Friday, April 28, 2023

Insight: A family connection worth remembering

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

My aunt, Bernice Rogers, remains one of the most enigmatic individuals in my life and years after her death, I’m still trying to figure her out.

Bernice Rogers, left, visits her sister Harriett Pierce, while 
on a trip to Rochester, New York in 1962.   
At times she could be one of the most sensible and caring people I’ve ever known, and then suddenly turn on a dime and be someone I just couldn’t stand to be around. Her loud laughter could fill up an entire room and make me smile, but five minutes later she’d say or do some of the most hateful things that would make me cringe.

Some of her personality was shaped by traumatic events early in her life. Along with my mother, Bernice experienced abusive foster homes and orphanages in Rochester, New York during the Great Depression when her mother died when she was 14 and her father, who was blind from birth, was placed into the care of the New York School for the Blind. She became pregnant at 16 and was forced to give the baby away because she didn’t have the money to raise it alone. Then she married a man who proposed to her when she was 17 but he abandoned her when she miscarried their child four months later. She filed for divorce and it was granted by the court.

At the age of 18, she enlisted in the Women’s Army Corps, training at Fort Oglethorpe in Georgia. She went on to serve as an office clerk at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri for the duration of World War II, rising to the rank of junior leader, equivalent to an U.S. Army corporal. Upon her discharge, she returned to Rochester after the war and married again, and that ended in divorce less than a year later when her abusive husband threw her down some stairs, breaking her arm. Another brief marriage ended in divorce and their child was raised by the father’s family.

To help her recover from those experiences, Bernice’s brother, Bernard, and my mother, Harriett, paid for her to spend time in Miami, Florida with an elderly relative. There she met a boat captain from Alexandria Bay, New York named Ray Rogers, Jr. and they fell in love and got married. To ensure that this marriage would last, she stopped drinking alcohol and became a devout Christian, frequently attending tent revivals and welcoming door-to-door Jehovah’s Witnesses into her home for lengthy discussions when they rang her doorbell.

By the time I was entering school, Aunt Bernice was my favorite aunt, sending me birthday cards with a $5 bill inside or showing up unexpectedly and taking our family out for dinner at Howard Johnson’s restaurant. One summer when I was in high school, Aunt Bernice and Uncle Ray gave me a summer job pumping gasoline at their marina in the Thousand Islands area.

While I enjoyed that job, it was tough to live for a week with Aunt Bernice. She required total silence in her home every afternoon for hours while she napped. The bar of soap in the soap dish in her bathroom was not to be used as it was ornamental only. If I needed to wash my hands, I had to use the garden hose outside. I was forbidden to read any books or newspapers other than “The Watchtower” magazines she had accumulated. She constantly lectured me about the evils of alcohol.

Back home, Aunt Bernice’s eccentric behavior didn’t go unnoticed by my parents. She promised to send birthday or Christmas presents to my brother and I over the phone, but they never arrived. She frequently asked to borrow money and my mother discovered that Bernice and her husband were deep in debt because of her penchant for running up their credit cards shopping for clothing and home furnishings.

Through the years, my visits with Aunt Bernice became fewer as I grew up and went away to college. When I moved to Florida in 1991, she was living in a mobile home about two miles away from my parents in Melbourne. Uncle Ray had died the year before, and Bernice had trouble walking, falling frequently. I once saw her shopping at the grocery store on my way home from work and she didn’t seem to know who I was. She said she had lost her cane when she placed it on the roof of her car the week before as she put her grocery bags on the back seat and then drove away. That happened a lot, and I replaced her cane for her at least seven times.

In September 2005, Aunt Bernice called me from a rehabilitation facility nearby where she was recovering after breaking her hip in a hard fall. She asked my wife Nancy and I to visit her and we did. She asked Nancy if she could wash a pair of pants for her and we took them home. The next morning the rehab facility called to tell us that Aunt Bernice had passed away overnight at the age of 85.

