Friday, June 24, 2022

Beloved RSU 14 music teacher sails into retirement

By Lorraine Glowczak

After inspiring students in music education for 43 years, and 41 years devoted to RSU 14, Nancy Cash-Cobb is shifting her youthful tomfoolery from the classroom to retirement. She plans to spend time with family and friends and her husband, Jerry Cobb, on their lakeshore home on Crescent Lake in Raymond during the summers while hitting the road in their RV to the warmer climates of Florida and Texas during the Maine winters.

After 41 years of teaching music to students in Windham and
Raymond and 43 years overall as a music educator, Nancy
Cash-Cobb has officially retired from RSU 14. Through the
years she has inspired thousands of children to enjoy music.
“I have a whole list of things I plan to do during my retirement,” said Cash-Cobb, whose small physical demeanor explodes with a big personality. “I plan to meet with friends for lunch, spend time floating on our newly purchased pontoon boat, babysitting my grandson, and exploring the U.S. in the RV my husband and I purchased last fall.”

Her petite but mighty 4-foot, 9-inch presence has impacted the Windham/Raymond community in many ways, including her recent induction into the Maine Music Educators Hall of Fame on May 19 at the Maine Music Educator’s Conference in Orono.

Dr. Richard Nickerson, Windham High School’s Music and Chorus teacher and conductor of Windham Chambers Singer, presented the award to Cash-Cobb during the induction ceremonies. Before delivering the award, he told a crowded room of admiring contemporaries that Cash-Cobb’s classroom is a place of comfort, exploration and wonder.

“Nancy offers encouragement as she helps her students find their voice,” he said. “Her classroom is a safe space where students are free to take chances without any fear of judgment. The mention of her name brings a smile to anyone who has had her as a teacher, even if it has been decades since they were in her classroom.”

Nickerson’s observation about Cash-Cobb’s past students and their love for her was apparent in a recent community Facebook post where people were allowed to share their memories of her. In addition, one parent and student shared their stories in another venue.

“She was my first music teacher, and I had her until third grade,” said former student Jane Davis, whose 20-year-old daughter, Emma, was also a student. “She was the best. I remember being very excited when we grew to be as tall as her, we truly thought we had arrived when we grew to be her same height.”

Jane Davis’ fond memories grew even more warmhearted as she recalled her daughter’s experiences as Cash-Cobb’s student.

“Emma was in first grade, and for some reason, she had a really rough time and did not want to go to school,” Jane Davis said. “But she really loved Mrs. Cash-Cobb’s classroom, and the only way we could get her to school was reminding her that if she went to school, she would get to be in the music classroom. We would say, ‘only one more day, and you’ll get to be in music.’ It was truly the only way we could get her to school.”

Jane Davis said Cash-Cobb could make her daughter feel special and gave her daughter encouragement to overcome her fears and Emma Davis continued her mother’s sentiments.

“Mrs. Cash-Cobb was critical in my education,” said Emma Davis, now a dance instructor and the lead dancer for the Maine State Ballet in the Nutcracker. “She was the only thing that got me through school and nurtured my interest in the arts from a very young age. Even to this day, she supports me; she always makes an effort to reach out to me. She is the best teacher ever.”

Cash-Cobb said she loves every student she has met and does it with unique joy.

“I have always said that I go to school every day and act like an idiot, and they pay me for it,” she said. “I’m silly. It’s part of my personality. I believe that teaching style brings the kids to the teacher and provides an atmosphere of home in the classroom.”

Nickerson backs up her philosophy of education as he witnesses her students’ enthusiasm when they arrive at high school and in his classrooms.

“Her spitfire personality created a safe space for students to be weird themselves,” he said. “When I ask those students who become Chamber Singers what brought them here, they always respond that it was Nancy’s third-grade chorus.”

Cash-Cobb has made many impressions on third-grade students’ musical lives by providing opportunities to perform at many events and venues. These include Windham’s Christmas Tree Lighting, WPS Color Run/Walk, Naturalization Ceremonies, Memorial Day events, the SeaDog’s home games at Hadlock Field, nursing home performances, and opening for the WHS art shows and spring concerts, as well as many performances at the Capitol in Augusta.

