Friday, March 26, 2021

State three-year highway work plan includes Windham-area projects

The Maine Department of Transportation will contribute $1.45
million to install adaptive traffic signals along Route 302 in
Windham starting at the Route 115 intersection and continuing
through Trails End Road. The signals detect changing traffic
patterns and will continuously distribute green-light time
equitably for all traffic movement, aiming to reduce congestion
by creating smoother traffic flow through the town.

By Ed Pierce

It’s been said that roads and bridges do not automatically upgrade or repair and rebuild themselves and that's why each year, state legislators collaborate with the Maine Department of Transportation to prioritize projects that make our commutes safer and smoother.

Maine DOT’s Three-Year Work Plan outlines the efforts and initiatives that the department intends to perform over the next three-year span. It is calendar year-based and includes all Maine DOT work activities across the state.

While projects and activities listed for Calendar Year 2021 have the most definite schedules and estimates, those for Calendar Years 2022 and 2023 may be more subject to change and depending upon available state funding.

Earlier this week State Representative Patrick Corey, a Republican representing Windham, announced that the Maine Department of Transportation’s Work Plan for Calendar Years 2021, 2022 and 2023 is available and includes specific highway improvement projects to be conducted in the community.

Statewide, the estimated value of work performed as outlined in the plan totals more than 2,180 individual work items with a total value of $2.71 billion. MDOT estimates that from 2021 to 2023, it will invest in more than 100 miles of highway construction and rehabilitation; 893 miles of pavement preservation; 2,175 miles of light capital paving for roads and highways; 222 safety and spot improvements; and 166 different bridge projects.

Corey said that the three-year MDOT Work Plan for Windham from 2021 to 2023 includes seven different projects totaling more than $2.5 million.

He said that this work includes numerous improvements to Route 302 in Windham such as rehabilitation and construction to the roundabout as well as safety improvements made possible through the municipal partnership initiative program.

“MDOT Work Plan projects will benefit our local communities in many ways,” Corey said in a press release. “I am pleased to see several MDOT projects scheduled for the next three years in our area. They will make our roads safer and benefit the local economy.” 

Among the planned MDOT projects Corey announced for Windham for 2021 are:

** Route 115. A project will be replacing joints, applying sealer to wearing surface, and repair abutment to the Narrows Bridge over Ditch Brook, located 260 feet west of Running Brook Road in Windham. The cost of this project is $150,000.

** William Knight Road. A specific planning and outreach project will examine replacement of Varney's Bridge over the Pleasant River located 0.44 of a mile northwest of Route 4. The cost of this project is $25,000.

** Falmouth Road. Crews will pave the roadway surface beginning 0.03 of a mile south of Stevens Road and extending south 0.79 of a mile to Route 202. The cost of this project is $32,000.

** Route 302. MDOT will join the Town of Windham in the Municipal Partnership Initiative Program and fund the installation of adaptive traffic signaling systems at various intersections. The adaptive signal control technology will feature the timing of red, yellow and green lights to accommodate changing traffic patterns and ease traffic congestion along Route 302. The main benefits of adaptive signal control technology over conventional signal systems currently in place are that it will be able to continuously distribute green-light time equitably for all traffic movement, improve travel time reliability by progressively moving vehicles through green lights, reduce congestion by creating smoother flow, and prolong the effectiveness of traffic signal timing. The adaptive signal project will begin at Route 115 and extend northwest 1.14 miles to Trails End Road. The cost of this project is $1.45 million.

** Route 302. MDOT will join the Planning Partnership Initiative Program to conduct a feasibility study for alleviating traffic congestion on the route through town. The project begins at Route 202 and extends north 6.32 miles through Windham. The cost of the project is $150,000.

Corey also announced two projects that are planned to take place in 2022:

** Route 302. Highway rehabilitation as state crews remove and replace the wearing course to reset the deterioration process of the highway surface. The project will begin 0.45 of a mile west of Outpost Drive and extend west 0.14 of a mile, including the roundabout intersection of Route 302 with Route 202. The cost of the highway rehabilitation project is $585,000.

** Route 302. Highway safety improvements will be made to the intersection of Route 302 and Albion Road. The total cost of this project is $120,000. <

Gofundme benefits beloved Manchester School teacher, husband

Beloved Manchester School fourth-grade
teacher Carol Priebe will accompany her
husband, Paul Priebe, as he receives a lung
transplant at the Cleveland Clinic in 
Cleveland, Ohio. Friends and supporters
of the couple raised more than $5,000
for their expenses through a gofundme
By Daniel Gray

Have you ever had a teacher that made a huge positive impact on you or a loved one? Teachers are an important role in a child's developmental stages in life, not only for the fact that they teach our kids the knowledge they need, but because they can teach beyond that.


