Friday, September 29, 2023

Windham resident's accident leads to children's book

By Kaysa Jalbert

Rosemary Ramsdell was driving on Route 302 on a sunny day in October 2016 on her way to North Conway to meet a friend and do some shopping in the area. Only one month into her retirement, Ramsdell said to herself on the drive, “It’s a gorgeous day and I am free.”

Rosemary Ramsdell of Windham survived a devastating 
accident and was helped by a therapy cat named Andy,
who became the subject of a children's book she wrote
called 'Andy The Kitten's Forever Home.'
As she approached the town line with Raymond, trucks took up half the road as workers in lifts cut down trees, meaning only one lane of traffic was able to pass at a time. The traffic flagger held up the slow sign as everyone began slowing down, including Ramsdell who was keeping her distance from the large van in front of her that had, what she described as, a large thick object like a rolled-up carpet, sticking out of the back. She recalls watching the van and thinking to herself, “It would be awful if I went right into that” and proceeded to stay several feet back.

It was only seconds later that she was struck from behind by a speeding driver, her car being pushed forcefully into the van in front of her. Her body had missed the large thick object she had worried so much about, but that doesn’t mean Rosemary’s life wasn’t about to change forever.

“I am not the person that I was before,” says Ramsdell who suffered a traumatic brain injury and PTSD when her head went back and forth so forcefully in the accident that it caused her brain to hit her skull, damaging her frontal lobe.

Seven years later, Rosemary Ramsdell, also known as Rosie, is the author of her first book "Andy The Kitten’s Forever Home," a story told by her ragdoll cat Andy who accompanied and comforted Ramsdell during her toughest times of recovery.

“I was very lonely, living a very lonely sad life and I couldn’t sleep at night. It was like climbing a mountain and walking around with a black cloud on top of your head,” Ramsdell said. “I never smiled. Andy brought my smile back. He was so funny, and he would cuddle with me, and I would talk to him. He always slept with me and even now when I can’t sleep, I just listen carefully to his purring, and it puts me right to sleep.”

It wasn’t until six days after the accident when Ramsdell realized that something was wrong. She was at her daughter’s house babysitting her three grandsons when a wave sickness took over. It was in that moment, she said, things started to go bad. 

The damage to her brain from the accident caused Ramsdell to lose much of her basic abilities taught in school as a child, such as reciting the alphabet, how to count, the ability to spell and do simple math. It also threw off her balance and peripheral vision, her speech, motor skills, and memory were all affected.

She spent the next 10 months in rehabilitation, working with a team of therapists when one day, as Ramsdell was at home with Andy, she picked up a pen and a note pad and started writing about her ragdoll's life.

“It just happened. I can’t tell you how it happened because it just happened,” said Ramsdell. “I didn’t even start on a computer because I didn’t know how to use one. I taught myself Word and it just started to flow because it was something very dear to my heart.”

It was in 2018 when Ramsdell adopted Andy and it wasn’t fate that had brought them together. She had a ragdoll for most of her life prior and felt it was exactly what she needed in her new life living with TBI. She had found Andy at Paws and Claws in Windham amongst his four sisters.

“My life was so small it was a miracle that I found him, and he has just become such a good part of my life,” says Ramsdell. “Being able to write has been a gift and Andy is my inspiration.”

The book "Andy The Kitten’s Forever Home" and Rosemary’s story has served as an inspiration for others who struggle with Traumatic Brain Injuries and PTSD. Ramsdell says many of the people who reach out to her have been veterans and she has since encouraged others to get pets to help them deal with PSTD and brain trauma.

She is now working on her second book that will feature her other furry friend, Cali, and talk about a pet’s life during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Rosemary Ramsdell came to the United States when she was 23 from Scotland and has lived in Maine since. She is a mother and a grandmother and has been married to her husband Alan for 33 years who she says has been her rock throughout her recovery and she is so grateful for her family. <

Historical Society gearing up for Fall Harvest Festival

By Kaysa Jalbert

There’s no better way, or better backdrop, to celebrate the arrival of autumn than at an event in Windham Center sponsored by the Windham Historical Society

The Windham Historical Society's Fall Harvest Festival
is a free family event being held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 7 at the historical society's Village Green
in Windham Center. FILE PHOTO
Members of the Windham Historical Society are hosting the Fall Harvest Festival for a day packed with old-fashioned family fun from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 7 at the historical society’s Village Green in Windham Center.

Participants can look forward to a craft fair, food booths, fun games for kids, several crafters in pop-up tents and an assortment of local vendors. There will be three performances in the Village Green Gazebo throughout the event, one being the Maine Fiddler, Erica Brown and the Bluegrass Connection. Brown has performed as the opening act for Grammy-Award winning country music superstar Dwight Yoakum, and another legendary Grammy winner, Ricky Skaggs, along with collaborating with the Portland Symphony Orchestra and the Bangor Symphony Orchestra,

For those who like competitions, the Fall Harvest Festival will include a pumpkin carving contest, a pie eating contest, and a relay race, all with prizes available for winners that will be announced at the end of the event.

The Fall Harvest Festival is a first-time offering that the Windham Historical Society is hosting this year, but it is the goal of historical society members to make it an annual event in Windham.

“We hope that we can do this every year,” says Linda Lunt, Treasurer of the Windham Historical Society. “Many people don’t know who we are, and they don’t know what the Village Green is, so this is to show who we are and what we do.”