Her impact has also gone beyond the classroom. She is actively involved in many statewide and national organizations that include the following: the Maine Chapter of the American Orff-Schulwerk Association for music and movement, spent many years as a Sunday School teacher, was a board member of Maine Music Educators, was a Girl Scout leader, taught Vacation Bible School, was a teacher at the New England Suzuki Institute and is the treasurer for the American Legion Auxiliary.

Cash-Cobb, who grew up playing the violin and was part of the Christian folk/rock group “Free Spirits,” graduated from the University of Southern Maine in music education in 1979. She began her career as a music teacher that same year, where she taught Band, Chorus, and General Music at Sacopee Valley for two years before landing a teaching job in Windham.

Dr. Kyle Rhoads, Windham Primary School principal, said that Cash-Cobb will be greatly missed and speaks highly of her role with the students.

“Mrs. Nancy Cash-Cobb has splendidly taught music education at WPS for over 40 years,” he said. “She has touched the lives of generations of Windham students with her enthusiasm for music and her kind soul. As Nancy prepares to retire, she will be greatly missed by the entire Windham community. Thank you, Nancy!” <

Windham’s Bubar makes great strides on racing circuit

By Andrew Wing

It is common knowledge that driving cars at over 100 mph is dangerous. However, for Corey Bubar, his love for racing is so immense that he doesn’t spend much time worrying about that, but rather he is just focused on having fun racing in the moment.

Windham auto racer Corey Bubar and his team will compete 
for a $10,000 prize at the Keen Parts 150 race at the Lee 
USA Speedway in Lee, New Hampshire on July 15.
Before he had even reached his teenage years, Bubar was racing go-karts at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway in Scarborough in 2004. After doing that for a few years, he moved up to the sports series division in 2007, and then just one year after graduating from Windham High School, Bubar won the championship in the Sports Series division at Beech Ridge in 2011.

Following his championship, Bubar moved up to the Pro Series division in 2012 and his overall time in that division was also incredibly successful, winning more NASCAR Night races than any other racer at Beech Ridge and he also won the “Driver of the Decade” award for the 2010s.

Bubar has always had a passion for cars. He started working as a used car mechanic at Lake Region Imports in Westbrook while still in high school. After leaving there at the end of 2020, Bubar began working at Viking-Cives in Lewiston where they build plow trucks for New England towns and he performs most of the welding there.

Despite his passion for cars, Bubar got into racing because the apple didn’t fall far from the tree.

“I got into racing because my dad has raced since the 1980s,” said Bubar. “He stopped in the early 2000s and when the opportunity came for me to get started in go-kart racing, we didn’t hesitate and we’ve been at it ever since.”

Since Bubar started racing nearly 20 years ago, he has come to find many things that he likes about the sport, but his favorite is the thought process that goes into it.

“There are so many options of how to set up your car and you always have to think of ways that can make it better,” said Bubar. “Some of the things that I come up with are really outside of the box, and it’s really cool when they work.”

On the other hand, Bubar has also come to find out that there are some parts of racing that he doesn’t like as much, and the worst part to him is altercations with people.

“Racing is so competitive, and sometimes people’s tempers get hot,” said Bubar. “If you’re successful, then you will have your fair share of them, and I have lost friends because of racing.”

There have been a lot of ups and downs throughout Bubar’s racing career, but last season just might’ve been the best yet for him and his Bubar Motorsports team as they won three races and Bubar won his first touring series race.

“Last season was pretty good for us,” said Bubar. “I had a chance at the championship, but ended up in second place, just four points behind. A lot of credit goes to my team, we had a fast car just about every week.”

Following his exceptional season in 2021, Bubar was excited for what this season had in store, but with Beech Ridge Motor Speedway closing at the end of last year, he and his team didn’t enter 2022 with many expectations. Despite the closing, Bubar and his team have competed in some races, and while their luck hasn’t gone their way so far this season, Bubar and his team still have hope for what’s yet to come.

“The results from our season have been a little bit discouraging,” said Bubar. “However, we have still had good speed at a few of the races, so hopefully we can get some good finishes this year.”