Teachers can help develop good moral stand points as well and lessons that stick with us for our entire lives. We need teachers and, sometimes, they need us as well.

Carol Priebe has taught fourth grade at Manchester School in Windham since 2001, and is one of many amazing teachers in the RSU 14 District. She treats her students as if they were her own children and puts her best effort forward when it comes to lessons.

Despite this, Carol has been facing some family medical issues since late 2018. Her husband of eight years, Paul Priebe, has been diagnosed with not one, but three different lung diseases, scleroderma, sarcoidosis, and Raynaud’s disease, a rare trio to be happening all at once.

Carol talks further about the rarity of the diseases as well as what she and her husband went through briefly.

"The doctors said there are only 22 people on Earth that have these same onset diseases at the exact same time,” Priebe said. “You'll treat one symptom for one disease, then the next will pop up from another. In October of 2018, it was almost as if his body said, 'I'm done'."

The last couple of years have not been treating them well either. Carol still teaches in person and online all through 2020 and so far through 2021 but was so nervous during a viral pandemic affecting the lungs. The two have gotten the wonderful news that Paul will be receiving a lung transplant later this month but that would require them going all the way to The Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio for it.

"The parents and the students have been so considerate during these times and completely understand what we've been going through. They have been wonderful during this process of frequent phone calls and some days when I suddenly have to drop a hat to go to a doctor’s appointment for Paul."

One parent in particular said that she was especially understanding of their situation.

When Melissa Carver-Emmons received an email that Carol Priebe would be leaving for her husband's lung transplant, she was full of emotions and couldn't stop thinking of all the troubles they had been through.

"It's obvious that she loves her husband, job, and students and I just felt drawn to help in some small way." Emmons explained, "I put myself in her shoes and knew I would do the same without hesitation but couldn't imagine the emotion around- not only his upcoming high-risk transplant, leaving all the things that you love and that are familiar for the upcoming unknown."

What better way to help than through monetary support? Emmons got to work, setting up a donation pool with a small goal of $5,000. The money would go toward Carol and Paul for anything they needed, whether it be gas, treatments, or just a comfort meal. Anything they could need during this new journey of theirs. She shared the gofundme online and within three days, it had reached its goal.

The donations had eventually brought their way around and, soon enough, the Priebes were notified of what was going on. Carol Priebe said she was utterly surprised upon hearing about the donations.

"A close friend of mine called me to tell me about all these donations. I was so shocked that I just started crying,” she said. “It was so incredible, and I couldn't thank everyone enough for helping me and Paul."

One of 80 donators, Stephanie Lombard, notes just how much Carol means to her family and the community, but along with how important it is to stick with family in the tougher times.

"Right away, you could tell how dedicated she is to her students. She always took the time to teach her students in a way that made learning fun and enjoyable. When I heard the news about her husband, I knew right away I needed to help in any way I could. She is truly a loss to the school department and her students while she takes some much needed time away to be with her husband."

On the behalf of Carol and Paul Priebe, they said they would like to take a moment to just appreciate and send their love out to the people who sent them kind wishes, donated to the gofundme, or even had them in their thoughts. <

Friday, March 19, 2021

Windham budget proposal works toward council vote

The Windham Town Council will receive a proposed budget
for Fiscal Year 2021-2022 of $35,115,270 during a scheduled
meeting on April 6. The budget amount is up slightly from
2020-2021's budget of $35,048,303, yet the proposed mil
rate of 4.4 is the same as last year. PHOTO BY ED PIERCE
Town could create new ballfields at Manchester School location

By Ed Pierce

Windham has moved a step closer to formulating a town budget for the next fiscal year following a review of proposed expenditures and funding during a town finance committee meeting on Tuesday evening.

On Zoom, Windham Finance Committee members reviewed and discussed the proposed 2021-2022 budget with the town manager and department heads prior to presenting the proposal to the town council at an upcoming meeting.

Windham Town Councilors are expected to take up the proposed budget in April and make whatever adjustments are required before residents vote on the budget at the annual town meeting on June 12.