All Village Green buildings will be open during the festival for tours, including the Old Grocery that used to sit on the corner of Windham Center Road and Route 202 but made an historic move to the Windham Historical Society’s Village Green Living History Village on Oct. 30, 2020, where it has now become a living history museum that replicates a grocery store of the late 19th century.

“It’s just our past and it shouldn’t be forgotten,” says Lunt. “There are people my age who will come through and say, “I remember that!” or little kids that come through and say “wow!” and they don’t realize that there weren’t grocery stores and things like that around. We had to do canning and make our own foods and iron with cast irons, and it was very different back then. It’s nice to see their faces and see that they are getting a glimpse of the past and it’s nice to carry that on to our kids.”

The Fall Harvest Festival is a sponsored event that will be free to all ages with donations accepted throughout the event.

The Windham Historical Society purchased the land that once belonged to the Reeves family in 2010, when it included a house, a barn, a workshop, and a shed plus two acres of fields that abutted the Historical Society grounds. At first, the house was rented out for income as buildings started being moved onto the land. The South Windham Library was the first to move from its original location of almost 100 years on the Windham/Gorham town line to the Village Green.

Some of the old Reeve’s family buildings have been transformed, such as the Reeve’s Gun Shop that is now a genuine replica of a schoolhouse of the late 1890s. Windham students in grades 3 and 5 are given the chance to dress up and have living history classes in the schoolhouse.

A blacksmith shop was built on the land with the help of volunteers in 2018. The gazebo was added then in 2019 with hopes to host concerts or perhaps a wedding in this charming setting.

Most recently, in 2020, the Society raised $41,000 to fund the removal and relocation of the Old Grocery store from the corner of Windham Center Road and Route 202 to the Village Green grounds.

The Windham Historical Society aims to promote interest in the history of the town by presenting relevant public programs, providing educational opportunities, and maintaining historical facilities where displays of the towns past are available. <

Friday, September 22, 2023

MTCCA awards recognize contributions of Windham Town Clerk, Deputy Clerk

By Ed Pierce

It was a clean sweep for Windham as Town Clerk Linda Morrell and Deputy Town Clerk Judy Vance were honored for their exceptional service to the community during the Maine Town and City Clerk Association’s 28th Networking Day and Annual Meeting held at the Augusta Civic Center on Sept. 12.

Windham Town Clerk Office members display awards
they were presented during the Maine Town and City
Clerk Association's 28th Networking Day and Annual
Meeting on Sept. 12 in Augusta. From left are
MTCCA's 2023 Deputy Clerk of the Year and
MTCCA's 2023 Clerk of the Year Linda Morrell.
Morrell was presented with the 2023 MTCCA Town Clerk of the Year Award while Vance received the 2023 MTCCA Deputy Town Clerk of the Year Award. The award program was established in 1991 to recognize excellence both in their contributions to their community as well as to the profession of the municipal clerk and deputy town clerk and are the highest honors awarded by the MTCCA.

Moving with her parents to Windham at age 14 while in her freshman year in high school, Morrell graduated from Windham High School in 1978. She started working as a deputy clerk for the Town of Windham and following seven years of serving in that position, she has spent the last 29 years as the Windham Town Clerk. Before coming to work for the town, Morrell spent eight years as a ballot clerk during elections and was a stay-at-home mother. Her husband was a shift worker and when she was offered the job as deputy clerk over the phone, she eagerly accepted, launching a lengthy career of service to the public in Windham.

Among her duties as Town Clerk, Morrell serves as Windham’s Supervisor of Elections, be it municipal, county, state, or presidential elections. She also oversees two full-time and one part-time town clerk’s office staff members and she’s responsible for the town’s dog registrations; the sales of hunting and fishing licenses; officiating weddings; maintaining the town’s vital statistics; overseeing state boat and automobile registrations; providing notary service; swearing elected municipal officials into office; helping collect tax payments for the town; and serving as the secretary for the Windham Town Council.

She has said that her greatest challenge as Windham Town Clerk is staying knowledgeable about updated rules and regulations and being able to educate the public and training her staff members about those changes, she said.

In 2007, Morrell was awarded lifetime certification for her town clerk duties from the State of Maine at Maine Municipal Association. Through the years, she served the association in various capacities and continues her education to stay current on laws and procedures and completing all lifetime certification requirements. Morrell also met all qualifications and requirements to be enrolled as a member of the International Institute of Municipal Clerks, allowing her to use the title of Certified Municipal Clerk in all 50 states.

With all her duties, Morrell puts in many long hours and late nights on behalf of the town, especially during election season and attending every Windham Town council meeting every other week.

Married and the mother of two grown sons, Morrell lives on a farm in town and has said that her work remains as meaningful to her now as it was the day she started.

“I want everyone to know that we are here for them whenever they need us,” Morrell said. “We all enjoy our jobs here and we try to be friendly all the time. We’re fortunate to have a great staff here and the public really seems to like them. I love my job and it is a privilege to serve this community as the Town Clerk.”

Morrell was nominated for the award by Vance and supported for the MTCCA award by numerous department supervisors of the Town of Windham.

Vance is a Windham native who has worked for the Windham Town Clerk’s office for 26 years, serving as the town’s registrar of voters and a Deputy Town Clerk.

Among her many duties, Vance processes all vital records for Windham along with hunting, fishing, and business licenses, and administers two elections per year, with an occasional special election. Her department also helps as needed with processing registrations for motor vehicles, boats, ATVs, and snowmobiles, as well as processing taxes.

Raised in Windham and a graduate of Windham High School and the University of Southern Maine, Vance married her high school sweetheart, and they live in Windham, where they have raised two daughters. Along with their significant others and children, the daughters live in the same neighborhood as Vance and her husband.