Next up for Bubar and his team is the Keen Parts 150 race that features a $10,000 prize at the Lee USA Speedway in New Hampshire on July 15, and at the Oxford 250 that will be held at the Oxford Plains Speedway on Aug. 28. There are also a couple other races that they plan on going to as well, but without the pressure of a championship at Beech Ridge, Bubar and his team’s goal for the rest of the season is to just go and race for fun.

Aside from the rest of this season, Bubar is realistic about what he can accomplish in racing professionally.

“I don’t really have any higher aspirations for my career. I just like doing what we are doing now,” said Bubar. “I would just like to thank all of my family, crew and sponsors who help me out to be able to keep racing.” <

Friday, June 17, 2022

Academics a cinch for Windham’s Agneta siblings

Four siblings from one family have finished among the top
three academically in their class over the years at Windham
High School. From left are Christina Agneta Imbrogno, 
Melissa Agneta, Dominic Agneta, and Monica Agneta, who
was the WHS Class of 2022 salutatorian, finishing second
academically among her classmates. COURTESY PHOTO 
By Ed Pierce

To have a member of a family finish in the top three academically in high school is a significant accomplishment, but in 2022 a Windham family has established a new record that may stand for some time as a fourth family member ended up among the top three of her graduating class at Windham High School.

Monica Agneta was the WHS Class of 2022’s salutatorian, finishing second academically, and joining her brother, Dominic, and sisters, Christina and Melissa, as top academic standouts in their classes at WHS.

Finishing third academically for the Class of 2010 at WHS was Christina Agneta Imbrogno while Melissa Agneta was ranked third overall at WHS for the Class of 2016. Dominic Agneta was the top-ranking student academically at WHS for the Class of 2018 and was that year’s valedictorian for the school.

Monica Agneta will attend the University of Maine at Orono this fall and is aiming for an eventual career in cybersecurity.

She said her favorite classes at WHS were Russian Language 1 and 2 and that the most challenging aspect of high school for her was to prioritize sleep to escape stress.

“My favorite teacher was Jeff Conant, and though I never had him for class, he impacted me simply by being one of my biggest supporters,” she said. “He gave me many pieces of advice, shut down my self-doubt, and his positivity brightened many of my mornings in advisory.”

Christina Agneta Imbrogno is married and now lives in Southeastern Connecticut. She works as a Systems Engineer at the General Dynamics Electric Boat shipbuilding company and previously worked at 3M for four years as a Product Development Engineer and Safety Engineer.

She says that AP Chemistry was her favorite class at WHS, and Lisa McLellan was her favorite teacher.

“My favorite teacher was Mrs. McLellan because her classes were challenging, but interactive, and she explained chemistry in a way that made sense and inspired me to major in Chemical Engineering in college,” she said. “Her classroom was also a welcoming place to hang out in and she led the Science Olympiad team.”

Dominic Agneta graduated from the University of Maine in May and is moving to Dallas, Texas this month to work as an Equipment Engineer for Texas Instruments.

He’s single and says his favorite class at WHS was Physics and his favorite teacher at WHS was Wayne Rathbun.

“I took Physics 2 with him, and I was one of six students,” he said. “The lessons were rich with professional knowledge, but still personal which made it a joy to attend class.”

Melissa Agneta recently got engaged and now lives in Central Connecticut. After graduating from college, she’s worked as a Quality Engineer on hydrogen fuel cell power plants and during the pandemic she served as a virtual high school biology teacher.

Her favorite class at WHS was AP Chemistry and like her sister Christina says that her favorite WHS teacher was Lisa McLellan.

“She taught lessons that were really hands on. I always loved going outside with my classmates and watching Mrs. McLellan combine things like sodium, metal and water to make explosive reactions,” she said. “Going to chemistry class was always really fun and it had a big impact on my future after high school.”

All four siblings offered advice to WHS students looking to excel academically in the future.

“Find a sport or activity outside of academics that you enjoy. It's important to have an outlet that can take your mind off school every once in a while,” Melissa Agneta said. “I danced competitively throughout school, and though it took up a lot of my free time, it made me really happy and always gave me something to look forward to that was outside of academics.”