During this review, Windham Town Manager Barry Tibbetts told finance committee members that the budget contains funding to create two new ballfields, one for softball, one for baseball and another separate recreational field on unused property behind Manchester School.

Tibbetts said that he’s held discussions with RSU 14 Schools Superintendent Christopher Howell about developing the site, which is adjacent to several existing baseball fields there used by the Windham Softball Association and Windham Little League. Clearing and developing the wooded area would take more than a year and would also lead to the creation of a road that would connect Route 302 and Route 115.

“These new fields would be funded by town impact fees and debt retirement,” Tibbetts said. “There will be no changes to the mil rate in doing this.”

In addition to that project, Tibbetts said the budget proposal also includes funding to expand the Lowell Preserve parking lot.

“We can absorb both of these projects with debt retirement and some impact fees,” he said.

Windham Parks and Recreation Director Linda Brooks said because of COVID, the past year has been a significant challenge as more area residents discovered town parks and trails as a great way to get outdoors and have fun during the pandemic.

“We really brought forward new and unique ways for recreation,” Brooks told the committee members. “More people are using the trails and parks for outdoor activities than ever before. As we move forward in the next fiscal year, we’ve had to decide what new programs to offer and what programs can be sustained.”

Brooks said that because more people are now familiar with Windham’s trails system, she expects trail usage to be even busier in the year ahead.

Brooks was one of several Windham department leaders to present ideas and discuss funding requests and proposals during the Finance Committee meeting. Departments presenting budget proposals at this meeting included Fire and Rescue, Police, Communications, and Public Works.

At a previous Finance Committee meeting on March 10, departments presenting budget requests and proposals included the Town Clerk’s Office, Assessing, Code Enforcement, Planning, Windham Public Library and the Windham Economic Development Corporation.

During Tuesday’s presentations, Tibbetts revealed his list of budget proposal adjustments.

Some of that proposed funding includes $242,673 for Parks and Recreation; $86,729 for Parks and Trails; $12,250 for SummerFest; $2,426,818 for Fire/Rescue, water hydrants and fire/rescue vehicle maintenance; $2,730,346 for Police with $43,104 for Animal Control, and $100,660 for police vehicle maintenance.

Other proposed 2021-2022 funding discussed at Tuesday’s Finance Committee meeting includes $445,153 for Communications; $842,760 for highway maintenance; $48,000 for traffic safety devices and equipment; $209,000 for traffic lights and signals; $45,000 for winter highway sand; $129,986 for snow removal; $598,771 for building maintenance and $98,581 for grounds maintenance. The proposed budget also includes $540,399 for vehicle maintenance and fuel costs and $277,250 for waste disposal.

Tibbetts said this budget’s goal is to maintain the services and programs of the town while implementing capital improvements to improve the community.

“In the proposed budget 2021-2022, we are looking to accomplish several objectives; hold the budget increase due to the COVID impacts on residents and businesses, continue with the paving and equipment replacement programs, develop recreational playing fields and playground while expanding parking at Lowell,” Tibbetts said. “The first item is to hold or limit any increases in the budget to the minimum based on the COVID impact to residents and businesses. The municipal budget increase is at 0.33 percent, or flat or no increase to the mil rate.” 

According to Tibbetts, Windham does have some retiring debt from leases and bonds and needs to use that borrowing capacity to address a number of paving projects around the town which were delayed last year.  He said this will also result in no impact to the mil rate.

“We need to address a few personnel positions which will provide better service and position the town for the future,” he said. “Those positions include Fire/Rescue, Assistant Town Manger and additional code enforcement staff. We have several parks projects which will address parking at Lowell field, provide three new fields at Manchester School and we are working with the RSU on this plan, continued improvements at the Community Park and a playground at Lowell.”

Without significant changes made before being discussed and voted on by the Windham Town Council, Tibbetts will propose a budget of $35,115,270 to councilors on April 6. That amount is up marginally from 2020-2021’s budget of $35,048,303 with the mil rate of 4.4 that is  unchanged from last year’s budget.

The RSU 14 school budget has yet to be determined. <

Windham student racks up thousands of hours of reading time

Elijah 'Eli' Souther, a third-grader at
Windham Primary School, has already
spent more than 12,585 hours reading
during this school year. He is among
more than 700 WPS student that are
participating in the school's reading 
incentive program.
By Ed Pierce

The intention of the reading incentive program at Windham Primary School is to motivate children to want to read so they will practice reading independently and become fluent readers while launching a lifetime of reading enjoyment.