Despite all the years of working for the clerk’s office, Vance still finds the job interesting and challenging.

“It seems like every day we’re learning something new,” she said.

She was nominated for the MTCCA Deputy Clerk of the Year Award by Morrell, so those attending the meeting in Augusta said that both Morrell and Vance both knew the other one was getting the award they received but they did not know they were each receiving awards.

The MTCCA Town Clerk of the Year Award is presented annually to a municipal clerk who is nominated by their peers and recognizes excellence both in their contributions to their community as well as to the profession of municipal clerk. Award recipients provide service and contributions beyond just that of the municipality in which they serve by active participation in the state and/or county clerks associations and demonstrate a socially responsible approach toward their community and promoting the cause of good local government.

The MTCCA Deputy Town Clerk of the Year Award is presented annually to a deputy municipal clerk who is nominated by their peers and recognizes excellence both in their contributions to their community as well as to the profession of deputy municipal clerk. Award recipients are honored for their expertise and for work in their Town Clerk’s Office that goes above and beyond what is required by the job title, and they are committed to improving municipal government and their community. <

Windham Chamber Singers prepare for 36th year of performances

By Jolene Bailey

Music is a form of expression which surrounds us all. Focusing on the arts, anyone of all ages can develop interests within. Windham High School’s Chamber Singers display a plethora of experiences inside music and personal skills.

Tickets will go on sale at 8 a.m. Monday, Oct. 2 for the
Windham Chamber Singers' holiday tradition 'An American
Family Holiday' concert which will be featured during two
performances on Saturday, Dec. 2 at the Windham
Performing Arts Center. SUBMITTED PHOTO 
The Windham Chamber Singers is a choir of high school students in grades 9 to 12 who perform classical music in concert settings under the direction of Conductor Dr. Richard Nickerson, who has not only helped impact students to grow as musicians, but also adapt senses of passions and navigate into lifelong habits.

“The chamber singers offer a sense of responsibility, accountability, purpose, and even a sense of being on time,” Nickerson said.

He had founded the current group of Windham Chamber Singers in the fall of 1988.

“The thing that has stayed the same is the people with the desire to achieve excellence,” Nickerson said. “Students come into the group with such high expectations and knowing the bar is high and tasked with upholding those standards.”

Activities for the Windham Chamber Singers change year to year. This year, they will be singing at the open ceremony at the Cumberland Fair. Based on activities like this can lead to forming new traditions according to the invitations.

“One of our old traditions was in the fall, we’d all go apple picking as a bonding activity. These activities can help us grow as a group and when traveling often, it’s good to know everyone’s personalities,” said Nickerson.

Here in Windham, the most popular event for the Windham Chamber Singers year after year is the presentation of a beloved holiday tradition, An American Family Holiday concert. Two concerts will take place on Saturday, Dec. 2, at the Windham Performing Arts Center with performances at 2 and 7:30 p.m. This heartwarming event is set to captivate audiences of all ages and promises to be a memorable experience for families, friends, and music enthusiasts alike. Tickets will go on sale at 8 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 2.

This year’s An American Family Holiday concert will welcome back Daniel Strange, a WCS alumnus who is on the faculty at the University of Miami. Also returning will be crowd favorite, Ashley Liberty. The concert headliner will be Broadway’s Clyde Alves, who has an impressive Broadway resume that includes his recent performance in the Tony-nominated production of New York, New York. In addition to his work on Broadway, Alves is a New York based singer- songwriter and lover of the acoustic guitar. His music bridges multiple genres including folk, rock, soul, reggae and pop infused with multilayered honest and transparent lyrics.

“We are excited to share the stage with Alves and continue our tradition of bringing the highest quality performers to Windham," said Nickerson.

The concerts will honor many local traditions and also introduce some new surprises and longtime host, Kim Block, will return as Master of Ceremonies.

Tickets are priced at $10 to $32 for reserved seating and can be purchased by calling 207-892-1810 ext. 2875 or online at

WHS students who join the Chamber Singers say that it is an exceptional activity to be involved in.

“Chamber Singers has been one of the most amazing things I’ve had the privilege of experiencing. I joined in late 2020, during the height of the global pandemic, I wasn’t given the normal start that most were,” said Abi Coleman, who serves as president of the group. “We rehearsed 16 feet apart on baseball fields, on Zoom calls, and in rooms that we had to leave and ventilate after 30 minutes of use. Now we’re on the other side of it, I am so endlessly grateful that I stuck through with singing.”

During this school year, the Windham Chamber Singers will also be touring exclusively in Maine the first week of April with tours lasting roughly four to five days.

“I’m most excited about the tour. There’s so much to look forward to: the bus rides, staying at hotels, bonding with everyone, and performing,” said Coleman. “We get to sing a repertoire consisting of songs we’ve practiced at different points in the year. It’s just so surreal that we are fortunate enough to be able to travel around and perform for so many different people.” <

Friday, September 15, 2023

School Resource Officer forges positive relationships with younger students

By Lorraine Glowczak

Feeling a sense of security is crucial to childhood development and educational success. This includes having trustworthy adults one can turn to when feeling unsafe or apprehensive. Parents and teachers are a perfect example. Adding a School Resource Officer to the mix to introduce police officers as friendly adults who are here to help, not to punish or threaten, adds to that sense of security.