Taking AP classes will help to prepare students for college courses, said Christina Agneta Imbrogno. She also suggests that WHS students learn new study techniques to help boost their academic skills.

The best advice that Dominic Agneta said he can offer to WHS students trying to determine a major for college is to look at job postings that they are interested in and then look at the qualifications you would need for those jobs.

And he offers some simple advice to become a better student at WHS.

“Attend every single class, and challenge yourself,” he said.

Monica Agneta’s advice to those seeking academic success is to not shy away from taking tough courses.

“To improve academic standing, students should challenge themselves with the classes they sign up for and always turn in their best work,” she said. “Make sure that there are things to look forward to in your schedule, as it will keep you motivated and make the harder days more bearable.” <

Summerfest returns to Windham in a big way Saturday

Windham Summerfest launches with a
parade starting at noon Saturday, June
18 running from Lotts Drive to
Windham High School and the festivities 
end with fireworks about 9:35 p.m. 
Saturday evening. FILE PHOTO
By Ed Pierce

Summerfest is back and as Windham emerges from two years of scaled-back versions of the popular community event, this year’s festivities and activities promise to return some normalcy to the town following the pandemic.  

The daylong event at Windham High School kicks off with the annual Summerfest Parade starting at noon Saturday, June 18. The parade line-up begins at 11 a.m. with the route starting at Lotts Drive then running up Route 202 and ending in the WHS parking lot. Awards will be given for Best Depiction of the 2022 Theme: “Windham – Welcome Back,” the Best Depiction of Summerfest Theme: “Bringing Unity to the Community,” Most Creative, Most Entertaining and the Judge’s Choice. Award category winners will receive a $200 Visa gift card.

As Summerfest participants arrive at the high school grounds starting at noon, they’ll find a Car Show hosted by Yankee Cruisers AYAH. The car display runs through 5 p.m. and is open to everyone. There is no registration fee to display a car, but donations will be accepted with proceeds benefiting Riding to the Top of Windham. Car show awards will be presented at 5 p.m.

The annual 5K and 1-Mile Memorial Races will start at 7:45 a.m. Saturday at WHS in conjunction with Summerfest. Race, run, walk, or wheel in honor of veterans and in remembrance of Toby Pennels of Windham. For more information or to register to participate in the races visit

There will be plenty of free entertainment, food, craft, and community booths open to the public through the day into the evening. Magician Phil Smith will be on hand throughout the festivities and there will be a community cornhole tournament, a photo booth and a free bounce house for children sponsored by The Refuge Church.

The TRAWL Band will perform on stage from 1 to 2 p.m., followed by the presentation of the Modern Woodmen Hometown Hero Award at 2 p.m. by Hannah McFarland and Matthew Neadeau.

There will be a K-9 demonstration by the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Department at 2:15 p.m. The Cryin’ Out Loud band takes the Summerfest stage from 3 to 4:30 p.m. and will be followed by a demonstration by dancers from the Maine Dance Center at 4:30 p.m.

Cousin ITT sponsored by the Windham Legislative Delegation runs from 5 to 7 p.m. Winners for the Summerfest Scavenger Hunt and the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce Golf Ball Drop will be announced at 7 p.m.

Golf balls are being sold by the Sebago Lake Chamber of Commerce for $10 each, with a total of 1,000 golf balls available. The golf balls will be dropped during Summerfest at 3 p.m. with the winner receiving 20 percent of the amount collected. If all golf balls are sold the winner would receive $2,000 cash. Additional prizes will also be awarded. Proceeds from the golf ball drop will benefit the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce, its events and annual programs.

The Motor Booty Affair band takes the stage to perform from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. and this year’s Summerfest will draw to a spectacular close with fireworks not to be missed at 9:30 p.m.

The Windham Summerfest Committee has been working on the event since last June and includes Ed Ohmott; Aaron Pieper; Barb Maurais; Tommy Matthews; and Committee Chair Deb Matthews. <


Friday, June 10, 2022

Penney’s positive mindset inspires WHS Class of 2022 students

Having overcome more than a few obstacles during her time
at Windham High School, Hailey Penney is a positive
inspiration for her classmates and will graduate with other
members of the Class of 2022 on Sunday, June 12.
By Ed Pierce

If there is one common theme that connects members of the Windham High School Class of 2022, it’s positivity and Hailey Penney has more than enough positive wishes for the entire graduating class.