Currently about 700 WPS students are participating in the school’s “Rocking in our Read Shoes – Pete the Cat’s 2020-2021 WPS Reading Incentive Program.” 

“This year we are presenting an overall theme of Pete the Cat. There are many books and series of books that the students may choose to read. Anything from Clifford to Harry Potter that our learners can read at home independently or in a 1:1 situation counts toward the program,” said Elizabeth Smith, a second-grade WPS teacher who runs the program.

Smith said one of the program’s goals is to have student participants reach 5,000 minutes of reading by the end of the school year and that mark has already been surpassed and shattered by WPS third-grader Elijah “Eli” Souther, who’s already read more than 12,585 minutes since beginning the school year.

“Students earn incentives such as special membership cards, stickers, pencils, a postcard from WPS Principal Dr. Kyle Rhoads sent through the mail, and student pictures posted on the school website,” Smith said. “Of course, they also benefit academically from reading at home. Reading at home in addition to at school, supports cognitive development, improves language skills, increases concentration and discipline, improves imagination and creativity, and cultivates a lifelong love of reading.”

Souther’s third-grade teacher, Amanda Rogers, said that his achievement is exceptional.

“Elijah Souther, or as he prefers to be called Eli, is a fantastic student. He thirsts for knowledge and often finds the answers to his questions in books. While many third-grade boys enjoy playing Minecraft or Fortnite, Eli likes to fight monsters, try new things and be transported to faraway lands, through books,” Rogers said. “He is currently reading the Lord of the Ring series. Through all this reading he has increased his vocabulary, the ability to understand complex characters, and made him a stronger writer as well.”

Rogers says she thinks the main reason Souther reads is for the pure enjoyment of it.

“When Eli is not reading, he enjoys going on hikes, riding his bike or hanging out with his dog, Jax,” she said. “So maybe his extra hours of reading are due to the cold weather, however I don't think so. When the spring and summer comes, you just find him under a tree reading a new book.”

Books for the reading incentive program come from the school’s book room, along with selection from the school library.

Teachers get to know their students well, and that enables them to become familiar with each child’s strengths and interests and it helps them to assist students in selecting books they will enjoy reading themselves. And reading books is a great way to develop students’ fluency and comprehension too.

“The program is used the encourage reading at home. Whether the students are reading alone, or with someone,” Smith said. “With the hybrid model, this year especially, it is so important to encourage the learning to continue at home. We know how challenging it is for families so if just adding reading to their routine is all they can manage, it still greatly benefits their learner.”

Whether in or out of the classroom during the pandemic, reading has been shown to be the most effective way to keep students engaged and focused during an uncertain time. It stimulates their minds and broadens their curiosity about the world while aiding in the continued development of vital and critical thinking, encouraging creativity and boosting comprehension.

The program also helps students like Souther develop resilience and adaptability, overcome adversity, and show flexibility as students like him encounter school and educational activities adjusted as a result of the pandemic. <

Friday, March 12, 2021

State greenlights Windham Middle School construction project

RSU 14 has learned that the state has moved ahead with
funding for construction of a project to either rebuild or
renovate Windham Middle School by 2026.
By Ed Pierce

The next five years will probably have some unexpected twists and turns, but what is known for certain is that by 2026, Windham Middle School will either be renovated or rebuilt, according to RSU 14 administrators.

After several years of being ranked at Number 5 overall among state-approved and subsidized construction projects, RSU 14 has learned that the highly anticipated project is moving forward. How much state funding for the work is yet unknown and that will be the determining factor on whether the aging 44-year-old school will be rebuilt or renovated.       

RSU 14 received some wonderful news this month about the Windham Middle School construction project. After two years of waiting, the Maine Department of Education announced that the project to replace the school will be moving forward,” said RSU 14 Schools Superintendent Christopher Howell. “The district took the first significant step of the process last week when it officially advertised for architectural services for the project.”

During the RSU 14 School Board meeting on Wednesday evening, the district formed a School Building Committee to oversee the project, which is expected to be completed by 2026.

Howell said that the original Windham Middle School was completed in 1977 and was built for a capacity of 483 students.  That number has now grown to 636 students, with sixth graders housed for some classes at the adjacent Field Allen School, which was built in the 1930s.