I never did figure her out, but I loved her for who she was and maybe that’s all I could do. She was big part of my family growing up and I still think about her today.<

Andy Young: Dreaming of hosting while guesting

By Andy Young

When Maine’s schools took their annual April break last week, I decided to take an actual driving vacation, my first such junket in quite some time. But even if I had the wherewithal to go tour some famous landmarks or national parks, I’d have opted instead for doing exactly what I did: visit some good people I hadn’t seen for a while.

Taking this trip reminded me of just how lucky I am to be able to do this sort of thing. The quality of the nation’s roads, the ease with which one can obtain fuel, and clarity with which federal and state roadways are marked is something too many Americans take for granted. I for one am particularly glad our country’s interstate highway system is so efficiently laid out; were it not, directionally challenged people like me would never be able to effectively navigate their way between places hundreds of miles apart.

The seven-day, 1,317-mile whirlwind tour covered nine states, although I never did set foot in three of them. New Hampshire, New York, and Delaware were literally drive-through states on this journey.

My first visit was with someone who was a role model and father figure to me and literally thousands of others during his half-century (and counting) on the faculty at the university that eventually awarded me a diploma. I enjoy every visit there, which always ends with me being given some new bit of college-themed apparel. The only time my host ever stops smiling occurs if I attempt to take out my wallet and pay for dinner at whatever restaurant we’ve chosen. “Put that thing away!” he’ll growl, and dutifully I do.

Subsequent stops in four other Connecticut towns yielded quality time with another college friend, a couple whose sons I babysat for many moons ago, and cousins who qualify as both friends and family.

Next up: more quality family time in Schnecksville, Pennsylvania, where a day and a half passed in what seemed like an hour. Similarly, the three-hour visit I had in Reading, Pa. with a fellow writer and baseball enthusiast seemed to go by in about ten minutes. From there I drove south to two places where people who were important to me when we lived near one another decades ago confirmed that they’re still just as special today, even though they currently reside 476 miles (Lincoln University, Pa.) and 544 miles (Silver Spring, Maryland) from where I do.

Alas, all good things must end, and when Wednesday morning arrived, I realized it was time to head north. Getting home from suburban Washington, D.C. should have taken nine hours, but thanks to traffic in New Jersey and Connecticut (which I feel should be renamed “New New Jersey”) the trek took nearly 12.

As great as the trip was, I feel slightly guilty, since I didn’t pay for a darned thing the entire time I was on the road: no one would let me.

However, what I did do, was to try to convince each person I encountered to come up and visit Maine this summer. It would be a treat to have any or all of them drop by at some point in the not-too-distant future.

It’s not realistic to expect everyone I invited to come north this year, which is why the chances of my going from being “America’s Guest” to “America’s Host” are pretty slender. But if I can entice even one person to visit sometime soon it’ll give me the opportunity to do something I’ve always wanted to try: growl “Put that thing away” when my dinner guest reaches for their wallet! <

Friday, April 21, 2023

Insight: Bravery beyond imagination

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

Around this time in April some 50 years ago in 1973, the final U.S. prisoners of war being held in North Vietnam were freed and returning to their homes after years of captivity.

U.S. Air Force pilot Mike Lane was
shot down over North Vietnam and 
captured and held as a Prisoner of
War for 2,271 days in the Hanoi Hilton
before being freed. COURTESY PHOTO
About eight years later, when I was stationed at The Pentagon in Washington, D.C., our squadron hosted a symposium on the release of the POWs and it included a special guest speaker, a U.S. Air Force pilot, Lt. Col. Mike Lane, who had been shot down and imprisoned at the Ho Loa Prison Camp, known commonly as the “Hanoi Hilton.” It was my great privilege to be able to interview him for the Bolling Beam, an Air Force weekly newspaper, it it truly opened my eyes to the brutality and hardships that these valiant Americans endured.

