,” said McCarthy, who is undertaking the trek while on vacation from his job as a South Portland police officer. “I’ve never been up there before, so much of my route reconnaissance depends on Google Street View images and studying elevation changes in the Delorme Gazeteer. The total mileage looks to be around 350 to 360 miles over seven days.”

According to McCarthy, the hardest part of each “Guardian Ride” is getting to each day’s portion of the trip.

“The finish line is a wonderful glowing vision, but the end of each day comes with very little fanfare and is fairly aptly described at times as a hasty retreat from the beating sun or cold rain,” he said. “I’m far from an elite athlete nor an accomplished cyclist, so 50-plus miles per day, towing a trailer along the hilly main streets and back roads of Maine, for seven straight days, is among the toughest physical challenges I’ve endured. And doing it alone makes for some long quiet days. But my cause, and my donors and supporters keep me motivated.”

For his efforts, McCarthy was presented with the 2021 American Legion’s Humanitarian Service Award in June at the Maine American Legion Convention in Brewer and said that he was deeply humbled by the honor.   

“Receiving the American Legion’s Humanitarian Service Award was a complete surprise to me,” McCarthy said. “I didn’t take on this endeavor for any personal recognition, so to be recognized by such a great group of veterans, patriots, and community volunteers was very humbling. I have a tremendous amount of respect for our Legionnaires and their history of service in and out of uniform. I’m very thankful to Dave Tanguay for the nomination and my Post 148 family for their support.”

Tanguay, the adjutant for Windham’s American Legion Field-Allen Post 148, says McCarthy is a good man and American Legion member who is making a substantial difference for his former National Guard unit, the 488th Military Police Company based in Waterville.

“For the fourth consecutive year, Brian is taking personal time off from his duties in South Portland as a police officer to make a seven-day trek across Maine called the ‘Guardian Ride,’ on his mountain bike and trailer as a fundraiser for the unit’s Family Readiness Group and youth programs for deployed family members,” Tanguay said. “Over the last four summers, the American Legion Field-Allen Post has supported Brian as a base of operation and financially in support of his goal. We are looking forward to Aug. 23 to give Brian a rousing send-off on his latest trek.”

Support from Windham’s American Legion post and from his former military unit have boosted McCarthy’s spirit during his long solitary rides since he began the project.

I’ve received overwhelming and heartfelt support from my old unit, the 488th Military Police Company. I’m still in regular contact with current soldiers and leaders through social media, as well as unit alumni like myself,” McCarthy said. “They are extremely appreciative of not just my efforts on the bike, but also of the generosity of my donors and ride supporters.”

Stretching himself to the limit physically and mentally each day while on the ride, McCarthy said he stays focused on the underlying purpose of the fundraiser and the good things it does for others.

“When I deployed, I had a great deal of support from my family, not only in the form of emails and phone calls, but also in the knowledge and surety that they were secure in our home, in their schooling, jobs, etc. I was blessed with strong family supports,” he said. “I also knew that our unit’s Family Readiness Group had our back, just in case there was an unforeseen emergency or if something fell through the cracks. Additionally, my coworkers and community also rallied around me and my soldiers, keeping us well supported with care packages and cards, etc. With me taking on this ride every year, and raising not only funding, but also awareness of the FRG, is my own little way of giving back to the unit and its families behind the scenes.”

He said the “Guardian Ride” is important to him because he truly loves our soldiers and their families.

“Even more so, now that I’m out of uniform, I look at the hard work our National Guard ‘citizen soldiers’ do overseas and here at home, and I just feel like I need to show our appreciation,” McCarthy said. “And if I can help raise a few bucks for more burgers at the unit picnic, or more kayaks and tent sites at the unit family weekend, or a few more goodies in the back-to-school supplies, or a few more presents from Santa at the Christmas party, then it’s all worthwhile. I will do this ride every year as long as I’m able, and then maybe pass the torch to a fellow 488th alumnus. Ideally, I’d love to inspire a fellow retiree from each of Maine’s National Guard units to undertake their own versions of an FRG ride. I think that would be quite an event.” <

Windham couple celebrates 70th wedding anniversary

They say celebrating a wedding anniversary is a fleeting moment, but that a loving marriage is timeless. For one longtime married couple from Windham, Wednesday, Aug. 18 marked a significant milestone in their relationship as they marked 70 years of marriage.

Arthur Wickham was born in Portland and was living there in 1950 when he took a big chance and went out on a blind date with a girl named Joan Sincyr who had just moved to South Portland from Skowhegan. Something romantically clicked on that blind date for the two teenagers, and they continued dating for another year-and-a-half before Arthur eventually decided to propose to Joan.

She accepted Arthur’s proposal and they were married on Aug. 18, 1951, at Holy Cross Catholic Church in South Portland, and have been together ever since.

Arthur Wickham, now 89, worked as a medical supply and medical devices salesman and later as an executive for the George C. Frye Company in Portland, and he also served in the U.S. Army Reserves, rising to the rank of colonel before retiring in 1992.

He attended Casco Bay College and graduated with a degree in business administration and management and has been active in many fraternal and veteran’s organizations through the years. He served as a department commander for the American Veterans in Maine (AMVETS), the state president of the Association of the United States Army and the Reserve Officer’s Association, and Arthur also completed studies from the U.S. Army Command and General College and the Air War College.

When he’s not heavily involved in veteran’s issues and organizations, Arthur Wickham can be found working in the yard and still cuts his own grass and maintains the couple’s property as he has done for all of the years they have lived in Windham.         

Joan Wickham, now 88, worked for the Portland Housing Authority as a secretary before her retirement. She is an avid baker and cook, loves to make her own quilts and enjoys going out to play bingo whenever she can find the time to do so.

The couple purchased a home on Collinwood Circle in Windham decades ago, and they raised a family there of five children including, Rick, Deb, Bobbi, Cindi and Mike. Over the years the family has grown and prospered and now includes additional generations including eight grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

Arthur and Joan Wickham still live in the same home today on Collinwood Circle in Windham and remain in good health and are as active in retirement as those some 20 years or younger in age.

To mark the occasion of their 70th wedding anniversary, the family took Arthur and Joan on a pontoon boat cruise on Sebago Lake last weekend. It’s become a cherished summer tradition for the Wickham Family and an annual way for family members to get together and celebrate Arthur and Joan’s anniversary.

For many years Arthur and Joan Wickham would take the entire family to Bradbury Mountain State Park near Pownal for a fun-filled summer getaway and that included a huge cookout, but that annual event has now shifted to the pontoon boat excursions on the lake.

