Friday, August 27, 2021

Windham third-generation auto racer continues family tradition of winning

Windham's Brad Babb is a rising star in auto racing having
won many races in different divisions at tracks in Maine,
New Hampshire and Connecticut. COURTESY PHOTO
By Ed Pierce

Racing automobiles is in the blood of Brad Babb of Windham and it’s a family tradition going back nearly 70 years.

Babb, 29, is following in the footsteps of his grandfather, Bob Babb, who started racing at Maine’s Oxford Plains Speedway in the 1950s, and his father, Bobby Babb, who raced for many years at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway in Scarborough. Brad Babb’s sister Kelsey has also raced professionally, so it was a natural progression for him to want to compete on the racetrack too.

“I was brought up going to Beech Ridge Motor Speedway every week to watch my dad, and I started racing go-karts when I was 8-years-old,” Babb said.

He’s currently racing a 350-Supermodified car at the Star Speedway in Epping, New Hampshire and typically competes every other weekend, about 12 times in all from May through September. 

Supermodifieds are made to be raced on asphalt tracks and are a favorite of racing fans. It has a tapered tube chassis that is tipped by a roof wing and mounted on struts keeping ti level for maximum straightaway speed while titling the vehicle forward for maximum corner downforce. Engines on supermodifieds ride alongside the driver for even weight distribution and are mated directly to the rear axle.

“I’ve also previously raced Super Late Models, ACT Late Models, Tour Type Modifieds, and Sportsman divisions,” Babb said. “So far the only division I haven’t won several races in is Tour Type Modifieds.”

A 2011 graduate of Windham High School, Babb has grown accustomed to winning, capturing the Jim Belfiore Memorial for 350 Supermodifieds at Star Speedway on Aug. 14 and winning the 2017 overall championship at Epping in just his first season of Supermodifed racing.

“My favorite part of racing is the competition,” he said. “I obviously enjoy going fast, and I really enjoy getting to know all the different people at the track, but I really love being challenged.”

Finding the time to devote to auto racing has been difficult.

“The most challenging thing is trying to balance my time. I’m at the track as much as I can be because it’s what I love to do,” he said. “But it takes a lot of work in the shop to have the car ready to go on top of working a full-time job and trying to have a little bit of a personal life.”

Married to wife Jackie, Babb works as a welder/fabricator for Casco Bay Steel Structures and is grateful for the support his wife and family offer for his racing career.

“My wife Jackie also used to race go karts as a kid, and her brother still races to this day. So luckily, she enjoys racing too,” Babb said. “I don’t have any kids besides my yellow lab, Sophie. She doesn’t like the noise of the cars, but when she was a puppy, she went to the track with me and loved all the attention she got.”

Prior to competing in 350 Supermodifieds, Babb racked up an impressive record of success in other divisions. He was the 2012 NASCAR All-American Series Maine State Champion, Track Champion and Driver of the Year at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway and was a finalist in the Concord, North Carolina Kulwicki Driver Development Program for the 2015 season.

Babb was awarded the 2008 “Rookie of the Year” honors at the Beech Ridge Motor Speedway and won the 2012 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Pro Series Championship at Beech Ride Motor Speedway and went on to claim the overall 2012 championship at Beech Ridge. In 2010, Babb was honored as the American Canadian Tour’s “Late Model Rookie of the Year.” 

In 2012, he also got to compete in a race at Beech Ridge against his father Bobby, who himself had raced against his father Bob at Beech Ridge in the 1980s. 

During his career, Babb has raced at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire and in the three-night American Racer Challenge in 2015 at New Smyrna Beach, Florida.

His current sponsors are Robert Babb & Sons Wood Contractors, Kaminski Automotive, and Spence & Mathews Insurance, although he says he always be willing to welcome new sponsors onboard. 

His next race will be at Star Speedway on Saturday, Sept. 11 and he’s already preparing for that competition. 