Lane was from Connecticut and had participated in the ROTC program while attending Notre Dame University. Upon graduation in 1964, he then trained as a fighter pilot and learned to fly the F-4 Phantom aircraft. After a year of service in England, he was transferred to the 559th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Cam Ranh Bay Air Base in South Vietnam in November 1966. Less than two weeks later, Lane’s F-4 aircraft came under heavy enemy fire on Dec. 2, 1966, while patrolling the skies over North Vietnam. The plane was so badly damaged that Lane was forced to eject, beginning a grueling ordeal that tested his mental and physical strength and will to survive.

He was shaken but alive when he was captured by North Vietnamese troops that day. They tied his hands with rope and forced him to march about 12 miles to the prison, where he was thrown into a cell and later interrogated about his mission and the military capabilities of his aircraft. He stuck to only telling him his name, rank, and military serial number.

His captors consistently beat him and demanded he tell them information about his squadron’s flights during the war and potential targets around Hanoi. He was punched, slapped, and deprived of food and water.

Yet despite it all, Lane and other prisoners held in the prison clung to the belief that one day the war would end, and they would be freed. In the meantime, the prisoners, who were forbidden to speak with each other, learned to communicate between their cells using a primitive form of tapping on their cell walls. Through this system, Lane learned the names of many of the other prisoners and how long they had been held captive as POWs.

When there was food, it was served in filthy conditions and covered with insects. I recall Lane telling me that one day he found a live cockroach in a bowl of rice he was given and a biscuit contained weevils. The worst food I wrote about him being served though was a type of pork still containing bristles that he had to pick away to eat.

The cells of the American prisoners were open-air with iron bars on the windows and the prisoners slept on dirt floors with no blankets for winter or cooling in the summer heat. Guards treated them viciously and beatings continued throughout their imprisonment.

Then one day, after nearly six years of captivity, Lane found out that a deal had been reached to free U.S. POWs. It was called “Operation Homecoming” and finally after 2,271 days as a prisoner, Lane was released on Feb. 18, 1973. He was hospitalized for several months following his release because of injuries he had sustained as a POW.

Once recovered, Lane was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry and intrepidity in action for his in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force while a Prisoner of War in North Vietnam. His citation mentions that despite the enemy resorting to mental and physical cruelties to obtain information, confessions and propaganda materials, Lane resisted their demands by calling upon his deepest inner strengths in a manner which reflected his devotion to duty and great credit upon himself and the U.S. Air Force.

He went on to resume his military career and told me the one thing he wanted everyone to know about his time in captivity as a POW was that the Americans who were held at the Hanoi Hilton were the bravest individuals he ever knew and their love for this country was undeniable. Lane later married and retired as a colonel, serving as the Chief of the Air Force Human Resources Laboratory at Williams Air Force Base in Arizona in October 1988.

His participation in our salute to U.S. POWs at The Pentagon was the highlight of the event and came about because Lane was good friends with our commander, Col. Jerry Bronnenberg, who was my boss. Our nation’s military history is filled with tales of heroism and unselfish sacrifice, but when I think back about the things that our POWs in Vietnam went through, little compares to the treatment they received at the hands of their captors. These men and what they endured should not be forgotten or relegated to a chapter in a history book. They served valiantly and 50 years later, we honor their service.<

Andy Young: Thank you, class!

By Andy Young

When it comes to inherent rewards, for a teacher nothing tops getting a smile or a verbal “thank you” from an appreciative young person at the end of class. I’ll never get tired of that, no matter how often it occurs.

Another thing I can’t get enough of: students really sinking their teeth into a creative writing assignment. Recently I asked the soon-to-be-graduating seniors in my five Grade 12 classes for 150 or more words on any food item that, given the choice, they would NEVER eat again.

The list of nominal comestibles young people dread and/or despise includes many of the usual suspects (mushrooms, hard boiled eggs, seafood, brussels sprouts, and Spam, among others), several desserts (macaroons, pink frosted sugar cookies and pumpkin pie), some wild game (squirrel and rabbit), and a couple of things I had to look up: durian, a foul-smelling fruit native to Borneo and Sumatra, and Marmite, a sticky British food spread made from the byproducts of beer brewing.