“Over the years, the Field Allen School has had several minor renovations and has been incorporated into the programming of the school.  Most recently, two new classrooms were added to the building to accommodate a large sixth-grade class,” Howell said. “The building has served the district well over the years but is starting to show signs that it is reaching the end of its usable life cycle as a school building.  Aside from the inability to have all students in the building under one roof, the main middle school building has small classrooms, outdated science rooms, restroom facilities that do not meet modern requirements, a worn-out heating system, outdated windows, and a less than adequate electrical system.”   

More than 200 students currently transition back and forth from Field Allen School to Windham Middle School for classes in art, music, science, STEM, gym and other activities including the school cafeteria.

RSU 14 originally applied for the Maine Department of Education’s Major Capital Construction Program in 2016 for funding for construction and has ranked as the being fifth-highest priority among 74 proposed school construction projects statewide.

“The program is highly competitive as a positive rating in the process can lead to a significant financial savings for school districts,” Howell said. “A majority of construction costs for school projects selected through this program will be covered by the state.”

Once a district applies for funding, Maine DOE reviews and rates the project based upon need. The State Board of Education then funds as many projects from the list as available debt limit funds allow. Working with the State Board of Education, Maine DOE establishes both size and financial limits on projects.

Local school districts may exceed these limits at local expense through municipal bonds, but the state bears the major financial burden of capital costs for approved school construction projects. As such, Maine DOE first looks at the possibility of renovations or renovations with additions and new school construction projects are only considered in instances in which renovation projects are not economically or educationally feasible.

According to Howell, there are 21 steps in the school construction process for state funded projects.

“The first three steps are steps related to the application for a building.  The project started step 4 last week when an advertisement was completed for architectural services for the project,” he said. “Once an architectural firm is selected, the district will work with that firm to complete an analysis of new versus renovation and to conduct an analysis of possible sites in the district to construct a new building.”

He said specific work by RSU 14 toward developing a vision for the new school building started more than a year ago. 

“The district engaged the services of an experienced school planner named Frank Locker who has worked with teams across the world to design and build new school buildings,” Howell said.  “Frank has been working with a group of stakeholders through a process of examining middle level programming, student grouping, functionality and equipment, environment in the new learning space, future learning, and how the building can be used for all members of the RSU 14 community.  A final report from the work of this group will be presented this spring.  The document will be used by the architects to develop concept designs for the new building.”

Once an architect has been chosen by the district, RSU 14 representatives will then meet with the Maine DOE in a pre-design conference to discuss methods that can simplify construction through use of efficient engineering systems, designs, and come up with realistic construction schedules for the project.

It’s been a long road for RSU 14 to reach this point in the process, but one that the Windham Middle School principal says he is happy to see becoming a reality.

“I am very excited to begin working with the state on our school construction project. Not only will we be able to create a safe and welcoming school, but we will have the opportunity to design a building that meets the educational needs of our students in this current age and for generations of students to come,” said Drew Patin, WMS principal. “We will create spaces that promote lifelong skills, such as collaboration, problem-solving, creativity, and perseverance.”

He said the intention of the project is for Windham Middle School to be a place of high engagement for students by focusing on teaching the skills needed for our students to be successful in the workplace and post-secondary educational settings.

“Our mission is for school to not look like the typical school setting and for students to go home excited to tell their parents, guardians, and friends about their experiences that day,” he said. < 

Windham could add two new districts later this spring

A map is shown of possible new districts that
could be approved by the Windham Town
Council later this spring. Under consideration
and discussed during a public forum on March 3
are new districts including a Windham Residential
District and a Windham Center District,
By Ed Pierce

Based upon recommendations from the town’s Long Range Planning Committee developed following a public webinar on March 3, the Windham Town Council could vote later this spring on a proposal to add two new zoning districts.

During the March 3 rezoning webinar conducted on Zoom, Windham residents were asked to comment on creating a new Village Residential District and a Windham Center District. The Windham Long Range Planning Committee is charged with implementation of the Town’s Comprehensive Plan and mapping out where growth and changes are desired and where they are not desired is a central component of comprehensive planning.  

“The Future Land Use Map in the plan shows the general areas of Windham that should be targeted for growth and those that are important to the community to keep at low development levels,” said Amanda L. Lessard, Windham Planning Director. “Windham Center is one of the identified growth areas and is described in the plan as an area serving as the civic core of the community and as such, more walkable, connected residential development should be encouraged in this area.” 

Lessard said that the Windham Center Growth Area is mostly currently zoned as Farm District and Farm Residential District and these rural areas are zones that the town wants to direct growth away from.  