Christmas celebrations in Windham were always special for Arthur and Joan and the children because Joan’s birthday falls on Dec. 23, so it’s a combined holiday party every year because of the proximity of Christmas to Joan’s special day.

When asked their secret to their long and happy marriage, both Arthur and Joan Wickham answered simply.

“It’s all about communication and listening to each other,” they said. <


Raymond looks to future with new Comprehensive Plan

What do you want your town to look like in five years, or 10 years, or even 20 years? Right now, Raymond residents have a rare chance to answer that very question as the town looks for volunteers to help write a new Comprehensive Plan.

The town’s previous Comprehensive Plan was written in 2004. That document, which is available on the Town of Raymond’s website, was truly comprehensive; it covers topics ranging from descriptions of Raymond’s historical properties and archaeological sites to designating growth areas for new developments and protecting Raymond’s many beautiful lakes and ponds.

“It’s a pretty encompassing document,” said Rolf Olsen, a current member of Raymond’s Select Board. “It touches on a lot of different areas. Essentially, it looks at demographics, land use, future planning, and future needs.”

While the proposed future Comprehensive Plan won’t change any current zoning regulations in Raymond, it will serve as a guide for the town’s future development. The new Comprehensive Plan, as Olsen explained, will serve as a backbone for new ordinances and development.

One set of decisions that has been guided by the current Comprehensive Plan are Raymond’s zoning regulations. “The last Comprehensive Plan really helped establish the two- and five-acre minimum lot sizes,” Olsen said. “There’s three zones in town. Rural and rural residential have different lot sizes. And then there was the village residential, where we didn’t have to define lot size because it was all full anyway.”

The 2004 Comprehensive Plan’s influence can also be seen all summer long in Raymond’s pristine lakes. Many lakes and ponds in Maine struggle with algae blooms that can make their waters green, turning away swimmers and tourists alike. The 2004 Comprehensive Plan suggested several measures to help prevent algae bloom, like regular septic tank inspections as well as the preservation of any wetlands over two acres in size.

Septic tank inspections and zoning decisions might sound like theoretical discussions with little real-world impact, but recommendations like this help to guide new construction and protect current resources. Ultimately, these decisions shape the future of the town.

For Olsen, the future of Raymond is best placed in the hands of today’s Raymond residents.

“We’re looking for a real cross-section of the population to serve on this committee,” Olsen said. “We don’t want to exclude people from any group - you’ve got the senior population, you’ve got the younger population, you’ve got people on the waterfront, you’ve got people not on the waterfront, people with kids in school - really, there’s no bad person for the committee. The driving thing is people who want to see Raymond survive and go forward in a positive manner.”

The people who do sign up for this committee should be prepared to be part of an extensive process. “There’ll be a lot of work to get done,” Olsen said. “It’s not one of those that will be just one or two meetings.”

When the last Comprehensive Plan was developed in 2004, Olsen said, the final 135-page document was the result of a lengthy process to envision Raymond’s future.

“When it was written back then, it took over a year to get it done," Olsen said. The process of approving the next Comprehensive Plan will likely involve many meetings as well as public hearings. “This plan helps guide a lot of decisions. That’s why it takes a lot of input back and forth.”

However, this is also a chance to make a lasting mark on the Town of Raymond.

“From my standpoint, it’s a chance to look at the old plan, to see what’s valid and what’s not valid, and to help set a course for the next x number of years,” Olsen said. “The people who want to see the town move forward in a positive manner - those are the people you want on there. They’re going to look at all the different things and see how we keep the character and move ahead without shutting anyone out.”

Despite the magnitude of the task, Olsen believes Raymond residents are up for the task of reimagining their town’s future.

“There’s not a lack of talent in this town,” Olsen said. “Although sometimes it’s a matter of getting them to come out.” <

Bostock becomes pianist for Raymond Village Community Church

The Raymond Village Community Church welcomes Michael Bostock as the church’s new pianist.  

He will be leading the spiritual music of the church beginning Sept. 12.

Church Moderator Tom Wiley says Bostock will continue a long tradition of musical excellence at the church.

“We are excited to make this announcement of the hiring of Michael Bostock.  We feel he will continue to further advance our music program every week,” Wiley said. “Historically this church has featured some of the best musicians and we look to continue that tradition.”

Bostock is a highly awarded and recognized musician having been honored with the following awards for music excellence including as the Winner of the Kotschmar Memorial Trust Scholarship 2021 Competition; First-Place Winner of the Ocy L. Downs Biennial Piano Competition; Honorable Mention for Bagaduce Music Young Composers Competition; and Honorable Mention for Pine Tree Competition Junior Division.

He performs periodically at the Marston-Kotschmar Music Club and has performed in many ensembles including Portland Youth Wind Ensemble and Maine Youth Rock Orchestra.  

Bostock also will perform as the featured musician at an upcoming Noonday Concert at the Portland Conservatory of Music on Nov. 4 and plans to play all movements of Beethoven’s Pathetique, Shostakovich’s Four Preludes, and works by Mendelssohn.

A sophomore at Waynflete School in Portland, Bostock has been playing piano for eight years and studies classical piano under Naydene Bowder. Besides music, he also enjoys Nordic skiing, track, and tennis.

Raymond Village Community Church worships under the Maine Conference, United Church of Christ which features over 150 congregations spread across the State of Maine. <

Accomplished author from Windham shares inspiring story

For the many preschool-age children who have been relishing the Netflix show, “Waffles + Mochi,” a popular series about two puppets who travel the world to learn about the culinary arts and stars Michelle Obama, can now welcome the two food passionate characters into their homes with the recent publication of the children’s book, “Follow That Food! (Waffles + Mochi).”

The picture book continues the show’s theme of culture, food and its relationship to people by following the puppets as they go on their adventures, investigating ingredients and making new friends. But what makes this particular children’s book so special is that it is written by Windham High School 2000 graduate, Christy Webster. Webster has published over 90 children’s books and her recent tale of Waffles + Mochi begins with a foreword written by the former First Lady herself.

“I have always been a huge admirer of Michelle Obama and I am very excited that she agreed to write an introduction for Waffles + Mochi,” Webster said during a Zoom interview from her home in Queens. “I have always wanted to meet her but the book was published during the pandemic, so I have not had the opportunity yet. Maybe someday.”