The vividness with which these aspiring writers described the depths of their revulsion ranged from inspiring to breathtaking to worrisome. Some examples:

The putrid smell of an orange makes me ill.

A radish is a spicy root that’s bitter and ruins anything you could put with it. Radishes should just stay in the ground.

Beets are by far the worst food I have ever experienced. They simply taste like dirt.

Even before I dug into the liver pate, I was suspicious. It looked like cat food, and thus was unfit for human consumption.

I can’t imagine how some people choose to eat celery willingly. It’s like opting to feast on soggy tree bark.

Pork chops cooked on a George Foreman grill come out super dry. It’s like you’re killing the same animal twice!

Yes, it’s nutritious, but at what cost? No one should have to go through the trauma of eating bok choy.

If the repulsive texture of olives doesn’t get you, their disgusting taste will send you over the edge. How can a single food be sour, bitter, slimy, and wet all at the same time?

But here’s the most shocking result of my little unscientific survey: by an overwhelming margin, the most detested victual amongst the youthful respondents is one many people couldn’t live without.

Below are some of the milder commentaries concerning a food I personally consider to be delicious.

Tomatoes should cease to exist. I hate the taste of the juice, the smell, the texture, and everything about them. I'm scared that if I ever eat tomatoes again, I will get sick again.

The fear of throwing up again torments me so much, I will never eat any kind of tomatoes again.

The slimy texture of the tomato overshadows everything else. Beef and beans can’t save this disaster, and onions don’t help, either. What could have been a perfectly good spoonful of chili is ruined by the mere presence of a chunky tomato.

The day I first consumed tomatoes was the last day of my childhood innocence. I never thought this world could be so vile until the day I was introduced to tomatoes by parents I had previously thought cared about me. There’s a reason why people throw tomatoes at bad actors, prisoners, and politicians.

Food preferences aside, there’s still nothing like getting spoken affirmation from someone who truly appreciates something you’ve done. And on the theory that others feel the same way I do, thank you Liz, Shawn, Andrew, Sophie, Dakota, Mitch, Henry, Quinn, Seamus, Alex, Maya, Jameson, Sarah, and Emma, for writing better than half this essay for me! <

Jane Pringle: Compassion Cures

By State Rep. Jane Pringle

We all feel stress at various times in our lives. The rush of information flooding over us today seems to grow stronger, often overwhelming us. Competing demands on our time can also overwhelm us. Each of us has different skills and resources to cope with this. For some of us, our responses can be life-threatening or life-saving.

State Rep. Jane Pringle
On Thursday, April 6, the “Be The Influence” Coalition led by Laura Morris, hosted a program at the Windham High School called “Compassion Cures: Building Hope By Overcoming Stigma.” It began with a 30-minute documentary film telling local stories about people and families experiencing substance use disorder and helping us see what we/they need to achieve recovery.

The film was followed by a panel discussion. Panelists included people in recovery, families who have lost loved ones to overdose, members of Portland Recovery Center, Northern Lights Medical Center, The Yellow Tulip Project, Director of our State Opioid Response Gordon Smith, Mrs. Maine 2022 Christine Erde, who suffers from Bipolar Disorder, Windham Police Chief Kevin Schofield and Chelsea Berry, who has produced an album of songs dedicated to those of us dealing with addiction and the loss of loved ones to addiction.

Important messages from this program:

· Substance use disorder (SUD) is a disease of the brain and needs to be viewed and treated like any other diseases like diabetes or high blood pressure.

· There are both biologic and social risk factors that increase the risk for SUD, including family history of SUD.

· People with anxiety and depression sometimes “self-medicate” with substances like alcohol, marijuana and opiates which make them feel better. But, if they have SUD risk factors, they can become addicted to using them, even when that use interferes with everything else in their life.

· There are treatments for SUD that help people recover and programs that help them remain in recovery.

· Opiates obtained on the illegal market are now commonly laced with Fentanyl, a very strong opiate, which can quickly stop breathing and cause death.

