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Friday, June 14, 2024

New bench in Raymond honors legacy of community champion George Bartlett

By Ed Pierce

For anyone who knew him, the late George Bartlett of Raymond was a tireless community champion and someone who unselfishly gave of his time to others. Now his kind spirit and generous nature will forever be remembered as a new granite bench in his memory has been dedicated at Raymond Veterans Park overlooking Sebago Lake.

The family of late businessman and community supporter
George Bartlett gather at Raymond Veterans Park on 
Saturday, June 8 as a bench was dedicated in his honor
there and was donated by his fellow members of the
Sebago Lake Rotary Club. From left are George's 
grandson, Owen Bartlett, son George Bartlett, wife
Jane Bartlett, and daughter Vicki Bartlett.
PHOTO BY ED PIERCE
Bartlett was 84 when he died last July following a brief illness. He owned and operated the Busy Bee Laundromat in Windham for 38 years and was heavily involved in the activities of both the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce and the Sebago Lake Rotary Club where he helped organized events that helped those less fortunate in the area.

To pay tribute to his willingness to step up and help his neighbors and his service as an international ambassador for the Rotary Club, members of the Sebago Lake Rotary Club purchased the granite bench and hosted the dedication event for Bartlett’s family and friends. The ceremony included an American Legion Color Guard and a bagpiper and several of his friends and Rotary colleagues shared stories about working with him.

“George was the epitome of what it is to be a member of Rotary,” said Sebago Lake Rotary Club President Robin Mullins. “George was a Rotarian for 38 years and he accomplished so many good things during that time.”

As an international ambassador for Rotary, starting in 1990 and continuing right up until a few months before his death in 2023, Bartlett made numerous trips to Romania, bringing them greatly needed medical supplies and books for students. During a Rotary International project in 1998, he helped to collect and deliver more than $750,000 worth of dialysis and medical equipment for Romanian hospitals. While in Romania, he lived with Romanian families and developed many long-distance, lasting friendships.

He also was instrumental in establishing Rotary-affiliated Interact Clubs for high school students in Maine. While there, he stayed with his adopted Rotary family, making long-distance, long-term friendships. While visiting Romania, he was directly responsible for launching new Interact Clubs in Ramnicu, Valcea, and other seven cities throughout Romania and he also helped a young student from Romania, Gabriella Saftiou, to visit Maine. Bartlett continued to stay in touch with Saftiou and other Romania families he became close friends with on his trips there right up until his death.

Through operating his business, the Busy Bee Laundromat for 38 years, Bartlett kept his finger on the pulse of the community and knew what was important to residents of the Lakes Region.

“I didn’t know George for as long as some of the other people here today did,” Mullins said. “He was someone I valued though and always made time to see him when he came to my office. Once he asked me what I thought would be a great local charity to benefit from the Polar Dip, which was part of the Sebago Lake Rotary Club's Annual Ice Fishing Derby. I recommended the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce’s charitable trust called ‘Feed The Need’ which benefits food pantries throughout the Lakes Region. We then started the Sebago Lakes Region Polar Dip for Feed the Need in 2021.”

His father owned the Bartlett Radio Company when he was young and while helping at his father’s business after school, he became interested in mechanics, and later earned a college degree in mechanical engineering after a stint in the U.S. Army. Being an adept mechanic helped him maintain and repair washing machines and dryers at the Busy Bee Laundromat, which he opened in 1985 in Windham.

Mullins said that Bartlett’s outgoing personality made it easy for him to make friends and encourage others to lend a hand for charitable projects. His energy seemed to be boundless.

“He was a great partner for me in organizing the Polar Dip,” she said. “My job is to take the volunteers and help them work together on projects to benefit the community. There was nobody better at doing that.”

According to Mullins, Bartlett was also deeply spiritual, and she would ask him to give the invocation before Rotary Club meetings.

“His invocations were always hand-written on little pieces of paper, and somehow he never lost his place,” she said. “His care about others was a result of his spirituality.”

State Rep. Jessica Fay of Raymond said that the new bench is a fitting tribute to Bartlett.

“What a great way to remember our friend who spent his life supporting this community,” Fay said. “He just made people feel comfortable. George Bartlett spent so much of his life giving to others and he would want you to think about volunteering if he were here today.”