In the introductory letter to Webster’s young readers, Obama writes, “These two [Waffles and Mochi] know that discovering delicious new flavors brings friends and families together and that every meal is a story…”

It is with certainty that Webster has tasted her share of mouthwatering cuisines and has made new friends since moving from Windham, but it is her own story of publishing success that she humbly shares with her hometown friends.

Upon graduation from WHS, Webster left for New York to attend NYU to study English Literature, specializing in Creative Writing. She obtained her degree in 2004. Although her success wasn’t immediate, it only took less than a year of persistence before she was offered her dream job as an editorial assistant at Random House Publishing.

“I was determined to work in publishing, but it took me a while to land the job I wanted,” Webster said. “I waited tables and worked temp jobs to pay the bills. It was an anxiety producing time. I have to admit, now that I look back, I enjoyed that year.”

Webster quickly rose up the ranks to become an editor of children’s literature over the next 11 years. From there she was offered a senior editor job at Scholastic, Inc. During years as an editor, her own writing was succeeding and in 2018, she left Scholastic to become a freelance writer and editor.

Webster, who was a member of the Windham Chamber Singers, has not let her success elevate her ego, staying true to her unassuming Windham roots.

“When I think of Christy Webster, the first words that come to mind are humble, happy and balanced,” said Dr. Richard Nickerson, Chamber Singers Director. “Christy never seemed to let anything get to her. She was a leader and very goal oriented.”

Dr. Nickerson and Webster stayed in touched. He shared that several years ago, he and his wife were in New York City and had checked-in on social media that they were eating breakfast at a diner.

“Christy reached out immediately and said that her office was in the same building and that we should visit her,” Nickerson said. “When we arrived on her floor, she showed us around the [Random House] publishing company, including a very special wall that had drawings and signatures from many well-known children's illustrators. It was evident that Christy held a very prominent position in the company. Nevertheless, it was the same Christy who showed up to my class with a smile on her face ready to take on the day.”

Nickerson continued, saying that Webster took the time to show him and his wife a book that was in the final stages of the editing process. 

“Imagine my excitement several weeks later when I saw the book on sale at the Windham Hannaford! There's a very special form of pride that teachers feel when our former students are living out their dreams. On that day, I felt that pride.

For the WHS students who hope to make a career out of writing and publishing, Webster offers some advice.

“Becoming an intern at a publishing company, whether it is remote or in person, is one way to gain experience and get to know people in the industry,” she said. “Also, research to discover where your writing best fits in when you are ready to submit your work.”

Webster explained that finding an agent to represent your work is an important step—and thoughtful feedback from fellow writers can help your work grow.

The final sentence in Obama’s introductory letter in Webster’s book, the former First Lady offers her own set of wisdom to the young readers, “I hope you’ll set off on your own food adventures, just like Waffles and Mochi!”

For those students who may wish to follow in Webster’s footsteps, she wishes them the best and hopes they will set out on their own adventures, living their own publishing dreams. <


VFW celebration honors Windham veteran on his 90th birthday

The late American tennis star Arthur Ashe once described true heroism as the urge to serve others at whatever the cost. U.S. Marine Corps veteran Walter Braley, Jr. of Windham can be considered as one such individual.

On his 90th birthday on Sunday, Oct. 10, Braley’s many friends, family, and neighbors in the Cornerbook subdivision turned out in force to show their love and admiration for the Korean War veteran who admitted being surprised that others would give up their Sunday afternoon to throw him a parade and spend time with him on his special day.

“Honestly, I was shocked they did this,” Braley said. “I was told to sit down here by the road, and I did and then all of a sudden people drive by honking and there are fire trucks with sirens going off. I think it’s great to get to be 90 years old, that’s for sure.”

He was born in Somesville, Maine as the only child of the late Walter Braley Sr., and Eva (Cirard) Braley. When he was 10, his family moved to Scarborough so his parents could work in the shipyard there.

In 1947, Braley, enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps at the age of 17. He completed basic training at Camp Lejune in North Carolina and then was commissioned for active duty by Maine Senator Margaret Chase Smith.

During his time as a Marine, Brayley was stationed at bases in Cuba, California and in Korea. While in Korea he patrolled the DMZ, the no man’s land separating South Korea from its hostile North Korea neighbor.

“I walked across the DMZ before Donald Trump ever did a few years ago when he did so with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un,” Braley said. “I did it first.”

While stationed at Moffett Field in Mountain View, California, Braley was asked to pick up a fellow Marine, future county music superstar George Jones, who was just about to launch his recording career.

According to Braley, Jones would go out with his friends when they were on weekend leave and perform songs in exchange for drinks and Braley was among the group Jones came to know.

Years later when Jones was in Maine to perform a concert, he introduced the audience to Braley and asked him where he had been since he last saw him in the 1950s.

“Right here,” Braley said.

Because of an injury he sustained in Korea, Braley eventually was discharged from the Marines at the rank of Sergeant and returned to Maine.

He worked for a veterinarian in Saco and spent most of his adult life working for the Animal Refuge League in Westbrook. Since his retirement, he’s been an active participant in the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion in Windham, and he also volunteers extensively.

Windham VFW Post 10643 Commander Willie Goodman said that Braley’s work on behalf of the VFW is inspiring.

“He’s known as our unofficial recruiter and is constantly bringing new members to our organization,” Goodman said.

When Goodman suggested that the post honor him on his 90th birthday with a surprise drive-by celebration and a photo album recalling his time with the VFW post, the response was overwhelming. 

“We had no shortage of people wanting to do something nice for Walter’s birthday,” Goodman said. “Everyone loves this man.”

Among the special visitors who turned out for the birthday celebration were Cumberland County Sheriff Kevin Joyce and Cindy Beaulieu of the Quilts of Honor group.

Joyce presented Brayley with special “Challenge Coins” given to those held in special esteem for free coffee or breakfast at a local restaurant while Beaulieu presented him with a special quilt honoring his military service.

“First we honor you for your service,” Beaulieu told Braley. “Second, freedom is not free, and we thank you for your service. We hope this quilt brings comfort to you as you are forever in our thoughts and in our hearts.”

She said to date Quilts of Honor has made and presented 280,855 quilts to American veterans, including the one given to Braley.

“I just want to say thanks to everyone for coming out here today and recognizing me in this way,” Braley said. “You’ve made me feel appreciated and you can’t ask for more than that in this life. I’m deeply grateful and to all my fellow Marines, I say Semper Fi.”  <

Raymond could donate land for site of new Windham Middle School

The lingering issue for RSU 14 about where to locate the site of the new middle school could be a bit clearer following a meeting on Oct. 12 of the Raymond Select Board as members voted unanimously to recommend sending students to the new school when it opens in 2026.