“My two main goals right now are to continue having success in the 350 Supermodified division, and to win a Tour Type Modified race, because as I said, I haven’t won in that division yet,” Babb said. < 

Girl Scouts donate protective K-9 vest to Windham Police

Members of Windham Girl Scout Troop 1518
used money earned from, cookie sales to
purchase a protective vest for Kora, a working
K-9 in the Windham Police Department. They
presented the vest to Kora and her handler,
Windham Officer Steven Stubbs, on Aug. 18.
By Collette Hayes

The nine Girl Scouts in Windham Troop 1518 used their ingenuity and shine to sell over 2,500 boxes of girl scout cookies this year and they donated a large portion of the money they received from the sales to buy a protective vest for Kora, a working K-9 in the Windham Police Department.

Participating in the Girl Scout Cookie Program since they were 6-years- old, troop members have developed important life skills such as people skills, goal setting, and money management. According to troop member Kia Coombes, this year the troop decided to set a goal to buy a protective vest for Windham’s police dog and that vest cost $960.

The girls more than met their financial goal through the cookie sale and were able to buy and donate the vest.

“It feels so good doing something for the community,” Girl Scout Madison Nugent said. “Every year we make a donation to the community from our cookie sales. We have donated to the animal shelter, the community garden, the MSSPA Horse Rescue and made Christmas ornaments for the nursing homes. This year we wanted to make sure the Windham police department dog is safe.”

Kora, a five-year-old Malinois, is the recipient of the protective K-9 vest.

On Aug. 18, Windham Police Officer Steven Stubbs along with Kora, visited with Troop 1518 members on the lawn of the Friends Meeting House across the street from the Windham Police station.

“First of all, I would like to thank all of you very much for your generosity in making sure Kora is safe,” he said. “When I’m on a high-risk call, she is usually the first to go into the situation. When I send her in, it means a lot to me knowing she is protected.”

Stubbs has been training Kora since she was 6-months-old.

“Initial K-9 certification takes 480 hours of patrol training in order to qualify to take the test.” Stubbs said. “We have to certify every year for patrol and drugs. Kora can jump over 6-foot walls, find evidence articles and track and protect humans. She works extremely hard and receives little pay for doing it.”

He said Kora has a superior sense of smell and is a great detector.

“She can find a whole slew of illegal drugs,” Stubbs said. “On one of our fun training days we teamed up with the Falmouth K-9 dog team and simulated a drug deal with the Coast Guard. We went out on the Falmouth officer’s boat to where the Coast Guard boat was docked. Drugs had been hidden on the Coast Guard boat for the dogs to locate. This was great training for the dogs. If it becomes necessary for Kora to travel to a shipyard or a wharf full of boats, she won’t be distracted. She knows exactly what she needs to do.”
According to Stubbs. a fully trained police dog is worth probably between $18,000 to $20,000 but in their line of work, they are invaluable.

“They protect us in all different kinds of situations. You really can’t put a price on them,” Stubbs said. “We ask these dogs to do so much. The least we can do for them is to protect them with a vest.”

The new vest is stab resistant, cut resistant and bullet proof.

“There is a door popper on my police car door. If I encounter a confrontation with another individual all I have to do is press a button which I have in my pocket, and it pops the car door open. and Kora immediately jumps out of the car and runs to my side to assess the situation,” he said. “She is amazing at reading body language. She can deescalate a negative situation so quickly just by being present. Individuals are more willing to comply with what we want them to do when she shows up.”

Each day Kora can be found traveling along in the back seat of Officer Stubbs’ police car in her new protective vest.

“When I answer an incoming call over the radio, Kora knows it is time to go to work. She begins barking incessantly, jumping around and pacing across the backseat with almost uncontrollable excitement.” Stubbs said.