Like many other students in the graduating class, Penney has had to overcome a few obstacles in high school but will be on hand at Cross Insurance Arena in Portland on Sunday to receive her diploma. Her calm and congenial attitude has inspired both students and staff at the school who’ve overcome two years of the pandemic and associated restrictions because of the virus.  

“The teachers and school administrators have been there by my side through all my hardships and have seen my ability to focus on school and improving myself by taking big steps to better my own life,” Penney said. “A few of my closest friends said that others may not know about my strong will and perseverance when it comes to academics, work and personal challenges.”

WHS Assistant Principal Vanessa Michaud says that Penney is a standout in her graduating class because of her care for others and cheerful attitude.

Hailey has a maturity and has had some life experiences that have given her a wisdom well beyond her years.  She solely has had the drive and initiative to become independent and prepare for her next steps in her journey after high school,” Michaud said. “Hailey also challenged herself this year with a very full plate to achieve her goals taking early college courses, her courses at WHS, as well as working. “

She said Penney is one of the kindest, caring, hardworking, strong, and independent students she has had the pleasure of getting to know and she’s honest to the core. 

“When Hailey has a free moment, she can be seen around WHS checking in on staff and truly engaging in deep meaningful conversations about how they are doing and how things are going for her.  She has an ability to make someone feel like they have known her for years in a matter of seconds,” Michaud said. “Her smile and genuine personality warm the heart.  Hailey is a good friend and checks in with her peers and is always there to support and encourage them.  Hailey is not afraid to try new things, push herself outside of her comfort zone, and face new challenges.”

Michaud said Penney’s resilience and desire to learn has helped her become a promising student.

“In the beginning of her high school career, Hailey often struggled in some her core academic classes.  She would often seek out a quiet place to try to complete her assignments and struggled with some of the core academic classes,” she said. “Her Junior year, Hailey joined our APEX program and with the guidance of the teacher, Adrianne Shetenhelm, Hailey thrived in the more independent learning environment and began to excel. She started to realize her potential as a learner and as she thrived began to look for more challenging courses therefore seeking out the early college courses.  Hailey is a student who at times in her high school career seemed to have all the odds against her and she found a way to rise above and truly shine, always with that smile on her face.”

WHS Assistant Principal Phil Rossetti agrees with that assessment.

“Hailey is a student that has forged her own path. She has advocated for herself and sought every chance to improve and truly used her education as an opportunity to advance herself,” Rossetti said. “She is someone who is wise beyond her years and a joy to work with. She makes everyone around her feel better and welcomed. I/we will miss her smile and infectious positivity.”

Penney said during her time at WHS, she developed a strong bond with social worker Caj Macdonald.

“She has helped me through so many things that I thought I would never be able to make it out of and I’m very grateful for that,” Penney said.

Her favorite class in high school was any of Joe McLaughlin’s art classes but says they were also the most challenging classes for her too.

“I thrived in the environment, and he taught me patience and drive,” she said. “They may have been my favorite but there were many times of frustration when my painting just didn’t look how I imagined. The challenge is what I loved most about art.”

She’s dealt with personal issues in her family while in high school that would have severely impacted other students but kept a positive mindset and says it made her more resilient.

“I knew that getting my diploma was important,” Penney said.

Besides focusing on academics, Penney says she enjoys spending time with my friends, dirt biking, hiking, and many other outdoor activities in her free time. 

Her immediate plan after graduation is to start a new job.

“I just got a conditional offer at the prison in Windham to be a corrections officer,” she said. “I will be starting there after I receive my diploma and go through other steps.” 

Penney says that she’ll cherish and remember fondly the past few months of her senior year.