Raymond Town Manager Don Willard said that Raymond Select Board members also voted to recommend to the RSU 14 Board of Directors to provide up to 45 acres of town-owned property at no cost for the site of the new school near the border with Windham and on a proposed connector route.     

This gift is contingent upon and subject to a Special Town Meeting approval as a part of the next Board of Selectmen meeting on Nov. 9 and that the property naturally is to be used as the site of the new school,” Willard said.

The Maine Board of Education has greenlighted construction of a new middle school for Windham and RSU 14 is currently in the process of seeking a site to locate the new school.  

The original Windham Middle School was completed in 1977 and was built for a capacity of 483 students.  In the past year, that number has grown to 636 students, with sixth graders being housed for some classes at the adjacent Field Allen School, originally constructed in 1949.

During a Raymond Board of Selectmen meeting in September, RSU 14 Representative Mike McClellan of Raymond briefed select board members that the state has asked if Raymond would join Windham in sending students to the new school.

McClellan said that if Raymond chose not to do this, it is unlikely that the state would eventually approve new middle school construction for Raymond in the future replacing Jordan-Small School, which now has 192 students total and was built 1960.

RSU 14 Superintendent Christopher Howell also attended that meeting and told Select Board members that the idea of sending Raymond students to the new Windham Middle School was not part of an agenda to close Jordan-Small Middle School. 

Howell said the State is looking to combine smaller schools and renovations for Jordan-Small Middle School will still be included in the RSU budget, but the state will be unlikely to approve funding for any new construction.

Should Raymond residents decide to send its middle school students to the new school, the Jordan-Small Middle School building will revert to ownership of the town.

Over the two nights of the public hearings, there were roughly 30 individuals from the public who attended.  A majority of those who spoke at the meetings were in favor of keeping JSMS open,” Howell said. “The two straw polls that were taken also supported the idea of keeping the building open.”

According to Howell, the Raymond Select Board’s vote is one step in this process and will be considered by the RSU 14 board as they make this decision.

“I anticipate a decision by the RSU board in early November,” Howell said.

The discussion about the fate of Jordan-Small Middle School comes on the heels of the 2020 referendum in Raymond to withdraw from RSU 14. In that vote, Raymond residents rejected withdrawing from RSU 14 to form its own school district with 2,047 voters saying no to the proposal and 1,018 voting to withdraw. It was the second time in five years that Raymond voters formally rejected a measure to withdraw from RSU 14 with the other rejection failing in 2015.

“Throughout the public hearings, families shared that they liked being part of the RSU.  Additionally, many shared that they liked the small school feel of Jordan-Small,” Howell said. “Throughout that process, the RSU reiterated that there were not any plans to close the building as part of any district restructuring.  The question facing the town of Raymond is about whether they should be part of this opportunity that has been given to the district.  I feel that I can move forward with a decision that is made in either direction.”

He said that if a decision is made by the RSU 14 Board of Directors board to consolidate, the project’s architects will begin the process of programming for a larger school.

“If the decision is made to keep the building open, we will keep moving forward with the plan to complete the revolving renovation upgrades to Jordan-Small Middle School,” Howell said. “Windham Middle School will continue moving forward as a single-town middle school.” <

Maine Country Music Hall of Fame inducts local musician

Many know and recognize his face at Lenny’s, 1274 Bridgton Road in Westbrook, as he greets and talks with music lovers who arrive early to enjoy their favorite bands. His name is Bucky Mitchell, and he is the gastropub’s booking agent extraordinaire.

But his talent to book best-loved Maine musicians does not stop there – he is also recognized for his highly skilled aptitude as a musician – playing drums in bands that have opened for well-known country artists such as Randy Travis, Emmylou Harris, Porter Waggoner, Freddy Fender, Roy Clark and more, including Maine’s own Dick Curless.

His talent was recognized recently when he was inducted into the Maine Country Music Hall of Fame in August. This isn’t his first rodeo of acknowledgment, however. He was also inducted in the Massachusetts Country Music Hall of fame in 2014.

Mitchell’s story begins at an early age. He was born in Portland in 1951 and has been playing country music since he was 19 where he played drums for a house band, Rick Wells & the Wagon Wheels, at the Wagon Wheel Ranch in Steep Falls in the 1970s. It was this small-town bar experience that catapulted him into the realm of well-known musicians.

“It turns out that the house band also backed up Capitol Records star Dick Curless” Mitchell said. “Dick invited me to go with him to Nashville for a Grand Ole Opry appearance and it was from that experience that I knew music would be my life-time career.”

It wasn’t long after that, in 1972 while playing at the Wagon Wheel Ranch, Mitchell was asked to become part of a touring band. He joined and toured the eastern United States for four years while also booking other bands along the eastern seaboard.

Mitchell helped found and played drums for the band, Rick Robinson and the Bayou Boys. The group recorded two albums and 10 singles for Belmont Records and was named MCMAA Country Music Band of the Year in 1979 and 1980. It was from the Bayou Boys’ experience that Mitchell got to meet the most famous of Country Music.

 “We opened shows for many big-time country acts including Roy Clark, Hank Snow, Eddie Rabbitt, Porter Waggoner, Johnny Paycheck, Emmylou Harris, and Larry Gatlin,” Mitchell said.

Along the way, Mitchell also got to play drums for many big stars, such as The Hager Twins (from the Hee-Haw fame), Dave Dudley, John Anderson, Big Al Downing, Freddie Fender, Barbara Fairchild, and Kenny Price.

Mitchell shares a story when the band ran into a big-name star of that time, Ernest Tubb.

We were at a hotel playing, and Ernest Tubb was staying at the same hotel,” Mitchell said. “He was on a show with Hank Snow down at the local auditorium. Rick Robinson saw Ernest Tubb strolling around the lobby and went to him and asked if something was wrong. Ernest Tubb had missed his bus to the auditorium, as he told the driver to leave at a certain time no matter who was not there. Rick gave Ernest a ride to the auditorium and Ernest had to put five bucks in the band fund jar for being late for his own show. Ernest Tubb always remembered that ride every time we saw him in Nashville after that.”

Although Mitchell’s life on the road was filled with many adventures and he loved every bit of it, he admits the downsides.