School Resource Officer Robert Hamilton
will mentor students and provide educational
programs about safety, bullying prevention,
and making positive choices this year at
Windham Primary School and Raymond
Elementary School this year. Students
Layla and Hunter McDonald join Hamilton
outside Windham Primary School on Tuesday.
At RSU 14, that is one of the many factors considered by adding SRO Windham Police Officer Robert Hamilton, as a new presence at the Windham Primary School and Raymond Elementary School, building positive interactions with students.

“I am here to help ensure the safety of the kids and staff to create a safe and positive learning environment while building a connection and positive relationships with students,” said Hamilton. “We want students to feel comfortable with who we are and what we provide for the community. We want them to know we are people who can be trusted.”

WPS Principal Dr. Kyle Rhoads says that Hamilton has been a visible and welcoming role at the primary school, offering a sense of safety.

“Officer Hamilton will continue to assure our community that WPS is a safe place for learning and that we continue to attempt to improve the safety of our school,” Rhoades said. “When children feel safe, they can do their best learning.”

RES Principal Beth Peavey said that Hamilton’s presence will offer a positive, inclusive school community and a necessary resource.

“It is the hope that the SRO will serve as a mentor and provide educational programs to educate students on safety, bullying prevention, and the importance of making positive choices,” she said.

Manchester School has always shared an SRO with Windham Middle School, but Officer Hamilton will be making his appearances with the fourth- and fifth-grade students there as well and Manchester Principal Danielle Donnini also welcomes him into the fold.

“Some of us remember Officer Hamilton as a student and we are so happy to welcome him back into our school community,” she said. “Having a depth of understanding of our local communities will be a real asset for the students, the school community, and our families.”

Indeed, Hamilton has always been an invested member of the school district. Having lived in Windham all his life and having graduated from Windham High School in 2012, he has worked for the Windham Police Department for the past five years. He says there was something about serving on the police force that drew him to the occupation.

“I was always drawn to the idea of protecting and serving,” Hamilton said. “I am also a big people person so getting to interact and communicate with the public daily while also doing my part to keep them safe was a big influence in me wanting to become a police officer.”

Hamilton said that he is looking forward to the opportunity to interact with the younger students.

“I love that I get to be a part of helping the kids grow and develop as people and not just students,” he said. “I love that I get to see all the hard work kids put into the school year pay off at the end of the year as kids move on to the next grade. I love that I get to hang out and just have fun with the kids.”

Hamilton says that his hope for the students is that he can work to build positive relationships through teaching and mentorship with them. He also said that he hopes the students and faculty to help him learn and grow within his new position.

Peavey spoke for the entire school district in welcoming Hamilton to his new role.

“His presence is a valuable addition to our school community,” she said. “We look forward to working with him to ensure safety within the school community as well as to build positive relationships with our students, families, and staff.”

When Officer Hamilton is not at work protecting and serving RSU 14 and the Windham community, he can be found playing golf, softball, fishing, and spending time with his family. He lives with his wife and two dogs in Windham. <

Windham resident competes for national mullet crown

By Ed Pierce

Move over Joe Exotic, Billy Ray Cyrus and Joe Dirt, you’re about to have some serious competition for the finest looking mullet hairstyle in all of America, and this one is homegrown right here in Windham, Maine.

Jason Putney of Windham, 33, has
been growing his 'rat tail dread
mullet' hairstyle for the past three
years and is a contestant in the 
2023 National Mullet
The iconic “business in the front and party in the back” mens’ hairdo now has a National Mullet Championship contest and Jason Putney of Windham is making a run at this year’s title. Putney has been growing his “rat tail dread mullet” for the past three years and is ready to stand out in the opening round of the competition, sponsored by

The first round of voting ends Sept. 15 and the top 75 competitors will move on to Round 2 of the contest, so there’s still time to vote for Putney’s mullet. All proceeds raised during the contest will go directly to Jared Allen's Homes for Wounded Warriors, which helps to provide accessible and mortgage-free homes for disabled military veterans.

“I had a huge afro back in my senior year of high school in 2008,” Putney said. “It took up the entire frame of my senior photo. The afro was truly getting out of hand, and something had to be done about it so I decided to get it dreaded up. My dread journey started 15 years ago and after 12 years of a full head, I asked my barber, Spencer at the Windham Crow’s Nest Barber Shop, to cut everything except the back of my head. Thus the ‘rat tail dread mullet’ was born and I’ve been wearing it for the past three years, much to the dismay of my wife.”

Originally from Calais, Putney, 33, runs a small trucking company called Downeast Shipping. His wife, Shelby LeClair, said that her husband was inspired to join the contest when he saw that it was a cause that supports veterans.

“He normally wouldn’t put himself out there like this, but his father is a veteran of the Air Force,” she said.

Known for a short trim on the top and sides with lengthy locks in the back, the mullet hairstyle first rose to popularity as worn by athletes Andre Agassi and Jose Canseco, actor Patrick Swayze and singer Bono during the 1980s and 1990s, but the hairdo has actually been around since the days of the ancient Greeks. Native American warriors wore the style in the 19th century and now the style is enjoying a revival, with celebrities such as Lady Gaga and Zendaya sporting their own versions of the look.

The mission of Jared Allen’s Homes for Wounded Warriors is to raise money to build injury-specific, accessible, and mortgage-free homes for our critically injured U.S. military veterans returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan. It was founded in 2009 by retired Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen after he returned home from his USO trip to US Military Bases in the Middle East. Allen says that he was moved by the commitment, dedication, and sacrifices that our soldiers make every day to protect our freedom and he wanted to say thank you to every soldier in the only way that he knew how. By embracing the conflict and making a positive life-changing difference in the lives of those who need it most, Allen hopes to make life for wounded vets just a little bit easier.