Her excitement about going to work each day is something most of us would have a hard time relating to. In so many ways it is evident she is a rare breed and deserves to be protected with a K-9 vest, thanks to a generous donation from Girl Scout Troop 1518. <

Friday, August 20, 2021

Promises kept: Windham couple celebrates 70th wedding anniversary

By Ed Pierce

Joan and Arthur Wickham of Windham were married at
Holy Cross Catholic Church in South Portland on Aug. 18, 1951
and they celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary with a
pontoon boat cruise on Sebago Lake with family members
last weekend. SUBMITTED PHOTO

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 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. < 

Seized horses recovering at MSSPA facilities in Windham

Since July, the Maine State Society for the Protection of 
Animals in Windham has been caring for 18 horses that
were seized from an owner in Springvale. The MSSPA 
aims to rehabilitate the horses, get them healthy and find
them new homes, COURTESY PHOTO
By Ed Pierce

The Maine State Society for the Protection of Animals is always prepared to handle emergency care situations for horses but nothing the nonprofit rescue organization has seen before could prepare them for what they’ve experienced this summer.

On July 14, Maine’s Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry's Animal Welfare Program seized 20 horses, 11 chickens, two pigs, six dogs, six cats, two geckos, three rats, and a bearded dragon from an owner in Springvale and at that point the MSSPA assumed care for the horses, many of whom were in desperate need of food, vaccines, and veterinary care.

According to Meris Bickford, the MSSPA’s chief executive officer, the 20 rescued horses joined 27 other equines at the facility on River Road in Windham, swelling its population to 47 in just one day.

“To the best of my memory it’s the largest equine seizure I can ever recall in Maine,” Bickford said. “We used a caravan of trucks and trailers and vehicles to bring them here.”

Almost immediately two of the suffering horses were determined to be beyond the scope of medical help and were euthanized. The remaining horses that were seized range in age from a month-old filly to in their 20s.

The rescued equines include a group of wild mustangs captured by the Bureau of Land Management agents out west and shipped to the farm in Springvale where the owner was struggling to care for them.

“These mustangs are a band of five,” Bickford said. “They have not been touched before by human beings. Some had lice, some had not had their hooves trimmed or had basic vaccinations.”        

Liam Hughes, Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry's Animal Welfare Program director, said that he’s pleased that organizations like the MSSPA exist to assist in helping these horses recover and find new homes.

"The animals are getting the medical care and attention that they need to thrive," Hughes said. "We are immensely grateful to all of the animal sheltering organizations, animal control officers, and volunteers who worked together on this important cause."

During a hearing in July, the owner of the seized horses acknowledged an inability to care for the animals and received a lifetime animal possession ban, Hughes said. The owner can ask the court to amend the ban in five years and no charges will be filed.

In a little more than month since the seized and suffering horses arrived at the MSSPA facility, many are improving significantly, Bickford said.

“Of the 18 that are left, many are making good progress,” she said. “Some are thin, but they are not malnourished. A couple are in decent condition.”

The MSSPA’s goal is to rehabilitate the horses and then find new homes for them. They receive the best possible veterinary and farrier care on site and some eligible horses receive professional training in groundwork, riding, and driving. If no suitable adoption is found, the horses may live out their natural lives at the farm.

“For some it will be a fairly short turnaround,” Bickford said. “One of the mustangs though we have not been able to have hands on yet because it is wild.” 

Bickford said that MSSPA prepares, plans, and budgets each year to assist up to 100 rescue horses at one time but acknowledges that a large group like the one arriving this summer from the seizure does indeed put a strain on some areas associated with their care.

“It means more veterinarian resources, more feed and that our budget expenses have doubled,” she said. 

She said the MSSPA is thankful that many people have called or emailed them asking how they can help or be of assistance following the seizure, even though the facility remains closed to the public because of continuing COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.