“A specific Comp Plan goal is to amend local ordinances to clearly define the desired scale, intensity, and location of future development using the descriptions provided in the Future Land Use Plan,” Lessard said. “Additionally, state law requires that a municipal zoning ordinance must be pursuant to and consistent with a comprehensive plan adopted by the municipal legislative body.”

She said that the LRPC reviewed the current zoning in other growth areas and determined that based on the existing lot sizes and land uses in the area and the Vision for Windham described in the comprehensive plan that Windham Center is different from other growth areas and should have its own zoning standards that are distinct on either side of the Pleasant River.

Another aspect of changes the council may be asked to approve are refining affordable housing standards, Lessard said.

“One of the Comp Plan goals is to encourage the development of affordable/workforce housing in Growth Areas,” she said. “The proposed standards would apply in the zoning districts that align with growth areas shown on the future land use map: Commercial 1 (C1) and Commercial 2 (C2) in the North Windham Growth Area, Medium-Density Residential (RM) in the Residential Growth Area, Village Commercial (VC) in the South Windham Growth Area, and the proposed Windham Center (WC) District in the Windham Center Growth Area.”

Lessard said that the proposed standards would allow for increases in residential density and height and decrease lot size, frontage and setbacks for developments that are served by public water and meet federal Median Family Income standards for affordability. 

“The affordability of the units must also be maintained for 10 years for ownership units, or 30 years for rental units,” she said.

Under the proposal that the council could take up would be the Village Residential District, to the west of the Pleasant River which could be intended to be a residential area with a limited number of small businesses. 

“The proposed zone slightly reduces minimum lot sizes and road frontages to allow for more residential development that is consistent with the older subdivision developments in the area,” Lessard said. “The Windham Center District, to the east of the Pleasant River, is intended to be the primarily residential civic village with a mixture of uses intended to complement the cultural, public, and institutional uses with other small business that meet local neighborhood needs.”

This proposed zone further reduces minimum lot sizes and road frontages (to be the same as the Town’s current Medium-Density Residential zone and proposes to allow additional commercial uses that are limited in size, Lessard said. 

“Both districts are proposed to require pitched rooflines, all new streets must be public streets, and new development on existing public streets must provide sidewalks along the frontage of the lot,” she said.  

It will be several months before Windham town councilors could vote on the rezoning proposal as there is a process to follow.

“The LRPC will consider revisions to the proposal based on public input and make a recommendation to the Windham Town Council,” Lessard said. “The Land Use Ordinance specifies the process for amendments, so the Council will forward the proposal to the Planning Board for review and recommendation.”

As part of the process, a public hearing will be held as part of the Windham Planning Board’s review.  The board’s recommendation will be sent back to the Windham Town Council for discussion and a public hearing before a vote is held.      

Windham’s Comprehensive Plan Update was adopted in June 2017 and included numerous policy and implementation strategies to achieve the vision for Windham in the next 10-plus years. 

“These were distilled into the 4 Big Things, one of which was ‘Change the game for Windham’s Growth Areas: North Windham, Windham Center, South Windham.,’” Lessard said. “This zoning change would expand the range of options available in Windham by allowing for different types and scales of neighborhood development and provide more options for people to choose from when considering Windham for a home or a place to start or expand a business.” <

Friday, March 5, 2021

Quilts of Valor recognize trio of local ‘Greatest Generation’ veterans

Members of the Maine Quilts of Valor organization presented
quilts to three local veterans honoring their military service
during World War II and the Korean War. Shown from left with
their quilts are Korean War veteran Jerry Black of Standish, 92,
World War II veteran Carroll McDonald of Windham, 96, and 
World War II veteran Bob Miehle of South Windham, 98.
Eagle Cane also presented during special gathering in Windham

By Ed Pierce

Members of the “Greatest Generation” fought to protect America from tyranny and oppression during World War II and the Korean War and their bravery, sacrifices and valor are shining examples of what patriotism truly means. On Wednesday morning, a special gathering at the Windham Veterans Center showed heartfelt appreciation to a trio of local veterans over the age of 90 who gave unselfishly to help preserve our freedom.

World War II veterans Carroll McDonald, 96, and Bob Miehle, 98, both of Windham, and Korean War veteran Jerry Black of Standish, 92, were awarded Quilts of Valor for their service to our nation and McDonald, who celebrated his 96th birthday on Monday, March 1 was honored by American Legion Field-Allen Post 148 with the presentation of a special Eagle Cane for his time as a U.S. Army Air Corps P-51 pilot.