Allen’s charity was selected as the recipient of proceeds for this year’s mullet championships because of the good work that it does and the fact that Allen himself sported a mullet hairdo throughout his football career.

According to its website, the National Mullet Championships were created several years ago to celebrate the “bold and outrageous hairstyle that is the mullet.” The national competition travels throughout America searching for the wildest mullets and hosts a series of live contests where contestants can show off their mullets to lively audiences. Its’ annual digital contest, which Putney has entered this year, calls for photo submissions in a variety of categories, such as Femullet, Mens Mullet, Kids, Teen and 55-Plus.

Winners receive cash and prizes as donated by contest sponsors. Voting in the first round is only open for three days nationwide and only 75 competitors advance to the next round. The best 25 mullets will then compete for the National Mullet Championship later this fall.

To vote for Putney’s hairstyle, go to and cast a vote for Putney’s “rat tail dread mullet.” < 

Friday, September 8, 2023

WHS Class of 1963 fondly recalls role models

By Ed Pierce

Windham High School’s Class of 1963 gathering Wednesday at the Little Meeting House is something that Carroll McDonald of Windham says he’ll never forget.

Carroll McDonald of Windham displays a wooden replica
of a P-51 aircraft that he flew during World War II. He was
presented with the model as a gift during a gathering of
members of the Windham High School Class of 1963 at
the Little Meeting House on Wednesday afternoon for
being a genuine friend to the class. PHOTO BY ED PIERCE  
McDonald, 98, was himself a graduate of Windham High in 1942, and went on to become a P-51 pilot during World War II. He returned to Windham after the war and became a postal carrier until he retired and then volunteered for years as a Meals on Wheels driver.

Through the years, a special kinship and bond has developed between McDonald and members of the class. McDonald’s son, David, was part of the WHS Class of 1963, and some members of the class performed in the town band with David McDonald and his father.

“Carroll is surely near and dear to all of our hearts,” said Al LaRhette, a member of the Class of 1963. “I remember getting to play in the band with him when we performed at Fenway Park in Boston for the State of Maine Day in 1959.”

LaRhette said Carroll was known as a friend to all the class members and is beloved by everyone who knows him.

“He was just always there for us,” LaRhette said. “He had a way about him. It was like when you were with him, you were the most important person he got to speak to that day. He’s been a cherished friend to all of us throughout all these years since our graduation.”

To commemorate McDonald’s devotion to the WHS Class of 1963, the class invited him to attend their gathering in Windham and then presented him with a wooden P-51 model like the one he flew during World War II and personally engraved to Lt. Carroll McDonald and his original unit, the 487th Fighter Squadron at Page Air Force Base in Ft. Myers, Florida.

“It was a total surprise,” McDonald said. “I will treasure it always. I think it will either have a place on my desk at home or a spot in my front window to show it off to my neighbors.”

McDonald said he’s always liked LaRhette, who was a close friend of his son and now lives in South Weymouth, Massachusetts.

“I remember going to visit them once when David and Al worked construction out in Michigan,” he said.

LaRhette said that he and David worked in construction together after graduation from WHS and the project they worked on was at Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda, Michigan. Both went on to serve in the U.S. Air Force and David McDonald passed away at the age of 76 from prostate cancer in 2021.

Another special guest at the gathering was Korean War veteran Jerry Black, whose late wife, Mildred, was the faculty advisor for the Class of 1963 at Windham High.

Mildred Black taught history, civics, and social studies to students at Windham High during a long teaching career that began in 1955, while her husband Jerry was an art teacher at Falmouth High School. She passed away in 2017.

“She was our favorite teacher,” LaRhette said. “We just had to invite Jerry to this event today because he was Mildred Black’s arm candy. We miss her greatly.”

To honor his contributions, including being the past president of the Little Meeting House Association where the gathering was held, class members gave Black a replica of a 1918 Model T Fire Engine that he bought and restored as a teenager. Black told the gathering that the fire engine still works today and he still owns it although it’s currently on loan to a museum in Owl’s Head, Maine.

Of the 62 graduates of the WHS Class of 1963, some 34 members and their spouses attended the event and each of them personally shook McDonald’s and Black’s hands and wished them well.

“Like I said, this is something that I’ll never let go of,” McDonald said. “I feel so loved.” <

Rescued couple grateful after boat starts sinking on Sebago Lake

By Ed Pierce

What began as a leisurely sunset cruise on Sebago Lake turned into a dramatic rescue and later an affirmation of the goodness of their fellow man for a Windham couple.

Fire/Rescue crews from Standish, Windham and Raymond
bring Brian and Kathleen March of Windham on board to
safety after their boat began taking on water on Sebago
Lake on Aug. 21. The boat was towed to shore in Standish
and the next day some volunteers from Shaw Acres helped
push it out of the water and up onto a trailer for evaluation
by insurance agents. SUBMITTED PHOTO  
On the evening of Monday, Aug. 21, Brian March and his wife, Kathleeen, took their boat out for the first time this summer after extensive work was performed in May on the 22-foot skiff craft they’ve owned for three years. They cruised to Frye Island, watched the sunset from the lake, took some photographs, and then headed along the shoreline by Saint Joseph’s College in Standish. And that’s when the trouble started.

“The motor stalls and I put it in neutral and it stalls again,” Brian March said. “I started playing with throttle when my wife told me there was water in the boat.”