· Naloxone (Narcan) is an extremely SAFE medication which blocks the effects of opioids and can save a life!

· The state Opioid Response Program is helping to increase the access to Recovery Programs, Education and Access to Narcan for all of us to be able to save a life and help someone into Recovery.

· If we can treat our friends, neighbors and family members with love and support, we can help them recover from the effects of addiction and regain their health and function!

Future programs planned by the Be The Influence Coalition include:

Mental Health First Aid training for religious leaders. April 26 from 6 to 8 p.m. at St. Ann’s Episcopal Church, 40 Windham Center Road, Windham

Jammin’ For Mental Health through the Arts, May 3 from 3 to 7 p.m. at Windham High School.

I am very proud that Windham has so many people working together to make our community healthier. We are lucky to have them! <

State Rep. Jane Pringle represents District 107, part of Windham.

Friday, April 14, 2023

Andy Young: White to green, with brown in between

By Andy Young

It’s been a few weeks since any friends in tropical locales like Florida, Texas, the Carolinas, and Massachusetts have called me to inquire if winter has ended yet here in the nation’s northeastern terminus. Many woefully misinformed Americans seem to think Maine’s year-round climate is a polar one, and that our fair state would be more aptly labeled as East Alaska. It is for the benefit of these condescending sun belters and Massho……., er, Massachusettsers that I’ll set the record straight. The piles of snow at the end of my driveway are merely shin-high these days, and I expect that they’ll be gone completely by May Day at the latest.

Too many people simply assume that when the white of winter fades, the green of spring immediately follows. That may be true in some parts of the country, but it’s rarely if ever the case here in the nation’s far northeast.

In these parts winter concludes on the calendar several weeks before spring’s actual arrival. The last white-specked-with-sandy-gray snow piles don’t instantly transform into lush greenery any more than a caterpillar crawls into a cocoon one night and wakes up a butterfly the next morning. Here in America’s lone one-syllable state, nature’s predominant hue in April and early May isn’t green, but brown.

If any color on the spectrum has undeservedly gotten a bad name, it’s brown. Roses may be red, and violets may be blue (actually, aren’t they violet?), but the first brown thing that comes to mind isn’t terribly attractive, and it definitely doesn’t smell like roses or violets. It’s also the pigment (and name) associated with a perennially lousy National Football league team.

Brown is the Rodney Dangerfield of colors; it truly gets no respect. If Brown were a third grader, it’d be the last kid selected when sides are being picked for kickball. If Brown was a vegetable, it would be Lima Beans; were it distributed on Halloween night it’d undoubtedly be candy corn. Turnips are the Brown of Thanksgiving; at Christmas Brown is fruitcake. If Brown were a movie, it would probably be, ironically enough, The Color Purple, a 1986 film that was nominated for eleven Academy Awards but didn’t win any.

But every so often Brown gets some well-deserved love. Maple syrup, eggs and potatoes are brown. So are almonds, chocolate, and, ummm….chocolate-covered almonds. Musician James Brown was dubbed “The Godfather of Soul” by his admirers. Charlie Brown is, with the possible exception of his dog Snoopy, the most beloved cartoon character in American history. And when people who like arguing about silly things debate the identity of the 20th century’s greatest athlete, professional football Hall of Famer and All-American collegiate lacrosse star Jim Brown’s name is always in the discussion.

Most Americans associate spring with the smell of flowers blooming, the sound of birds chirping, and the sight of leaves unfurling in a setting that gets progressively greener with each passing day. And those things really do happen in southern Maine as well.


The difference is they occur later up here. Retreating snow doesn’t turn green right away, but instead morphs into a muddy brown landscape that, like late-blooming trees and nascent grass, gets a tiny bit more attractive every 24 hours until the time (usually in early to mid-June) comes when Maine’s spring finally becomes a veritable green wonderland.