Bartlett’s daughter, Vicki Bartlett, said that her family was pleased to learn that a bench would be created in his honor by the Rotary Club.

“It’s such an honor,” she said. “Dad did so many wonderful things with the community. He did it his way, but he would be honored and humbled by this gesture today.”

She said something many people didn’t know about her father was that he loved magic and started performing magic tricks at a young age and was also a puppeteer. <

Windham Summerfest returns June 22 for 34th year

By Kaysa Jalbert

Summerfest makes its way back to Windham on Saturday, June 22 taking on the theme “Summerfest Turns Back Time.” New to this year’s Summerfest is an updated parade route designed to give participants the best views and the best parade experience from start to finish.

The parade route for this year's Summerfest is different and
starts at noon June 22 from Stadium Drive at Windham Center
Road, proceeds up School Road, turns right onto Route 202
and finishes on the Windham High School grounds.
FILE PHOTO
This year’s Summerfest is a free event for everyone to enjoy live music and activities, to support local vendors and non-profit food booths, and is packed with many more features to bring the community together.

Parade floats will be based on this year’s theme. Float-makers can be as creative as they choose, but will be judged on specific criteria such as, best depiction of the 2024 theme, best depiction of Summerfest principle of “Bringing Unity to The Community,” most creative, most entertaining, and the judges’ choice.

The parade kicks off at noon on June 22 from Stadium Drive at Windham Center Road and will proceed up School Road to take a right onto Route 202. Staging areas will be at Public Works and Stadium Drive Parking lot. The parade finishes at 1 p.m. on the Windham High School grounds.

“We are excited about this new route and feel it will make it easier for our guests to enjoy every aspect of this exciting parade,” says Windham Summerfest committee co-chair Deb Matthews.

In addition to announcing the new parade route, Matthews said that this year’s Summerfest Grand Marshal will be Rich Drummond, the athletic director for RSU 14.

All the Summerfest booths will be open for the parade and continue into the evening. There will be community booths for local non-profits to share their good works, and the food booths operated by non-profits as a means of fundraising.

The Summerfest business expo is mostly local, and they provide fun activities for attendees while the crafter vendor area provides a wide variety of items for purchase.

“We have so many amazing sponsors that have provided us the ability to offer this event to our community for free,” said Matthews.

More fun and active features included will be a rock wall, two escape rooms, and an inflatable village.

For special guest entertainment, juggler Jason Tardy will perform and address topics such as what is bullying, the roles bystanders play in bullying, how to become an upstander and help fellow students, and what to do if you are bullied. He will also describe his own personal struggle with bullying and how he overcame it.

Other Summerfest performers will include a magician, balloon twisting, Mad Science, and tons of music. Musical performances include Jimmy Macisso playing on the Main Stage at 1 p.m., the Get on Up Band on the Main Stage from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. and Dave Debree performing on the George Hall Memorial Stage from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m.

An Amateur Radio Relay League will be appearing at this year’s Summerfest in which members from the Wireless Society of Southern Maine, WSSM, will be setting-up field day operations in the ballfields directly behind the main Summerfest event venue. Throughout the day and evening, anyone, young or old, is welcome to join the team of ham operators to learn more about Amateur Radio and participate in making radio contact with operators in other distant locations.

Summerfest 2024 will also host a 3 on 3 Basketball Tournament that starts at 2 p.m. and is open to anyone between the ages of 5 and 18. In addition, the Golf Ball drop sponsored by the Sebago Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce will start at 5 p.m. To end the evening, fireworks will be launched at 9:30 p.m. from the Main Stage.

“I feel all our events connect with our attendees. It is so important to the Summerfest Committee and me that we offer this to our community as a free family friendly event,” says Matthews. “I want your whole family to attend with you. I want you to spend the day, and if you cannot afford to spend any money pack a picnic lunch and relax. Watching the kids’ faces, seeing how happy the grandparents are to wave to grandchildren while they run and play, seeing Mom and Dad and the joy they get from these sweet moments.”

Every year presents a new challenge to the Summerfest Committee whether in booking all the acts or coordinating with the town, police, fire department and schools, or just hoping for good weather. According to Matthews, however, the biggest challenge remains in fundraising.