“I would miss my son’s baseball games and a lot of family events. Luckily I had a great supportive family but it wasn’t always easy being away from family all the time.”

For those who wish to go into the music business as a professional, Mitchell offers the following advice:

“You have to put a lot of time practicing on your instrument – about five to seven hours a day. If you don’t have the time or passion to do that – then music will be a hobby for you. And – that’s okay! But if you choose music as a career, it will take a lot of commitment on your part.”

Mitchell is now retired and provides promotions for entertainment venues in the area as a booking agent and entertainment consultant, with Lenny’s being among them. <


Voter turnout exceeds expectations for election

As the votes were counted late into the evening on Tuesday, Nov. 3, candidates, their families, and supporters were anxious to learn the results of municipal and school board races on Election Day.

Windham Town Clerk Linda S. Morrell said that of Tuesday, there were 14,398 registered voters in Windham. Morrell said between those who voted absentee and those who went to the polls to cast ballots, a total of 5,184 people voted in this election, amounting to a turnout of 36 percent, more than what was expected in a non-presidential election year.

Municipal candidates in the election running unopposed included incumbent David J. Nadeau, the current chair of the Windham Town Council, who received 3,964 votes to secure a three-year term for an At-Large seat on the Windham Town Council, and Town Clerk Linda S. Morrell who received 4,054 votes in her unopposed bid for re-election for a two-year term.

Another Town Council incumbent, Edward M. Ohmott, was unopposed for a one-year term for an At-Large seat on the council. He picked up 3,678 votes to win election in his own right after having by appointed by councilors in May to fill the seat of former Town Councilor David Douglass.

No declared candidate filed paperwork for the Windham Town Council’s West District by the established deadline in September, but write-in candidate William Reiner received 169 write-in votes to win a three-year term on the Town Council representing the West District of Windham. Incumbent Timothy Nangle chose not to run for re-election but did receive 33 write-in votes for that position in Tuesday’s election.

Incumbent Jennie Butler, who taught math at the high school level for 31 years and part-time at the University of Southern Maine, was re-elected for a three-year term on the RSU 14 Board of Directors. Butler was first elected to the school board in 2019.

Newcomer Jessica M.H. Bridges, a resident of Windham for 11 years who has two children attending school in town, received 1,535 votes to win a three-year term on the school board.

Other declared candidates receiving votes in the RSU 14 Board of Directors race were Michael Pasquini (1,199 votes), and Barbara Bagshaw (1,065 votes). Two candidates who had withdrawn from the race earlier, including incumbent Chistina Small and newcomer Carrie Grant, remained on the ballot and received votes on Election Day, with Small picking up 896 votes and Grant tallying 596 votes.

Also on the ballot Tuesday were three statewide referendum questions.

Question 1 asked voters if they wanted to ban the construction of high-impact electric transmission lines in the Upper Kennebec Region and to require the Maine Legislature to approve all other such projects anywhere in Maine, both retroactively to 2020, and to require the legislature, retroactively to 2014, to approve by a two-thirds vote such projects using public land. Windham voters voting Yes were 3,051 and 2,087 voting No. In Raymond, 1,033 votes were recorded for Yes 674 voted No.

Overall statewide, Question 1 had 238,882 voters voting Yes to 164,387 votes of No.

Question 2 asked voters for approval to issue $100 million in general obligation bonds for transportation infrastructure projects, including $85 million for the construction, reconstruction, and rehabilitation of highways and bridges and $15 million for facilities or equipment related to transit, freight and passenger railroads, aviation, ports and harbors, marine transportation, and active transportation projects. In Windham, 3,395 votes were cast for Yes, and 1,725 voting No. In Raymond, 1,150 voted Yes and 552 voted No.

Statewide voters approved Question 2 with 290,142 voting Yes, and 113,007 voting No.

Question 3 asked voters for approval to create a state constitutional amendment to declare that individuals have a "natural, inherent and unalienable right to food," including "the right to save and exchange seeds" and "the right to grow, raise, harvest, produce and consume the food of their own choosing for their own nourishment, sustenance, bodily health and well-being." In Windham, 2,952 votes were cast for Yes, while 2,133 voted No. In Raymond, 985 voted Yes and 714 voted No.

Voters across the state approved Question 3 with 243,458 voting Yes and 156,796 voting No. <

Windham High varsity girls’ soccer wins Class A state title

The Windham High School’s varsity girls’ soccer team’s entire season had been building to this moment and the team was ready and had what it took, winning by defeating Brunswick, 3-1, in the Class A girls’ soccer state championship game played at Massabesic High School on Saturday, Nov. 6.

In earning the title, Windham finished the season undefeated at 19-0 and only allowed nine goals all season. It was Windham’s third state girls’ soccer championship since 2013.

Windham put three in the net in the first half to take a commanding lead. Although Brunswick (15-2) scored roughly halfway through the second half, they were no match for Windham’s indestructible defense.

“We didn’t really have any expectations,” said Windham senior goalie Eliza Trafford. “We knew that if we stayed supportive and worked together as a team, we could accomplish anything.”

Trafford, who had seven saves during the state championship game, said she was nervous, but that was good because it showed how important the game was to her.

Windham began the game as they pressured hard; they were first to the ball and controlled the field. They took shots on Brunswick’s goal, but Dragon defense kept the Lady Eagles in check and scoreless early on.

Brunswick couldn’t hold back Windham for long. 23 minutes and 38 seconds into the game, Windham junior Abbey Thornton with an assist from senior Sarah Talon put Windham ahead.

Thornton said it felt good to win a state championship.

“Everything we’ve done this whole season, it’s finally paid off. We can relax, we’ve done it,” said Thornton.

Thornton knew it was going to be a hard game. As a team, if they put their game face on, they could not be stopped. She said the state championship was a goal this year.

Talon was next to score assisted by freshman Emily Talbot 28:53 into the half.

“The moment you pick up a soccer ball you dream about an accomplishment that big. I wanted it so bad, for everyone, for the seniors, for everyone. It was just really exciting ... [to score],” said Talon.

Windham did not let up and continued to pressure. With 46 seconds left, Thornton scored her second goal. Windham led 3-0 at the half.

“This [championship win] was nice coming off a Covid year,” said Windham varsity girls’ soccer coach Deb Lebel. This was her third state championship win at Windham High School and her sixth state championship win overall.

“These kids have worked pretty hard, I’m really proud of them,” Lebel said. “This group of seniors have been great leaders on the field and in the classroom. Great athletes, but academically they’re really strong.”