But then, about a week after the start of for-real spring, our beautiful summer arrives. And that’s when those smug Floridians, Texans, Carolinians and Massho………, Massachusettsers who wonder why we live up here all winter will themselves inevitably (and quite justifiably) turn green…..with envy! <

Insight: Songs that jog the memory

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

Singer Stevie Wonder once said that music, at its essence, is what gives us memories and the longer that a song has existed in our lives, the more memories we have of it. When I first heard that, I began to connect songs to important memories in my life and found it to be an accurate statement.

I discovered that the way my brain works, I tend to remember certain songs with memorable times I have experienced. Some of these songs provoke strong emotions in me or others I associate with aspects of life I overlook or are buried in the past.

In some instances, I can recall where I was or what I was doing when I first heard a particular song.

Here are some examples of what I came up with, what I happened to be doing or why a song is relevant even today in my memories:

I first heard one tune many people are familiar with when I was driving through New York City with my father in the summer of 1969. He was working as an engineer for a startup computer company in Stamford, Connecticut and was commuting home to Rochester, New York on weekends. One weekend he asked me if I wanted to spend the week with him in Stamford and I leaped at the opportunity. It was a short drive to New York City, and he wanted to give me a tour one night when I was visiting. We drove into the city, and I found myself immersed in another world. It was incredible to me that even at 10 p.m., some streets were lighted bright as day for shoppers and pedestrian traffic even at night was heavy there. I got to see Chinatown, the Brooklyn Bridge, Manhattan and despite a green light, some drivers stopped at an intersection and got out of their cars to purchase ice cream from the Good Humor truck. As we drove past Central Park, the harmonious refrains of Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” came on my father’s car radio, and it was the first time I had ever heard it. Therefore, for me, I do not associate “Sweet Caroline” with the seventh inning stretch of Red Sox games at Fenway Park in Boston, rather I remember it for a great time spent with my father driving through New York City. I’ll always associate that tune with my father.

When my wife Nancy and I were first dating, we spent a Saturday morning driving around to various neighborhood garage sales in Florida. A song came on the radio that we both liked. I had not heard it before, and I asked Nancy if she knew what the name of the song was and who performed it. She told me that she had heard the song before, and it was called “Collide” by Howie Day. Whenever I listen to that song today, I am instantly transported back in time to that moment years ago and we both fondly think of it as “our song.”

In January 1972, after spending Christmas at home in Rochester with my family, my college roommate, Craig, picked me up a few days before New Year’s Eve and we drove in his Volkswagen Beetle across the country. We stopped at his brother’s house in Ohio and to visit a friend in Oklahoma City and we were back on the road on Jan. 3 bound for our college in New Mexico. To get there, we had to drive through the Panhandle of Texas and the weather was deteriorating as a massive snowstorm rolled across the plains bearing down on us as we drove along Route 66. To distract us as the storm approached, Craig turned on the car radio and we happened to catch the debut of a new song, “You’re So Vain” by Carly Simon. I had never heard of her before, so through the years, I have always associated “You’re So Vain” and Carly Simon with riding on Route 66 in the Panhandle of Texas while trying to outrun a dangerous snowstorm.

One of the experiences I came to enjoy about serving in the U.S Air Force in Germany was that the Base Exchange store would have record albums available soon after their public release back home in the states at a discounted price. I amassed quite a collection of performers just breaking out or on the cusp of stardom. It was fun to introduce my friends and co-workers to new music and new artists on a regular basis. Some of these new artists at that time included Nicolette Larson, Van Halen, and The Cars. I can remember picking up and looking at a new album in June 1978 and I paid $5.95 for it without ever hearing a cut from the album or knowing what the band’s music sounded like. That album was “Dire Straits” by Dire Straits, and it remains one of my favorites of all-time, especially the song “Sultans of Swing” from the album. Now nearing some 45 years later, when I think of my time stationed in Germany, I can still hear the song “Sultans of Swing” playing in my head.

What songs jog your memory?