“We’ve had a tremendous outpouring of interest in these animals and had all manners and offers of in-kind assistance,” Bickford said. “The best way someone can help us is by making a donation at and to also vigorously report animal abuse to the authorities when they see it. <

Friday, August 13, 2021

Longtime Windham teacher honored by Community Service Award

Pat Wilson taught for 29 years at Manchester
School in Windham and in retirement has
spent years volunteering for non-profit
organizations in Westbrook. On Aug. 18, 
Wilson will be honored with the 2021
Highland Grange Award at the Highland
Lake Community Center. 
By Collette Hayes

Former Windham teacher Pat Wilson has devoted her life to the service of others and for her efforts in making a difference for so many, the Highland Lake Grange is recognizing her with the 2021 Highland Grange Award.

The honor is given to Westbrook residents who have made a significant difference in the lives of others through community service. To celebrate her accomplishments, grange members present her the award at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 18 at the Highland Lake Community Center.

According to Larry Levesque, a Highland Lake Grange member, the Grange Service Award salutes an individual who makes a significant difference in the lives of others, and he said Wilson fits that description perfectly.

Levesque said that Wilson has devoted a lifetime to the service of family, friends and the Windham and Westbrook communities. Over the last several years she has donated many hours-of-service volunteering one day a week at the Westbrook Community Center in Cornelia’s Closet, the thrift store in Westbrook and after seeing a need for volunteers at the Westbrook Community Center’s food pantry, she started volunteering there one day a week as well.

Just the other day, sitting next to the large windows in her kitchen during an afternoon thundershower, she talked of just that. She had spent the last few months collecting bundles of clothes that were now piling up to overflowing in her closet.

“I wanted to take the bags of clothes over to the thrift store today,” she said, “but with this unexpected rain, I will have to put it off until another day. For the last several years, I have taken my personal jewelry over as well. I love to see how happy it makes the customers at the thrift store to receive something so beautiful.”

Her sense of goodness draws many to her which is evident when she talks of how the customers at the food pantry invite her to attend their luncheons and are anxious to sit and talk for a while whenever she is volunteering at the pantry.

Her former students at Manchester Elementary, where she taught for 29 years, feel the same way. Today they have grown to adults, and many follow her on Facebook.

She said that she set high expectations for each one of her students and tried to individualize instruction to meet their specific needs.

“When I was teaching, every day I would try to find something fun and interesting to include in my lesson plans, something to be sure each student would learn and grow.”

Now many years later, she still tries to meet those individual needs of her former students by posting things she thinks they might be interested in learning mixed with a lot of humor. 

“They need humor to survive in this challenging world,” she said, as a beautiful smile lightened her face. Looking out the window to the rain, which now had turned to a heavy downpour, she reflected on one of her only regrets as a teacher. “I wish I would have had more time to get to know a lot more about each one of my students so I could have better prepared them to meet their life challenges.”

In 1998, Wilson retired from teaching to take care of her husband who had suffered a stroke and was confined to a wheelchair. Her husband enjoyed traveling, and Pat was by his side each step of the way helping him to enjoy the things he loved to do.

Her daughter, Kathleen Burkhart, shared insight into how much Pat loved her dad and her dedication to him.

“Mum’s time was dedicated to Dad and his needs and the groups he belonged to,” Burkhart said. “She was a fantastic caregiver for 29 years. Yes, 29 years with him in a wheelchair.”

Burkhart also spoke of ways that her mother has served in the community.

“Many years ago, Mum started the Westbrook Festival of Trees in my grandmother’s name, Beatrice Elwell, because gram loved Christmas so much,” she said. “The charities that were recipients of the donations have been Westbrook Police, Tots for Tots, Mission Possible, Animal Refuge League, camperships for Pilgrim Lodge and Westbrook Warren Congregational Church.”

After retiring from teaching, her mother volunteered with the Cumberland County Retired Educators Association writing the newsletter and working to help get better benefits for teachers and retirees,” Burkhart said.

Following her mother’s death, Wilson volunteered at the hospital where her mother spent the last weeks of her life. She has been a member of the Westbrook Warren Congregational Church since she was 11 years old and has served on the Christian Education Board and the Deacons Committee at the church for many years.