“The most memorable part of high school for me would be these last moments with prom, marching practice, senior activities and saying goodbye to everyone,” she said. “It’s true when they say you won’t know you miss it until it’s gone. However, I’m excited to take the next step in life.” <

Voters to decide fate of North Windham sewer project Tuesday

Windham residents will vote on a referendum Tuesday for a
proposed project to create a new sewer system and a 
wastewater treatment facility for North Windham. The project
will not raise residential taxes and is intended to safeguard
the environment while bringing new businesses and
industries to North Windham. PHOTO BY KEITH MANK  
By Ed Pierce

The results of Tuesday’s referendum could be transformative for residents of Windham as voters will determine if the town should proceed with a proposed $40.4 million sewer and wastewater treatment project for North Windham.

Town officials say that the project will not raise taxes as all but $500,000 has been covered to pay for the initiative through a combination of grant funding, a $38.9 million award by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and North Windham TIF funding supported by North Windham businesses. The project will include a new wastewater treatment facility on the grounds of Manchester School and address environmental issues by removing thousands of pounds of nitrogen and phosphorus being dumped by septic systems into the aquifer and watershed. It is intended to stimulate significant economic growth and development in the area from industry and businesses not willing to locate there because of septic system issues and costs.

Windham Town Manager Barry Tibbetts said if the project is approved, no resident will be required to hook up to the sewer and no penalty fee will be imposed if residences decline to join the sewer, unless the residence is adjacent to the sewer and experiences a total septic system failure. He said the fees to hook up to the sewer have not yet been established but would be nominal and in line with what neighboring communities charge.

The sewer project is supported by the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce, said Robin Mullins, Executive Director, Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce.

“The SLRCC has been working with the Town of Windham in support of the infrastructure improvements necessary to transition the North Windham Commercial District into the dynamic mixed-use downtown that their 21st Century Downtown Plan envisions and as it grows in its role as the service center for the Sebago Lakes Region,” Mullins said. “The planned wastewater treatment system will provide opportunities for business expansion, infill development, as well as new light industry, hotel and housing development in the downtown.”

According to Mullins, in the short-term, the new wastewater treatment system will provide the necessary infrastructure to enable Windham to become a business-friendly environment that provides a high quality of life, a vibrant economy and a welcoming atmosphere, while protecting the town’s natural resources.

“The removal of more than 100 commercial septic systems, with their thousands of pounds of nitrogen and phosphorous currently being discharged into the aquifer and ultimately into the Sebago Lake watershed, will improve the water quality of both the aquifer and the lakes and ponds surrounding the downtown,” she said. “Long-term, we are hopeful this new advanced wastewater treatment system can be a model for other growing communities around Sebago Lake and throughout Maine’s lakes region.”

Tom Bartell, the Executive Director of Windham Economic Development Corporation, said voter approval of the project will help Windham to create a business-friendly environment that provides a high quality of life, a vibrant economy, and a welcoming atmosphere, while protecting the town’s natural resources. 

“New development will not be restricted by the use of individual septic systems and the resulting wastewater will be treated to high quality standards unreachable through septic system technology, thus further protecting the Lakes Region’s environment while enabling economic growth,” he said.

Bartell said Windham has been aggressively seeking out funding partners to assist in the development of the new North Windham sewer. 
“The town has requested assistance from our congressional and senate Delegation, Cumberland County Government, as well as the State of Maine,” he said. “The Town will continue to look for additional grant opportunities as they arise. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection has determined that the North Windham sewer project is a high priority and has provided the project with over $38 million of very low-interest financing and as part of that financing, $2.25 million in loan forgiveness. This unprecedented financing award provides us with an assurance that we are doing the right thing in moving forward with this environmentally and economically vital project. The remaining of the financing will be funded through commercial property taxes, both being paid currently and in the future into Tax Increment Financing Districts (TIF).”

Larry Eliason, a commercial broker, and the president of the WEDC, says he fully supports the project and encourages town residents to vote in favor of the proposal.

“As a commercial real estate professional representing owners and landlords in North Windham, I find that the lack of a public sewer system can be quite an obstacle for accommodating a wide range of businesses,” Eliason said. “I have frequently shown commercial spaces for lease and for sale and worked with town staff only to learn that a particular commercial property in North Windham cannot accommodate a proposed use as there is insufficient existing septic system capacity for the proposed use.”

Eliason said if you have ever wondered why some commercial spaces remain vacant, it is not for a lack of trying to make deals work.