He looked over and saw water in two corners, opened the bilge and saw that it was flooded with water. They looked up a towing company by cell phone, but as water began filling the boat, the couple decided to immediately call 9-1-1. On board the couple had a small hand pump, but they were more than 100 yards from shore and continuing to take on water.

“We had our life jackets on and waited for help to arrive,” Brian March said. “But we feared the boat was going to sink.”

The couple spent some harrowing minutes together waiting for rescue.

In the nick of time, the new Standish Fire/Rescue boat arrived at the scene and latched onto the March’s vessel with rope. In the coming minutes, several other towns’ fire-rescue crews responded to help as Brian and Kathleen March were taken aboard the rescue watercraft and a secure line was affixed to the bow of their boat for towing.

Standish Fire/Rescue brought it to the nearest beach, a private residence on Burke Street in Standish. The resident there allowed them to keep their boat at the site until they figured out what to do with it and he stayed with the couple until Windham Fire/Rescue Chief Brent Libby arrived to give them a ride back to their truck and trailer at Raymond Beach.

The next morning, the couple called a towing service and was quoted a price of $5,000 to haul it away to be evaluated for insurance purposes.

“I told our insurance agent I was looking at other options,” Brian March said. “I thought if we could pump the water out if we had a sump pump, we could do it ourselves and save that expense.”

Scouting out possible locations to lift the boat out of the water, the launch at Shaw Acres seemed to be a possibility. Near the boat launch, Shaw Acres resident Victor Salome brought the couple into his home and got on the phone and called Ralph Morrison of the Shaw Acres Community Association. They looked over the situation and agreed to help the Marchs.

They found a sump pump and hoses to pump out the boat at Windham Rental and pumped the water out of their boat, then waited 20 to 25 minutes while it filled again but stayed above the waterline.

At that point, they decided to turn the boat around and make a short trip across the lake to Shaw Acres with two hand pumps and an electric pump on board just in case water started pouring in again.

“Through God’s grace, we made it,” Katheen March said.

Over a span of four hours, they had brought the boat to Shaw Acres and with the help of four volunteers from Shaw Acres, the couple pushed the boat to the dock, pumped it out a third time and up and onto a 22-foot trailer to be appraised by their insurance company.

“They were all very pleasant and willing to help,” Kathleen March said. “We couldn’t have done it without them.”

To show their gratitude, the Marchs sent Victor and Ralph and the Shaw Acres Association thank-you cards.

“I’m a person of faith and we were blessed that the boat didn’t take on water faster,” Kathleen March said. “We’re blessed that Standish Fire/Rescue had a new boat and it had the power to pull it to shore. We’re blessed that the landowner let us keep our boat there overnight and we’re blessed that the people of Shaw Acres were kind and wanted to help us. Every step of the way we had gifts and blessings.”

She said she feels lucky to be alive and her faith in the goodness of humanity has been strengthened because of their ordeal on the lake.

“Life is short, assess what you invest your time and money in,” Kathleen March said.

Her husband agrees and says in looking back over everything that happened to them, one thing is clear.

“We may have lost a boat but gained some wonderful new friends,” Brian March said. <

Friday, September 1, 2023

WMS teacher AJ Ruth delighted to take on new role as assistant principal

By Lorraine Glowczak

AJ Ruth knew from the moment that she taught her first seventh-grade class that she would always be a middle school educator. As she enters her 21st year in education, with 19 at Windham Middle School serving as a science and math teacher, Ruth remains with the age group that stole her heart in the earliest years of her career. Only now, she has moved from teaching students at WMS to leading them and her colleagues as the new WMS Assistant Principal, replacing Peter Hill.

AJ Ruth, who has been a Windham Middle School science
and mathematics teacher for the past 19 years, will serve
as the school's assistant principal.
“I am thrilled to get this job in this community and this school,” she said. “I’ve been working on becoming an administrator for the past four years and the thought of having to leave WMS saddened me. I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome regarding my professional goals.”

As for her new role as a leader, Ruth seemed to possess the innate ability to lead others at an early age. During her middle and high school years at Presque Isle, she eagerly directed and guided fellow youth in many club and sports activities, including the President of her Key Club and swimming instructor as a youth and throughout adulthood. As a result, her role from teacher to leader seems like a natural transition.

“I’ve always loved being a leader and my involvement with school and community events continues to this day,” she said. “Becoming the WMS Assistant Principal has been a dream and is the right fit at this time for me.”

Ruth’s colleagues agree and are very happy with the selection of their new assistant principal.

“Because we already know and love her, AJ is the perfect liaison between staff and the new principal [Greg Applestein],” said Doug Elder, WMS seventh-grade social studies teacher who has team-taught with Ruth over the past seven years in hands-on, inquiry-based projects.

“As much as we all hate to lose her as a team teacher, she has the skills and qualities it takes to be our next assistant principal. Working closely with her the past couple of weeks in her new role has proven us right. We are happy she is staying with us at WMS.”

Providing youth with authentic and engaging learning experiences is how Ruth approaches education. In recent years, Ruth, and fellow WMS colleagues including Elder, have implemented Project Based Learning (PBL), an educational method that promotes students’ ownership of their learning as they design, develop, and construct hands-on solutions to real-life situations.

“PBL allows students to show their creativity in ways they can’t in the regular classroom,” Ruth said.

Ruth said the best part about her new job is the amount of support and encouragement she has received from her colleagues.

“The WMS staff are like family and to have their backing in this transition has meant the world to me. We are a close group. If you ask anyone in our building what the one most important strength we carry, they will tell you it is the strong relationships we have with each other.”