In the second half Windham was just as aggressive. They continued to play terrific defense.

Brunswick did find the back of the net once, but that was all the Lady Eagles allowed. As time was running out for Brunswick, Windham only strengthened their defense.

Brunswick had multiple corner kick scoring opportunities that Windham shut down. Less than three minutes remained in the half and Windham was able to maintain their lead until the final buzzer.

Talon said Windham was able to win through toughness, dedication to the game and positivity. She added they have really good team chemistry that they are really proud of and can put into success. She’d like to thank coaches and teammates for making it an unforgettable year; winning the state championship was a good sendoff for her as a senior.

“We kept just saying, ‘play your game; keep it on the ground, keep possession, go to the end line and feed it back in. Don’t kick and run,’” said Lebel.

Lebel saw a lot of unselfish play this year and added the team meshed very well and was inclusive. The upperclassmen took care of the freshmen. She felt positive team chemistry took Windham all the way. She added the team has a lot of speed up top, which is hard to defend, but that this is one of the most skilled teams she’s had in terms of footwork.

“It was incredible,” said Trafford. “We’ve all worked together as a team for many years and it’s just great as a last hoorah to experience something like this.” <

Eagles football leaves fans and coaches proud after outstanding season

The Windham High School varsity football team has wrapped up an incredible season, finishing 9-1 and a tightknit unstoppable force since the beginning. Windham made it to the Class B State Championship Game against Marshwood at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland on Saturday, Nov. 20 and played their hearts out, falling 14-13.

In the second quarter, Windham senior Nick Garrison scored a touchdown and after a missed 2-point conversion, Marshwood led 14-6. Right before the end of the first half, Garrison intercepted a Marshwood pass and dashed 70 yards run into the end zone. After a successful point-after kick was good, Marshwood clung to a 14-13 halftime lead.

Neither Marshwood nor Windham would score in the second half and Marshwood’s one-point advantage held up as it won a fourth consecutive Class B title.

Windham was one of eight teams to reach the state championship game and team members predict continued success in the future.

“Coming into this week we felt confident,” said Windham senior and quarterback Robert ‘Will’ Ledbetter. “We practiced hard all week, thought our game plan was good enough to go, but just came in and fell up short at the end. I couldn’t ask for a better group of seniors and couldn’t ask for a better team; I love being around these guys and wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

For Windham senior Nick Garrison, these last three weeks have been a big confidence booster. During the championship game, Ledbetter fed him the ball perfectly where he needed it, but sadly the result didn’t turn out the way they wanted. Garrison said he couldn’t ask for better fan support, teammates, coaches and overall, and it was just a great experience for him.

“Easily this is the best class-act group we’ve had. This group is one of the most relentless groups we’ve ever had,” said Windham varsity football coach Matt Perkins.

Perkins praised what the seniors have done for this program as their hard work goes beyond what you could imagine.

The seniors are leaders on and off the field and the coaches feel lucky to have been around these seniors and what they’ve done, Perkins said.

Marshwood won the championship game coin toss but chose to kick off. Windham junior Haddon Boyle received the kick on the 25-yard line.

On third down, Ledbetter passed to Garrison for an 18-yard gain. Marshwood would get the possession, but not for long. Windham junior Max Arbour tackled the Hawks and regained possession but a third and goal field goal attempt by Windham was blocked.

Arbour said people were calling Windham underdogs, and they took that as motivation.

The Hawks scored before the end of the first quarter and again in the second quarter.

Garrison had a 55-yard run in the second quarter. Later, it was first and 15 and Windham gained six yards. Ledbetter completed a pass to Garrison who scored a TD. An attempt for a 2-point conversion wasn’t successful and Marshwood was up 14-6.

Right before the end of the half, Garrison intercepted a Marshwood pass and ran it in ahead of the Hawks defense for a 70-yard return for a TD. At halftime, Marshwood only led by a point.

The second half was back and forth. Windham’s defense bulldozed the Hawks. Windham junior Logan Hirning recovered a fumble in the third quarter to give the Eagles the ball. A 3-yard pick up and it was second down. Ledbetter completed a pass to Arbour for a Windham first down.

A 15-yard penalty on Marshwood would move the ball forward for Windham. Ledbetter would run for a 16-yard gain before the end of the third quarter.

Windham was first and goal at the 18-yard line. Windham moved the ball closer and closer. On fourth down and goal, Marshwood got the ball on a turnover, but Windham’s defense held fast. Windham fans cheered their team on until the final buzzer.

“I thought they competed, and we got some gritty kids that play their tail off,” said Perkins. “I’m really proud of this group, they’re great young men and they’re just a pleasure to coach and be around. They care about each other first and it’s not about themselves, that’s what makes them so special.”

Perkins said he felt that the Eagles moved the ball very well, played well defensively and tackled well.

Garrison said the offense played well. He said it seemed like they had trouble trying to get the ball in from 5 yards out but driving down the field Windham had good momentum. He also thought the defense played well too.

Arbour said he’d like to thank the seniors, they really helped him through the year, and he looks up to all of them and is proud of the team. <


Rossetti earns Maine’s ‘Assistant Principal of the Year’ award 

The students and staff at Windham High School perked with curiosity after the usual daily announcements were completed on Monday, Nov. 29. Silence rang through the halls as an unexpected message was spoken over the intercom by RSU14 Superintendent Chris Howell explaining that the Executive Director of the Maine Principals Association (MPA), Holly Blair was in the building and had good news to share. 

Blair followed Howell with the resulting statement:

“MPA recognizes outstanding high school assistant principals who have succeeded in providing high-quality learning opportunities for their students as well as demonstrating exemplary contributions to the profession,” Blair said. “After much consideration, MPA has determined that Mr. Rossetti meets those standards and has decided to name him the Secondary School Assistant Principal of 2022.”

Becoming the Assistant Principal of the Year of Maine High Schools can be a long and winding road of joy, hard work, and luck that included encouraging mentors and loving family members who guide you along the way.

“I was lucky to have good teachers and people who cared about education during my high school years,” Rossetti said. “Plus, I had very supportive parents who encouraged me to get an advanced education.”

Rossetti, who lived most of his childhood life in Casco, explained that both of his parents came from a long line of hardworking people, and although his mother and father’s traditional education ended early, they believed in the power of conventional study and held grand hopes of high achievement for their son.

“They believed that the only way to my own success was through education and encouraged me to go to college,” Rossetti said. “They told me they wanted me to have the opportunities that they didn’t have.”