“The majority of the time, the property has a private septic system rated for just so many gallons per day. Over the years, I have worked with bakeries, hair salons, nail salons, breweries, distilleries, restaurants, event centers and food manufacturers only to find that we don't have enough septic system capacity in the ground at a particular North Windham property for the proposed use,” he said. “And the cost of expanding a septic system for the proposed use is expensive. Thus, these companies move on to other towns with sewer infrastructure so they can open up quickly and operate their businesses. “I for one support the sewer initiative for North Windham as it will assist with a wider and more diversified group of potential businesses that can come to Windham," he said. <

Friday, June 3, 2022

Immigrants take oath to become U.S. citizens during ceremony in Windham

New U.S. citizen Mvatum Faraha shows her
citizenship certificate to Jeannne Fiske of
American Legion Post 148 Women's Auxiliary
during the Immigration and Naturalization
Ceremony held at the Windham Veterans
Center on May 27. Faraha immigrated to
the U.S. 17 years ago from the Democratic
Republic of the Congo.
By Collette Hayes

The long and tiring journey to fulfill a dream requires a firm grip on motivation, tenacity and resilience. Over the Memorial Day weekend, the longstanding dream of becoming a United States citizen became a reality for 12 candidates from 10 different countries in Windham.

Hosted by American Legion Auxiliary Unit 148, a Naturalization ceremony was held at the Windham Veteran’s Memorial Center on May 27 bringing the 12 candidates’ long and arduous travel toward U.S. citizenship to completion.

The ceremony was coordinated by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and included welcoming remarks from guest speakers as well as music provided by Windham Primary School third grade chorus, led by Nancy Cash-Cobb. The chorus sang a variety of patriotic songs creating a sense of community, togetherness, and what the United States represents as a great nation.

Retired after 28 years of service as a Navy Chaplain, Rev. Dana Reed provided the opening remarks at the ceremony beginning with a moment of silence to remember those who perished in Uvalde, Texas.

Since his retirement, Reed has been teaching music and illustrated how joining with a group of people to play music can bring people of all ages and backgrounds closer together. He encouraged those becoming new citizens of the United States to share their knowledge, skills and talents with others.

“Whenever we get together and play music, it brings us together,” Reed said. “I would encourage you as you seek this new citizenship in this country to be a joiner. Seek out organizations, seek out clubs and be a joiner. The reason to think about being a joiner is you all bring gifts. You will enrich the United States as a country and we will all be better for your participation.”
The event’s keynote speaker, Ed Pierce, served as a journalist in the U.S. Air Force for eight years and is a graduate of the University of New Mexico’s College of Journalism. Pierce has been a journalist and an editor for 47 years, working for newspapers such as the Biddeford Journal Tribune, The Laconia Citizen, Florida Today, the Albuquerque Journal and he is now the managing editor of The Windham Eagle.

A gifted storyteller, Pierce shared a moving story he covered emphasizing the bravery of individuals who had fought diligently for the freedom that we as Americans enjoy today.

Pierce told the new citizens about George Nichols, who was drafted into the U.S. Army and was wounded by German shrapnel during the Battle of Anzio in Italy in 1944 while carrying wounded U.S. soldiers for medical treatment. Somehow his unit missed putting him in for a Purple Heart medal and years later when he applied, he was denied because his military records were burned in a fire in a government warehouse in 1973.

According to Pierce, Nichols kept applying for the medal until he died at age 90 in 2015, but never received it. He said Nichols put the needs of his fellow citizens above his own and his bravery should be an example for new citizens if called upon to serve their country.

“The new U.S. citizens and everyone in this room today are here because of those who fought for our liberty,” said Pierce. “We have an obligation as Americans to not forget. We must not forget. We cannot forget those who gave us the liberty that we enjoy today.”

The astounding diversity of the new citizens was illustrated as USCIS Field Officer and Director Cindy Lembarra began the Oath of Allegiance ceremony by reading the names of the countries represented by the candidates which included, Brazil; South Korea; Canada; Somalia; Central African Republic; Rwanda; Philippines; Congo; Jamaica; and Peru. Candidates then stood, raised their right hand and repeated the Oath of Allegiance declaring allegiance and fidelity in defending the United States Constitution and its laws.