There is also positive strength growing and developing between Ruth and the new WMS principal.
Their admiration and support for one another reflect that strength.

“Greg has had a variety of experiences in administration and has led at different schools across the state,” Ruth said. “As a result, he brings expertise to WMS that will help guide and continue the wonderful work we offer students. Being a veteran administrator, Greg will be a good resource for me and a great mentor as I learn my new role.”

Applestein said that he is also looking forward to continuing to grow and develop the relationship with Ruth to best serve the students, staff, and families of WMS.

“We share a lot of the same core values, and we have a very similar vision for WMS,” he said. “She is a seasoned veteran teacher who held many teacher-leadership positions which gives her the background and experience working with all stakeholders. As a long-serving teacher at WMS, AJ has that historical perspective about the climate, culture, and community of the school and the town. Additionally, her ability to do the right things for the right reasons, makes AJ a vibrant and dynamic assistant principal and we are very fortunate to have her at WMS.”

Ruth received her bachelor’s and master’s in education as well as her certification in administration from Saint Joseph’s College of Maine.

When she is not working with middle school students and staff, Ruth spends time with her family, hiking in the summer and skiing in the winter, noting that being in nature is her saving grace. She lives in Windham with her husband, a son, and a daughter. <

Council-created recall ordinance fails in enactment vote

By Ed Pierce

During a special meeting on Tuesday evening, the Windham Town Council listened to resident’s thoughts about a recall ordinance that councilors were considering enacting despite a citizen’s group referendum proposing different recall procedures having already been placed on the Nov. 7 ballot.

Members of the Windham Town Council were
unable to enact a recall ordinance during a
special meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 29. 
Councilors will conduct a special meeting
on Thursday, Aug. 31 and Tuesday, Sept. 5
to decide if they will create a charter
amendment referendum regarding recalls of
elected public officials.
After taking public input, reviewing email received by the council and discussing the council’s recall ordinance, councilors voted 3-3 on their proposed ordinance, with Councilors Nick Kalogerakis, Bill Reiner, and John Henry voting no and Councilors Jarrod Maxfield, David Nadeau and Mark Morrison voting yes. Councilor Brett Jones did not attend the meeting and because a total of four council votes were not received, the proposed ordinance was not enacted.

Differences between the citizen’s group proposed recall ordinance, which will be decided by town voters Nov. 7, and the town council’s proposed ordinance, which councilors will now consider as a charter amendment referendum for voters Nov. 7, are in the details.

The citizen’s proposal requires 25 signatures of registered town voters to initiate a recall petition, while town requires 75 to initiate a recall petition. To get the recall to a town ballot, the citizen’s group proposal asks for a threshold of 10 percent of participating voters in the last gubernatorial election, while the town asks for 15 percent of participating voters in the last gubernatorial election.

The citizen’s proposal asks for no less nor more or if already scheduled the number of days to conduct a recall election at 50/60/75, while the councilor proposal is 50/60/90. As for the limits on how soon a recall could be initiated on a public official, the citizen’s group asks for three months after an election, while the councilors’ proposal asks for six months after an election. In terms of the percentage of gubernatorial turnout required for validity of a recall, the councilors’ proposal seeks 25 percent, while the citizen’s group doesn’t require a percentage.

One of the creators of the citizen’s recall referendum petition, Stephen Napolitano, said the councilors’ proposed recall ordinance and consideration of a charter recall amendment referendum undermines the intelligence of town voters.

“In Windham's history, no town council has ever created their own referendum to directly compete with a citizens' initiative referendum,” Napolitano said. “You have to ask yourself ‘why is the town rushing to get their own referendum on the same ballot?’ The town council should do the right thing and wait for the election results in November. On Tuesday night, it was great to see the overwhelming support for The People's Recall Ordinance.”

Another of the creators of the citizen’s recall ordinance referendum, Kristen Day, pointed out in an email to the newspaper the two biggest differences between the proposals is the mode of recall replacement and the voter participation threshold required.

“The town's ordinance has appointment by council of replacement (according to town charter language, the council appoints vacancies), and a minimum threshold for participation for the election result to be valid,” Day wrote. “The People's ordinance has election of replacement for the seat of the recalled (conflicts with the charter so the council would have to move to amend, if the people want it) and as a municipal election the recall is decided by simple majority, no minimum threshold to count the recall result valid.”

Day also wrote that the town's recall charter amendment calls for an election for a replacement for the recalled official, like the citizen’s group proposed ordinance (as a charter item it will apparently not conflict with the appointment for vacancy language) and has a minimum threshold of voter participation needed for the vote to be valid like the town recall ordinance.

“It's complex but the takeaway is the People's petition was signed by 1,541 people, and if it fails, it wasn't the language the town wants. But if it passes, Council will amend it as needed, and raise any changes they want (such as adding threshold) in town meetings,” Day wrote. “The difference is that according to the November vote, we will have heard from the voters, and from there, people will have input on any subsequent amendment process. Alternatively, if the town recall charter amendment is voted through Nov 7, and the people's ordinance is also passed, the charter amendment will become the law of Windham.”

Windham Town Council Chair Mark Morrison said that council members only seek clarity and accuracy in considering a charter amendment recall referendum.

“The reason for the council charter amendment versus the citizen initiative is that our version has been vetted and much clearer than the citizen initiative,” Morrison said. “So, from a clarity and accuracy and defensibility standpoint, this is what we have done. It was not meant to leapfrog anyone or to undermine, probably a better word, we are not.”

Councilor John Henry said the councilors’ proposed ordinance and consideration of a charter amendment recall referendum were fair and honest.