Donna Brookings, the Maine State Coordinator for Quilts of Valor, told those gathered for the occasion that the organization was founded in 2003 by the mother of a soldier deployed to Iraq. She had an idea that a quilt could be given to veterans who have been touched by war as a means of comfort to them.

The idea took off and there are now Quilt of Valor chapters in all 50 states, including Maine. Each Quilt of Valor is a quality handmade quilt made of three distinct layers.

According to Brookings, each quilt’s colorful top featuring unique shapes and fabrics representing the many unique communities and individuals of America, with second underlying filler area representing warmth, comfort, and peace. The third backing layer symbolizes the strength of each recipient of this honor and the support of each family, the community, and our nation. Each stitch in the quilts holding all the layers together represents the love and gratitude of the person who made them. 

In presenting the quilts to McDonald, Miehle and Black, Brookings told them there were three reasons they were being awarded these Quilts of Valor.

“First, we honor you for your service in the United States military. We honor you for leaving all you hold dear and to stand in harm’s way in a time of crisis, protecting us from the effects of war,” Brookings said. “Second, we know that freedom is not free. The cost of freedom is the dedication of lives of men and women like you, and this quilt is meant to say thank you for your sacrifice. Third, these quilts are meant to offer comfort to you, and to remind you that although your family and friends cannot be with you at all times, you are forever in our thoughts and our hearts.”

Brookings said since its inception, Quilts of Valor has now presented more than 268,000 quilts nationwide and will continue to do so for as long as veterans continue to serve America.

American Legion Field-Allen Post 148 Adjutant David Tanguay then awarded McDonald with a handcrafted Eagle Cane to recognize his contributions to the nation as a World War II veteran.

The Eagle Cane Project originated in Oklahoma and was introduced in Maine in 2008. Woodcarver Jack Nitz of Tulsa, Oklahoma launched the Eagle Cane Program after watching an ABC News television segment in 2004 about post-Sept. 11 veterans. Nitz, who served in the Navy from 1948 to 1957, said he realized there was "a little something" that he, as a woodcarver and cane maker, could do to let injured veterans know they had support from people in their community and to also honor them for their service. The Eagle Cane program has now spread to 32 different states, including Maine, and is a collaborative initiative that awards quality hand-carved personalized Eagle Head canes to deserving veterans in recognition for their service to the United States.

On Veterans Day in November 2020, Black received an Eagle Cane and Miehle also received one during a special parade in South Windham in recognition of his 98th birthday on Jan. 25.

During Wednesday’s festivities, McDonald and Miehle said that they both attended Windham High School and they graduated together in the same class in June 1942.

McDonald was born on a farm in South Windham and said for as long as he can remember, he was interested in learning to fly and airplane.

“When I was about 4-years-old, I heard a bi-plane flying near a school and was fascinated by it,” McDonald said. “The sound of it going up and down and buzzing all around stirred my interest and it never left me when I was growing up.”

Knowing that he was about to be drafted, McDonald volunteered to join the U.S. Air Army Air Corps as long as he could train to become a military pilot.

In 1943 he was given a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant and sent to an Army flight school in Alabama and then for training as a P-51 pilot at Page Field in Fort Myers, Florida. He received his flight wings in 1944 and spent the remainder of the war in Fort Myers flying P-51s, a long range, single-seat fighter-bomber used during World War II and the Korean War.

“I joined because it was an opportunity to be well-trained and a chance to fly every single day,” McDonald said. 

Following his active-duty discharge in 1945, he attended business school using the GI Bill and in 1951 while fulfilling his military commitment in the U.S. Air Force Reserves, was promoted to the rank of 1st Lieutenant.

He returned to Maine and joined the U.S. Post Office as a rural postal delivery driver, a job he worked for 32 years, delivering mail in South Windham and on River Road until his eventual retirement. He joined the American Legion’s Field-Allen Post 148 in 1951 and served as Post Commander and performed many other jobs for the group through the years.

After his retirement, McDonald also logged more than 20 years delivering Meals on Wheels to area seniors for 20 years and is a regular at the Weekly Veterans Coffee every Wednesday at the Windham Veterans Center.

“I’m very appreciative to everyone for recognizing me in this way and remembering my birthday,” McDonald said.  