For most candidates taking the Oath of Allegiance in Windham, the road to United States citizenship has been a steep and narrow one requiring determination and grit to overcome the roadblocks and obstacle along the way.

A resident of South Portland, Mvatum Faraha immigrated from the Democratic Republic of Congo 17 years ago and began the slow process of becoming a United States citizen.

“I am so proud of myself for being patient and not giving up.” said Faraha. “Seventeen years was a long time to have to work for my citizenship, but I did it. I am so happy I did it. I moved from the southwestern United States to Maine 10 years ago. I wanted to live in Maine because it is so quiet, beautiful and a place where I can enjoy good health and now call my home.”

USCIS Immigration Service Officer Jeffrey Hamm concluded the ceremony by thanking all of the veterans in attendance for their military service and encouraged the new U.S. citizens to always remember the men and women that have made freedom possible.

“As you celebrate your new U.S. citizenship, please remember the men and women in uniform since our nation’s founding that have offered their very lives in defense of our freedoms,” said Hamm. Their selflessness helped to make ceremonies like today possible. I would like to remind you that being an American is not about a religion, the color of your skin; it’s not about the place of your birth. United States citizenship speaks to our character as a country to go beyond the differences by giving us equal and full rights and responsibility.” <

Service to community legacy of Windham WW II veteran

World War II veteran Bob Miele of South
Windham has died at the age of 99. He was
a graduate of Windham High School and 
served as a volunteer firefighter in the 
community for many years.
By Ed Pierce

Six words can define the life of World War II veteran Bob Miele of Windham and those are freedom, justice, honor, duty, mercy and hope. At age 99, Miele passed away on May 25 at the Maine Veterans Home in Scarborough, leaving behind a record of service to his community that few may ever equal.

Born in South Windham on Jan. 25, 1923, Miele and his family, like many other Americans, struggled to overcome the Great Depression. His parents encouraged him to focus on academics while attending Windham High School. Following his graduation, Miele was drafted into the U.S. Army during World War II and joined 16 million other Americans, including his brother, Ralph, in wearing the uniform of the United States.

He served in the U.S. Army’s European Theater in England, France and Germany, working as a T5 Signal Corps Early Warning Radar Operator tracking enemy aircraft and German V-1 buzz bombs.

When the war ended, Miele returned to Windham and eventually took over operation of his father’s store, Patsy’s, located directly across from the old fire station in South Windham.

Because of the store’s proximity to the fire station, Miele stepped up to assist the community in yet another way. 

“He was actually a volunteer firefighter back in those days” said David Tanguay, adjutant for American Legion Field-Allen Post 148 in Windham. “He lived above Patsy’s and when he heard the fire alarm go off, he got dressed and ran across the street to the fire station. He was always the first one to report for duty there.”

On a blind date in 1962, Miele met Alys Sampson of South Portland and they married on Nov. 10, 1962. 

For many years, Bob and Alys Miele were a fixture in South Windham operating Patsy’s Store seven days a week and raising three children.

He also was an active participant in the Shriners, volunteering his free time as a Shriners Crazy Cop and traveling to drive in countless parades across New England and Canada and frequent Shriner trips to the circus.

As he got older, Miele was the recipient of an Honor Flight Maine trip to Washington, D.C. in 2014, visiting the World War II Memorial alongside his daughter, Tina Pomerleau of Falmouth. 

His wife Alys died in 2016 and in 2021, Bob Miele was surprised at two different events sponsored by Post 148 of which he was a longtime member.

On his 98th birthday in 2021, the American Legion hosted a parade in South Windham honoring Miele’s service to the community which included more than 100 participants. After the parade, Windham Police Chief Kevin Schofield thanked Miele for his service to the nation and to the community and he presented him with a “Challenge Coin” and a Windham Police patch.

“This one seemed to be larger than those parades were,” he said. “I’ve never had a parade in my honor before and it feels remarkable,” Miele said.

In March 2021, Miele was a recipient of a Quilt of Valor presented to him by Donna Brookings, the Maine State Coordinator for Quilts of Valor, at the Windham Veterans Center. “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.”

Services for Miele are planned for some time later this month. <