In addition to his parents’ encouragement, Rossetti had a very engaging history teacher at Lakes Region High School where Rossetti’s formative years were created.

“It was the way my history teacher taught classes that made the lessons enjoyable,” Rossetti said. “Plus, he was one of those teachers who really cared about you. He was very encouraging to the students and wanted his students to succeed. This inspired me to follow in his footsteps. I remember thinking to myself one day, ‘I want to be a teacher just like him.’”.

There was also another favorite activity that held Rossetti’s attention and that was playing sports; specifically, football and baseball. As a result, he wanted to be a coach too.

Carrying out his parents’ wish of college and thinking that sports medicine with a focus on sports journalism might be an option to consider, he began taking classes in those fields. But it didn’t take long before he realized that becoming a history teacher was more in alignment with his passions.

After receiving his Bachelor of Science in Social Studies Education at Plymouth State University in Plymouth, New Hampshire, Rossetti accepted a position as a Social Studies Teacher at WHS from 1996 to 2015. During that time, he filled in as Assistant Principal periodically during extended and medical leaves while obtaining a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership from Saint Joseph’s College of Maine. Rossetti was at the time and remains the WHS Assistant Football Coach.

In July 2015 he was asked to be the full-time assistant principal at South Portland High School and remained there until a full-time assistant principal position opened up at WHS. He applied and was offered the position in August 2016.

Rossetti’s role as assistant principal has made many impacts on the community. Captain William Andrew of the Windham Police Department works closely with Rossetti as a leadership team member for Be The Influence Coalition.

"Phil’s dedication, commitment, and most of all his heart for the betterment of education, the staff, and most importantly the students is what makes this a most deserved award,” Captain Andrew said.

His coworkers enjoy the opportunity to work with Rossetti including WHS Principal Ryan Caron who has known Rossetti for over twenty years, eight of those years were teaching together at WHS in the social studies department. Rossetti was also one of Caron’s assistant principals at South Portland High School, and now, they work together on the administrative team at WHS and have done so for the last four years.

“The opportunity to work with Phil again played a big part in my decision to return to Windham,” Caron said. “Phil puts the needs of our students and staff first in all things that he does. He takes the time to really get to know both students and staff, which allows him to provide support and guidance that is appropriate for the individual while building lasting relationships. When you work with Phil you know that he cares about you and wants the best for you. Students and staff respect his honesty and integrity and believe that he has their best interests at heart. I am extremely lucky that he works just down the hall from me.”

WHS teachers also believe that Rossetti being named Assistant Principal of the Year is a well-deserved honor that represents his commitment to staff and students. Adrianne Shetenhelm, lead teacher of WHS's alternative education program, APEX, said that the award doesn't surprise her.

“He cares about the whole student experience,” Shetenhelm said. “I work with Phil almost daily and he is always focused on what is right for a student's best interest, considering their academic goals, social-emotional needs, and future hopes. He is an integral part of our admin team and school community.”

Superintendent Howell agrees with Shetenhelm and added that Rossetti does a great job mastering the skills and expectations of a vice principal.

“I have known and worked with Phil for close to 20 years,” Howell said. “He is a highly skilled administrator who has a huge heart for meeting the needs of students. Phil has always been able to focus on the big picture as he works to support the students at WHS. I cannot think of a more deserving person for this honor.”

 For those who may wish to follow in Rossetti’s footstep, the newly named vice principal of the year offers the following advice: 

“There are two things that one must have in terms of character,” Rossetti said. “You have to really enjoy working alongside other people [students and staff] and you have to be willing to work long, hard hours. There are many challenging days but I love working with the kids. They not only make it a fun job but they help me grow in terms of my journey as an educator – not only on a professional level but personally as well.”

Rossetti also said that making a positive change in a student’s life is what motivates him to be the best he can be. “We work to find restorative practices and conversations to turn negative experiences and actions into something positive that create long-term change. People make mistakes and it's what you do with those mistakes that matters. These kids are really good kids. They say funny things and make me laugh. It is for these reasons and more that this has been the most exciting and rewarding job I’ve ever had.”

Rossetti lives in Raymond with his wife Sara and daughter Maria. When he is not busy at work, Rossetti enjoys golfing and vacationing with his family. <

Composer of ‘The Maine Christmas Song’ never tires of hearing work performed 

Like everything associated with the Christmas season, many holiday traditions have an unusual story behind them and the one of “The Maine Christmas Song” is no exception and in fact has a unique Windham connection.

Musician Con Fullam of Windham composed the tune in 1986 and says he never imagined that it would go on to sell more than 100,000 copies and become the cornerstone of any serious discussion about Christmas music set in the Pine Tree State. It’s been a holiday favorite of schoolchildren and adults since it first hit the airwaves on WPOR as sung by Malinda Liberty more than three decades ago and shows no sign of slowing down in popularity.

Fullam grew up on a farm in Sidney and when Con’s father passed away when he was just 5, he left him his ukulele and he quickly learned to play it. Within a year he was playing a guitar at church and school functions and by the time he turned 10, Fullam was regularly performing on a Saturday evening radio program in Waterville.

His love for performing, producing and songwriting carried Fullam to unprecedented heights in the music industry and five different Emmy Award nominations. He’s appeared on stage with such renowned artists as Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Emmy Lou Harris, Razzy Bailey, Joan Armatrading, John Sebastian, Asleep At The Wheel, Willie Nelson, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, The Earl Scruggs Review;,Richie Havens, Tammy Wynette and many others.

As a songwriter, Fullam’s music has drawn favorable reviews from a bevy of industry publications including Billboard, Cashbox Magazine, Music Row, Village Voice and the Nashville Music City News. Fullam’s songs have been published by MCA Universal, Opryland, Sony/BMG, Acuff Rose, Chrysalis Music, and Warner Chappell and recorded by some of the best-selling artists in American music. He is also responsible for creating The Wompkees, an animated television series for children on PBS.

But for many Mainers, Fullam will forever be known for composing a classic song played every Christmas that evokes traditional values associated with residents of the state such as kindness, visiting and sharing with neighbors and the unmatched beauty of Maine’s great outdoors.

Fullam says he is humbled by the success of “The Maine Christmas Song” and never tires of being asked about it or performing the song in public.

“I like that it touches other people,” Fullam said. “It’s the greatest compliment a songwriter can receive. A lot of people tell me how much it means to them.”

In what may prove to be his legacy in Maine, Fullam’s Christmas tune surprisingly took little time to put together.