“I can assure you the process taken here was in good faith and above board,” Henry said. “The metrics we came up with to get it on the ballot are fair, not put in place to protect our positions, but to protect voters.”

Councilor Nick Kalogerakis said he was pleased with the turnout of Windham citizens wishing to share their thoughts regarding the council’s proposed recall ordinance at the meeting.

“My biggest complaint since I’ve been in office is you don’t hear from the people, so I thank you for coming out tonight,” Kalogerakis said. “The issues I have with the people’s ordinance is the numbers are too low and it could circumvent the democratic process. I don’t support putting this in the charter either. It’s a very tough spot to be in.”

Councilor Bill Reiner said he was opposed to enacting a councilor ordnance because of the speed with which it was drawn up and discussed.

“Rush, rush, rush the ordinance and a rush to vote on the charter amendment,” Reiner said. “It’s too much, too fast, too quick. We need to put the brakes on. A charter agenda item should be clean and accurate. If this was coming up about a different item in July, we would not be doing it this fast. I absolutely do not support the charter amendment going forward. The ballot is getting so congested, it’s confusing.”

Councilor Jarrod Maxfield said the state’s recall guidelines mandate that an official can be recalled only if a public official is convicted of a crime against a state agency while in office, while the council’s proposal spells out that a loss of voter confidence while in office is grounds for a potential recall.

He also said he believes that Windham needs accountability for elected officials through a recall procedure that is fair and respects the wishes of a majority of town voters.

“We were told they would not have signatures in time and that’s when we put something forward,” Maxfield said.

Councilor David Nadeau said that a council consensus led to the council’s recall proposal, and it was not created to conflict with any other referendum.

“We heard they weren’t getting the votes and we all agreed we needed a recall ordinance,” Nadeau said.

The council will hold a special meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 31 at Windham Town Hall regarding its charter amendment recall referendum proposal. During that meeting, a public hearing will be conducted allowing town residents to share comments about the council’s charter amendment recall referendum proposal. The council also will meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 5, and at that meeting a vote will be taken to determine if the council’s charter amendment recall proposal will be placed on the Nov. 7 ballot.

One issue that the council has already decided about the Nov. 7 ballot is whether to create a referendum for voters about making the Windham Town Clerk position an appointed position or keeping it as an elected position.

During Tuesday’s council meeting, Windham Town Clerk Linda Morrell said she brought up the idea of converting the position to an appointed one and not requiring them to be a Windham resident to councilors when thinking about what would happen after she leaves office. She said she has no immediate plans to retire just yet but worries about the possibility of no candidates coming forward to run for the job or a person elected to the position who is not qualified to handle all its responsibilities sufficiently.

Morrell, who has served as Windham Town Clerk for the past 29 years and was Deputy Town Clerk for seven years before that, said she hopes to continue to serve, but wanted the council to be aware of what could happen.

The council voted to postpone taking any action about the town clerk position until the second quarter of 2024. That way, if it is decided to create a referendum for voters, the maximum number of town voters would have an opportunity to vote on a measure because it would coincide with the 2024 presidential election which typically draws the largest number of voters in Windham elections. 

Timeline of events regarding recall ordinance

Dec. 28, 2022 – Kristen Day of citizen’s group asks Town Clerk to clarify procedures for recalling elected public officials.

April 21, 2023 – Citizen’s group receive instructions for Windham Town Clerk about pursuing charter amendment or ordinance for recalling elected public officials.

May 6, 2023 – Citizen’s group request to have Windham town attorney review language of proposed ordinance submitted to Windham Town Clerk.

May 10, 2023 – The proposed ordinance created by the citizen’s group is reviewed by group’s attorney.

May 18, 2023 – Town Clerk advises based upon a review by Windham Town Attorney that the citizen’s group that a language change was needed to change “town committee” to “town council” in proposed ordinance and that Secretary of State’s office was reviewing document.

May 19, 2023 – Citizen’s group notified Secretary of State’s office and Windham Town Attorney had reviewed proposed ordinance and citizen’s petitions were available to be picked up to obtain a minimum of 1,465 signatures of registered Windham voters to have a referendum put on the Nov. 7, 2023 ballot about the recall ordinance.

July 9, 2023 – Citizen’s group emailed Town Clerk informing them that the possibility existed of the group not getting the required signatures by the end of July.

July 11, 2023 – Windham drafts language for a council-initiated charter amendment addressing recall procedures.

July 31, 2023 – A total of 1,541 signatures of registered voters collected by citizen’s group is certified by Town Clerk placing a referendum on the Nov. 7 ballot for the citizen’s group proposed recall ordinance.

Aug. 15, 2023
– Windham Town Council discusses possible charter recall amendment to be placed on the Nov. 7 ballot during meeting and takes public comment about enacting a recall ordinance with language differing from citizen’s proposed ordinance already on Nov. 7 ballot.

Aug. 29, 2023 – A public hearing is held by the Windham Town Council about the proposal to enact its own recall ordinance. Councilors then voted 3-3 with Councilor Brett Jones not attending the meeting. With four votes required, the council’s recall ordinance fails.

Aug. 31, 2023
– The Windham Town Council will conduct a public hearing about placing a charter amendment regarding recall procedures on the Nov. 7 ballot with language differing from the citizen’s proposed ordinance already on the same ballot.

Sept. 5, 2023 – Windham Town Councilors will vote about placing a charter amendment regarding recall procedures on the Nov. 7 ballot with language differing from the citizen’s proposed ordinance already on the same ballot.