“We changed our sponsorship model last year and had great success,” she said. “We also keep an eye on the sky, fingers crossed and pray for sunshine.”

Matthews says the event will be full of vendors and booths and that annual public attendance for Summerfest runs between 2,500 to 4,000 people.

The Windham Summerfest Committee has been working on this year’s celebration since last June and its members include Deb Matthews, Tommy Matthews, Barb Maurais, Jacob Chouinard, Karen Rumo, and Camille Swander. <

Friday, June 7, 2024

Love of flying ignites dream for 2024 WHS graduate

By Ed Pierce

It’s been said that great pilots are made and not born and that those who complete flight training reach their goal through constant practice and experience. Windham High School 2024 graduate Conner Vail may indeed be one of those individuals.

Windham High School 2024 graduate Conner Vail
is working to obtain his pilot's license and would
someday like to become a commercial airline pilot.
He gave up playing sports in his senior year to
work for an aviation company in Portland.
PHOTO BY ED PIERCE
While other graduates may be looking to secure summer employment, Vail, 18, has been working as an aviation line service technician for MAC Air Group in Portland maintaining fueling systems for aircraft. He’s also racked up 33 hours of the required 40 hours for pilot training and hopes to obtain his pilot’s license within the next year.

“My plan following high school is to continue my flight training and become a professional pilot alongside working in aviation,” Vail said. “I plan on taking online classes toward a bachelor’s degree once I am settled in a flying job.”

His passion for flight is nothing new. Vail said he recently looked at a note he wrote while in fourth grade about what he wanted to do when he grew up.

“I wrote that someday I wanted to pilot a Boeing 777 aircraft,” he said. “This is something I’ve really wanted to do for a while and flying professionally has been a longtime dream of mine.”

Conner’s family, including his mother Kathleen, his father Paul, and his older brother Hunter have come to terms with his desire to fly.

“I think my mom was pretty scared at first, but she’s gotten better with it over time,” Vail said. “They all have accepted that flying is what I really want.”

Wanting to be close to aviation played a part in Vail applying to work with MAC Air Group after school during his senior year of high school.

“I have a passion that is hard to come across nowadays and I do everything I can to be around it,” he said. “My goals in life are unlike others and it seems to make me stand out from the rest of my classmates. I gave up playing sports my senior year and that was hard, but I’m farther ahead now of reaching my goal. My job is fun for me so I have never really considered it a chore, but instead a break from the stress that life can bring while in school.”

As far as academics in high school go, Vail says he just tried to stay on track, focusing on his future dreams and giving his best effort always.

“My greatest strength as a student is my ability to think differently than what I may be taught and not be afraid to use it, especially in math,” he said. “Lots of the math and science classes require formulas and lots of steps to find an answer. If I couldn’t make sense of a formula or solve something, I tried to make something for myself.”

He credits his teachers, school guidance counselors and his parents for prioritizing what he needs to be successful in life.

“My mentors in school such as teachers and counselors have helped me get to the point that I'm at now,” Vail said. “They guided me as a student to succeed in what I want for myself. But above all, my parents’ support and dedication to my future has gotten me the farthest and it continues to outside the classroom.”

Vail’s favorite teachers at Windham High School are Alissa James, Peter Small and Jeffrey Neal.

“They all brought passion to the classroom, cared about what they taught and never treated anyone like a stranger,” he said. “Their kindness and enthusiasm are top notch. My favorite class was U.S. History with Mr. Neal. I have always been a fan of history and learning why certain things exist today. Learning about our history as a nation is rewarding and full of interesting stories. That and every class beginning with current events was always a class I looked forward to.”

Vail also credits his sixth-grade teacher at Windham Middle School, Sarah Hopkins, for helping him to reach one of his goals of completing high school.

“I was by no means a great student in sixth grade. She helped me become a better student and taught me how to focus on what I want as I go through high school and to work hard to accomplish it,” he said.

With his high school diploma in hand, Vail says his immediate plan is to continue his flight training and to eventually become a professional pilot working in aviation.

“I plan on taking online classes toward a bachelor’s degree once I am settled in a flying job and my career goal is to fly for Delta,” he said.