“Reporter Bob Elliott of Channel 6 was working on a story about Christmas music in 1986 and I had just moved back to Maine from New York,” Fullam said. “He asked me to write a song about Christmas and I agreed. It sounded like fun. I figured I would work on it over the next year, but I was wrong. Bob told me he needed it now and that changed my original plans.”

Sitting down to compose, it all happened quickly for Fullam.

“Sometimes things just magically happen in songwriting,” he said. “I didn’t have time to think about it. The melody and words came gushing out and in 20 minutes it was done.”

He said the inspiration for his lyrics came from recalling his upbringing in Sidney and Christmases of the past spent with his family there growing up.

Maine actor Gary Merrill, a former husband of actress Bette Davis, recorded the opening narration for “The Maine Christmas Song” and Fullam lined up his friend, singer Malina Liberty to record the tune in Portland. When it released in November 1987, the song became an instant sensation with proceeds from sales donated to Maine Credit Union League’s “End Hunger” initiative.

Through the years, Fullam’s song has taken on a life of its own and this year has been turned into a children’s book illustrated by Maine artist Cynthia Baker.

Stephanie Mulligan, the owner and publisher of McSea Books, specializing in books for children written by Maine authors, said turning Fullam’s lyrics into a children’s book was a great idea.

“Like so many, I grew up with the song and always thought it could be a wonderful book with an important message, given the deep divide that we are experiencing today,” Mulligan said.

The book is available for gift-giving at Sherman’s Books in Windham and the public can meet Fullam, during a special book signing event at Sherman’s on Saturday, Dec. 18.

The classic song is also included every year during the annual “American Family Holiday” concert performed by the Windham Chamber Singers.

Dr. Richard Nickerson, the director of chorale music for Windham High School, said “The Maine Christmas Song” is a timeless treasure that everyone enjoys and that’s why it’s performed year after year by the Chamber Singers.

"The Maine Christmas Song reminds us of a time when life was simple, when the focus was not on things, but on time spent together with family and friends,” Nickerson said. “As we grow, we come to realize what is truly important, sharing and caring, and that's what makes this song so appealing to so many."

Fullam himself says that he’s performed the song countless times for audiences young and old.

“I’ll admit to hundreds but it’s probably into the thousands,” he said. “In fact, Malinda and I are going to play it live on WPOR radio this coming Monday. They were the first radio station to play it and I’m told it’s still their most requested Christmas song.”

According to Fullam, he’s happy to be known for this song after all these years lengthy career in music.

“It only comes around once a year,” he said. “I’m shocked it’s had the longevity it’s had. As a songwriter nobody thinks their work is relevant, but for me, it’s been wonderful to know so many like this song. It’s been a great surprise.” <  

Windham advances one of largest conservation projects in town history 

Conservation efforts and the protection of natural landscape and wildlife habitats in the Town of Windham are about to become much stronger.

During a Windham Town Council on Dec. 14, councilors authorized the town manager to apply for U.S. Forest Service Community Forest Program, Land For Maine’s Future Program, and Land and Water Conservation Fund grants, and any other grants for the purchase and development of the proposed Little Duck Pond Community Forest, and to take any other necessary action related to creating a Little Duck Pond Community Forest steering committee.

In October, the council announced a partnership with the Presumpscot Regional Land Trust preserve to the unique and undeveloped character of the property surrounding Little Duck Pond in east Windham off Falmouth Road and to protect the high-quality habitat of the forest and associated ecosystems, while also providing a variety of opportunities for well-managed multi-use outdoor recreation, trail access and scenic enjoyment for the general public for generations to come.

The property is within one of the largest undeveloped forested blocks of land in the region. It includes Atherton Hill which at nearly 600 feet, is the largest hill in Windham and includes 1,545 feet of frontage along Little Duck Pond and 1,500 feet of stream frontage that provides wild brook trout habitat.In addition, nearly 25 percent of the land has been identified by the state scientists as a significant deer wintering area, one of just a few large deer wintering areas remaining in the region.

When Windham’s Open Space Plan was adopted in February, the council specifically identified making permanent protection of current areas used as open space and parks a priority and establishing management plans for town-owned properties and developing partnerships on open space protection.

During the Tuesday meeting, Rachelle Curran Apse, the Presumpscot Regional Land Trust executive director, praised the council for reaffirming its commitment to the project.

“We’re so glad to be collaborating with the Town of Windham on this exceptional Little Duck Pond Community Forest Project,” Apse said. “The partnership allows the town to be the landowner and the land trust to hold a conservation easement on the land ensuring the project will forever be conserved for wildlife habitat and for multi-use outdoor recreation.

The council also authorized Tibbetts to seek agreements for the eventual purchase of several parcels of lands surrounding Little Duck Pond area which will be added to the conservation project. This was a necessary step before grant application paperwork is submitted in January.

Council member Brett Jones was appointed by the council to serve on the newly created Little Duck Pond Steering Committee, which will make recommendations and give input to the council about the project.

Jones said he hopes to see the committee include as many differing viewpoints and interests regarding the potential recreational use of the property as possible. Some uses could include miles of new trails for walkers, bikers, snowmobilers, and ATVs, while continuing to provide hunting access, which Jones said he supports.

The Little Duck Pond property abuts other properties which together provide a block of nearly 750 acres of contiguously conserved land in the towns of Windham and Falmouth and provides an unfragmented forest habitat corridor of exceptional size.

Once completed, the protected area will become part of a nearly 2,000-acre contiguously conserved land area connecting with Windham’s Lowell Preserve, the North Falmouth Community Forest, and the Blackstrap Hill Preserve. Through its 40 acres of protected wetlands the project also will provide high-quality habitat for species such as spring peepers, spotted salamanders, and leopard frogs.

In moving the project forward, councilors said that the goal of this new Little Duck Pond project is to mirror Windham’s highly popular Lowell Preserve in ensuring the land that is conserved will never be subdivided or developed and multi-use trails will always be available for the community.

About $3 million in funding needs to be raised within the next year to pay for land acquisition costs, trail building, recreational amenities, and long-term stewardship of the land for wildlife and people, said Windham Town Councilor David Nadeau estimated in October.

“This significant project is possible because the town is committed to investing in this project locally while also raising state, federal, and private funds in collaboration with the Land Trust,” Nadeau said. “Like Lowell Preserve, the town looks forward to collaborating with the Land Trust to conserve the land and provide shared management of trails so they are welcoming for all.” <