Miehle also grew up in South Windham and was drafted in the U.S. Army, serving through 1945 in the U.S. Army’s European Theater in England, France and Germany. He worked as a T5 Signal Corps Early Warning Radar Operator tracking enemy aircraft and German V-1 buzz bombs. He went on to own and operate Patsy’s store in South Windham for many years and volunteered as a fireman at the South Windham Fire Station.   

Black served in the U.S. Navy for four years during the 1950s and the Korean War and following his time in the military, he attended Gorham State Teacher’s College and became a teacher. He taught shop, drafting and woodworking for many years at Falmouth High School before retiring and was awarded a trip to Washington, D.C. to tour the military memorials there by Honor Flight Maine. <    

Four Windham children demonstrate how money can buy you happiness

Four local children crafted bracelets made
out of pipe cleaners and sold them for 25
cents. After earning $100 they donated 
100 percent of the proceeds to the Animal
Refuge League of Greater Portland. Shown
are students Ben Dubois, Jackson Dubois,
Lily Kuusela and Jackson Kuusela.
By Lorraine Glowczak

In his November 2011 Ted Talk, Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, Michael Norton, shared some fascinating research on how money buys happiness. The data he shared regarding fiscal currency and its relationship to joy and bliss would be surprising to most.

“If you are not happy spending money,” Norton said in his Ted Talk, “then you are not spending it right.”

According to Norton’s research, four delighted Windham youth are spending their money wisely.

The young money-making entrepreneurs in question include second grade student, Ben Dubois and his brother Jackson who is a fifth-grade student, along with first grader, Lily Kuusela and her older brother Jackson, also a fifth-grade student.

These four youthful businesspersons created a small enterprise of making bracelets out of multi-colored pipe cleaners and sold them to the community as a creative way to occupy their time during the pandemic when they were not busy doing their schoolwork. As for the money they made? They gave it all away to the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland (ARLGP).

“Logan has made bracelets in the past and he thought about selling them so we all decided it would be fun to do this as a business together,” Jackson Dubois said, who is a longtime family friend and classmate of Logan’s. “We built and set up a stand to sell them for 25 cents each. We were going to split and keep the money but decided to donate all of it.”

This entrepreneurial turned philanthropy endeavor began in mid-November. By mid-December as Lily Kuusela noted, the stand was set up at the end of the Kuusela family driveway. They made $100.

“We made $2.00 on the very first day,” Logan said.

Although the four youngsters were successful at selling bracelets at their stand, news got around quickly and individuals within the community started making orders via the children’s parents’ Facebook pages.

“In some cases, we had people donate money after they realized the kids were making the money to give away to the animal shelter,” one of the mothers, Kim Kuusela said. “We even had someone donate a package containing 350 pipe cleaners, but we do not know who the doner was. No one is owning up to that.”

The $100 was delivered on Wednesday, Feb. 17.. As for the choice to give the money away to the ARLGP, the decision was easy.

“We all love animals and we wanted to be able to help the shelter feed the animals with that money,” the children said. “And we got Oliver from there,” Ben Dubois said of his family cat.

As for the parents Kim and Jon Kuusela and Jon Dubois and Jodi Mitchell-Dubois, their children sparked wonder and amazement.

“I was very surprised when they decided to donate their money to the ARLGP,” Jodi Mitchell said. “They worked hard and had fun, and they could have decided to buy something for themselves or split it and each take a share. None of them hesitated to donate the money, and while I was surprised, I was also incredibly proud of them all for coming together and looking outside themselves.” 

“I should not say I’m surprised because they are very kind children and always have been, but I was…… well - surprised” Kim Kuusela said. “It’s not often that people think about others before themselves. We have been blessed a lot in our lives and we believe God has given that to us. If we have more than we need, we try to instill in our kids that we should help those who do need. It was a proud moment that this message has resonated with our children. It has produced in me wonder and pride.”

The Kuusela and Dubois youngsters are not stopping here, and they spoke with excitement about their next endeavor.

“The next time we want to sell bracelets and give the money to a homeless shelter,” Logan Kuusela said.

Although bracelets made out of pipe cleaners may seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things, Norton ends his Ted Talk with this powerful statement, “The specific way you spend on other people is not as important as the fact that you spend money on other people. You can still do small, trivial things and you can make yourself happy.”

The parents of the children wish to give a shout out to all the community members who encouraged the youngsters in living their dream of philanthropy. “They helped to make this possible, too.”

To purchase bracelets from the Kuusela/Dubois children, with all the proceeds from their current endeavor going to a homeless shelter, email orders at:

Interested in watching Norton’s Ted Talk? Go to: <