Now that his time as a high school student is finished, Vail says his most enduring memory will be passing in his final assignment.

“Years and years of school and thousands of assignments, and that personal finance assignment was the last one,” he said. “I will never forget that feeling. All the hard work and the long nights, early mornings and it was that last one that took all the stress away.” <

Raymond Beautification Committee kicks off 2024 season

By Kendra Raymond

Most anyone traveling through Raymond via Route 302 is certain to notice the colorful gardens and planters scattered throughout the town. The town is fortunate to have a tireless group of volunteers leading the charge to spruce up the community.

Members of the Raymond Beautification
Committee work on a project planting
flowers at Raymond Veterans Park on
Route 302 in Raymond.
COURTESY PHOTO 
The Raymond Beautification Committee coordinates the work and meets once weekly to plant and perform maintenance. Residents may notice these pops of color in public areas throughout Raymond, including the Route 302 business corridor, Raymond Village Library, Raymond Town Office, Veteran’s Memorial Park, as well as multiple planters located throughout the town.

Volunteers began work for the 2024 season about a week ago. Projects include planning, planting, and weeding. The group is small but mighty.

Raymond Beautification Committee co-chair Sharon Dodson said that support and volunteers are always welcome.

“We have from one to three volunteers at a time usually and meet for two to four hours on Friday mornings. We do weeding, planting, and deadheading during that time,” said Dodson.

The committee recently published its yearly fundraising letter, which was posted on various sites and mailed to some residents. “Plant prices are higher every year and the Beautification volunteers need some financial help to keep Raymond blooming with colorful annuals and bulbs.” Dodson said in the letter, “Most funding for plants and bulbs comes from donations, but the town will help if we don’t get enough.”

Aside from financial help, the group would like to see volunteer numbers increase. This could be a great opportunity for students in need of volunteer hours, church or scout groups, retirees, or anyone interested in the visual appeal of our town – no experience required.

“Beautification volunteers usually meet at the Veterans Memorial Park on Friday mornings. We work more often during the planting season. People can also volunteer on their own if our schedule doesn’t work for them,” said Dodson.

The Raymond Beautification Committee started in 2003 following the completion of the Route 302 improvements project. Dodson said that there was no plan for garden maintenance, so she and resident Donna Johnson started weeding the areas with the assistance of Public Works Director Nathan White stepping in to water the gardens when possible.

“The following winter, Bridgton Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce Director Mike McClellan was talking to Raymond Town Manager Don Willard about what the needs are within the community. Together they decided that something needed to be done about the new unmaintained 70-plus garden areas along Route 302. They had seen us out there working and so Mike contacted me, and we pulled together a committee,” said Dodson. “The volunteer work started in an organized fashion early that spring, and we were putting in over 600 hours those first several summers. The town hired Dick Sanborn to mulch the gardens after we had weeded them, but it was a long process to get the out-of-control gardens back to where they had started the year before.”

Public works employee Don McClellan has been part of the effort for the past 12 years, providing heavy labor and debris removal in addition to his regular responsibilities maintaining Veteran’s Memorial Park and the beaches.

Looking to the future, Dodson envisions the town taking responsibility for the pruning and weeding, while the committee would handle planting annuals, bulbs, and maintaining the existing perennials. She said that the lighter scope of work might help attract more volunteers.

Dodson sees the vision of the committee as a partnership between businesses, the town, and volunteers.

“Making things pretty is appealing to volunteers and gives us a sense of gratification,” said Dodson. “We really appreciate your consideration and look forward to continuing our 20-year tradition of making our town just a little more beautiful.”

To learn more or if you are interested in volunteering, contact the committee through their Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/RaymondBeautificationCommittee

Volunteers can also call the Raymod Town Office at (207) 655-4742 or simply show up at Veteran’s Memorial Park Friday mornings at 8am. Just look for the fluorescent green Raymond volunteer shirts – and you have found them. If Fridays don’t work for you, Dodson can set up a time to meet to point out potential projects that can be completed independently.

To donate to the Raymond Beautification Committee, simply drop off or mail a check to: Town of Raymond, 401 Webbs Mills Road, Raymond, Maine 04071, Attn.: Beautification Committee. <