About five years ago, Wilson worked with a local, young Somalian man to help get his family to the United States. She started by paying him to do odd jobs and eventually made a large donation to his cause.

Even though on a Friday afternoon, many years ago, Wilson closed the door for the last time in her fifth-grade classroom at Manchester School, she still continues to inspire us through the example of the often-forgotten principles of empathy, compassion and service. <

Speed reductions ahead for Windham motorists

The Maine Department of Transportation has 
authorized a request by the town of Windham
to reduce the speed limit on William Knight
Road off Varney Mill Road from its current
limit of 45 mph to 40 mph. Speed limits for
a portion of Nash Road and for Gambo Road
will also drop from 35 mph to 30 mph.
By Ed Pierce

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 road 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 at located near the end of the road that accommodate various recreation programs.  This situation creates more traffic than one would expect on dead end road with few dwellings.”

He said every year the Windham Police Department receives speed complaints on the road and efforts officers 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 road. 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. <

Friday, August 6, 2021

Grueling ‘Guardian Ride’ fundraiser nearing for Windham veteran


By Ed Pierce

Windham resident Brian McCarthy, a South Portland police
officer, will undertake a 360-mile trek on his mountain bike
from Windham to Moosehead Lake and back in an effort
to raise money for his former military unit, the 488th
Military Police Company based in Waterville. This is
the fourth summer that McCarthy has rode across Maine
on his 'Guardian Ride' to help fund programs that assist
families of soldiers serving overseas.
When Brian McCarthy 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 are 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.”

To make a pledge to McCarthy for this year’s “Guardian Ride,” visit <

She touched many lives: Windham and Raymond remember educator Jani Cummings

 By Brian Bizier

Longtime educator taught first grade and second grade for
38 years at Raymond Elementary School and later became
a member of the RSU 14 Board of Directors. A memorial
service will be held on Sunday afternoon at Jordan-Small
Middle School for Cummings, who died in April of 
respiratory failure at age 67. COURTESY PHOTO 
Every town holds its share of inspiring citizens who seem to know everyone, who manage to stay in touch with friends and relatives all over the world, and who have a gift for bringing the community together. For Windham and Raymond, Janis Elizabeth Cummings was that amazing person.

Born April 9, 1954 in Beaufort, South Carolina to Samuel Cummings and Lou Nerren, who were both U.S. Marines, Janis, known to her friends and family as Jani, and her brother, grew up traveling all over the world. Her family eventually settled in Raymond, and Jani attended Windham High School, where she was very active in drama productions. Upon graduation, she enrolled at Westbrook College and the University of Southern Maine, where she received her teaching degree.

For Jani, teaching meant following in her family’s footsteps.

“In my first year of teaching, Jani’s mother, Lou Cummings, was also a teacher,” said Bill Diamond, Maine State Senator’s from Windham. “Lou was a former Marine, she was someone I respected, and I always did whatever she told me.”

Upon earning her teaching degree, Jani joined Raymond Elementary School, where she taught first and second grade students for 38 years. She was a beloved teacher with a gift for bringing community members into her classrooms and interacting with students.

“She had this amazing way of getting you outside your comfort zone and encouraging you to just be better, in a way,” said Jessica Fay, a Maine State Representative from Raymond. “Jani was one of the first people that I met after we moved here and I opened the flower shop, so we met because of flowers. She loved flowers, and I was a florist. I didn’t have a lot of experience with young children, but one of the things that she did, is she said, ‘I would love for you to come to my class and teach Japanese floral design to my first-graders.’ Which was terrifying! She encouraged me, she kind of told me that this was something she’d really like to have happen.”

Eventually, Fay did agree to join Jani’s classroom.

“I did it,” Fay said. “I went into the class and taught the kids while they were studying Japan. That was how Jani taught. She was a teacher of young students, but she was also a teacher for the adults around her.”

Diamond shared similar memories of Jani’s classroom.

“She was a teacher in Raymond when I was Maine Secretary of State,” Diamond said. “And she’d invite me down to talk to the students. Even when I finished as secretary, I kept visiting her class.”

Fay recounted that Jani was an amazing teacher.

“She had this way with kids, and adults too, and their parents,” she said. “I think a teacher needs to be able to have a relationship with an entire family, and she really did.”

Deborah Hutchinson, former principal of Raymond Elementary School, agrees with Fay’s assessment.

“She could make the school come alive,” Hutchinson said.

Jani’s ability to form relationships extended far beyond the walls of Raymond Elementary School.

“Something that was super sweet with Jani, on a personal note was that out of the blue, you’d get a note from Jani that she was thinking of you or just wanted to encourage you” said Chris Howell, RSU 14 Schools Superintendent. “She really cared about those personal relationships and did all she could to foster them.”

For Jani, those personal relationships took many forms. She was very active in the local Democratic Party, and very supportive of women in politics.

“I can’t remember who encouraged who to run for office, but she was always very supportive of and encouraging of me when I decided to run, and when she decided to run for School Board,” Fay said.

For many, Jani was also a part of many Raymond residents’ more romantic moments.

“She was a notary public, so she married many of the people in town,” Hutchinson said. “She married my daughter and her husband and she performed the ceremony.”

Once she retired from teaching, Jani opened a bed and breakfast in her Victorian home, which was across the street from the Raymond Village Library. She loved connecting to visitors from around the world, and she also loved welcoming Raymond’s children into her yard on Halloween.

“Halloween will never be the same down in the village,” Hutchinson said. “Jani would have 300 or more kids come to her house, and she always made sure she had enough candy for everyone.”

Jani also continued her involvement in education by becoming an active and vital member of the RSU 14 School Board following her retirement.

“She had an absolute love of children,” Howell said. “She would do anything possible in her power to help a kid out and to make sure that a kid succeeded and, to go along with that, to make sure the teachers had everything they needed. It didn’t matter if it was in her classroom or doing policy and procedures for the School Board.”

Her commitment to caring for others continued throughout her entire life, even toward the end. Howell described School Board leadership meetings on Zoom which Jani attended from the ICU when she became ill.

“She couldn’t speak, because she was on a ventilator,” Howell said. “So, she wrote messages on a whiteboard.”

Jani also expressed concern for the hospital’s staff during her stay.

“Even in the ICU, Jani was thinking about the staff at the hospital,” Hutchinson said. “She asked me if I would go out and get some ‘fancy candy’ for them. So, I got a couple dozen boxes of fancy candy and passed them out.”

Jani Cummings passed away on April 24 after a courageous battle with respiratory failure. She was 67 years old.

“Jani was our conscience,” said Diamond. “No matter who you were, she was a consistent conscience for all of us. She was an example of how to live right and care for others. When she passed away, and I think a lot of people feel the same way, we lost a piece of what’s really good.”

Fay agrees.

“It’s very difficult for me to imagine Raymond without her,” Fay said.
“She really was one of those people who connected different people in different parts of the community and brought them together. She taught us the importance of community and connection. I think when we are committed to each other, and to our community, we’re honoring her.”

Howell said that he’ll miss Jani’s dry sense of humor, which he appreciated.

“I’ve heard, since her passing, just countless people in the community who’ve said she was able to touch their lives over the years,” he said. “She was wonderful presence for both communities, Windham and Raymond. I definitely will cherish the time that I had with her. And I miss her.”

A celebration of Jani’s life will be held at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 8 at Jordan-Small Middle School in Raymond. The event is open to the public, and everyone is invited.

Additionally, Jessica Fay is inviting members of the community to donate flowers from their garden to make community flower arrangements to honor Jani Cummings through the flowers that she so dearly loved. Please call Fay at 415-4218 if you have flowers to share. <