Friday, April 7, 2023

Insight: Not fitting the pattern

Not long before his death, the longtime director of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, held a press conference to announce the results of a nationwide study of crime in America. The study surveyed police records from 2,400 U.S. cities and towns in the early 1970s and 50 years later, a recent national crime report eerily echoes findings that Hoover originally confirmed in 1973.

Here’s a summary of results reported:

Burglaries most commonly take place during the months of December, January, and February.

The most probable day and time for burglaries is on a Saturday evening.

Most burglaries take place between the hours of 6 p.m. and 2 a.m.

The greatest number of violent assaults, rapes, and murders are reported during the months of July and August.

Most murders are committed on a weekend.

The largest number of murders are committed between the hours of 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. and mostly happen at night.

Speaking from personal experience, the burglary that took place at our home in the late 1980s did not fit the pattern.

One summer, we had hired a contractor that our family had used previously for a project to install some new windows and create a new family room addition off the kitchen of our house. This contractor was well respected in the community and had known us for years. He was enthusiastic, kept costs down and did excellent work.

The contractor was in his late 60s and had two of his nephews and his son helping him perform the work. They always arrived on time and were polite and respectful as they spent time at our home.

We brought them water and my wife even made sandwiches for lunch for them one afternoon. We invited them inside where it was cool and to take a break when the temperature outside topped 100 degrees.

There was nothing out of the ordinary about the experience of having them work at our home. After a week and a half, all the necessary work was finished, we paid the contractor and he and his crew left. We were thrilled to have a beautiful new family room complete with a new wood stove, new carpeting and two large windows to look out over the back of our property.

The bill was exactly as the contactor had quoted us and he even painted the new family room to show his appreciation for hiring him and his crew for our project.

Several weeks went by and we resumed our normal routines of working, going to school and caring for my wife’s elderly mother, who was bed-ridden and in poor health.

Then something odd happened. When I arrived home from work one afternoon, I noticed that the VCR under our television was missing and that was unusual because I taped a three-hour block of ABC soap operas (All My Children, One Life to Live and General Hospital) every day for her. She arrived home from a college nursing class not long thereafter and we quickly determined that our home had been burglarized.

Missing was $800 in cash taken from the drawer of an antique coffee grinder on a shelf in the kitchen, a box of old 1950s baseball cards from a closet, expensive jewelry from her mother’s dresser drawers, a chainsaw, a .22 rifle, my Air Force field jacket, the VCR, and several pieces of antique ivory that my mother-in-law had brought home from India after World War II.

We immediately called the police and reported the burglary. They came out and investigated and said they would get back to us if they found out anything.

A couple of weeks passed, and both my wife and I were sickened by what happened. We did not feel safe in our own home and felt like someone had violated our private space and lost our sense of security.

Then we received a phone call from the police. An arrest was made following the discovery of a few of our stolen items at a pawn shop about 40 miles away. I had kept the serial number of the chainsaw from when I purchased it and had also jotted down the serial number of the .22 rifle and turned that information over to the police when we reported the crime.

The police informed us that they had arrested the son of the contractor for burglarizing our home. His personal information had been taken when he sold the pawn shop the chainsaw and the .22 rifle. Apparently, this fellow was addicted to drugs and admitted to the police that he had installed the family room windows while working at our home and knew how to open them easily on a day when we weren’t there.

The chainsaw and the rifle were the only items police recovered and we have no idea what happened to the other items. He sold the rifle and chainsaw for cash to buy drugs and we weren’t aware he was on probation after being released from jail for burglary. The lesson here is to always be aware of who’s working at your home and to protect your valuables at all times. We didn’t and paid the price. <

Tim Nangle: Keeping our promises and paying the bills

By State Sen. Tim Nangle

Last week was certainly a busy one up in Augusta. After a long night in the Senate chamber, I am proud to share that we have successfully passed Part I of the biennial budget.

State Senator Tim Nangle
This budget reflects our dedication to fulfilling the needs of Mainers by providing essential services and ensuring our ongoing commitments to education, childcare, hospitals, behavioral health, long-term care, property tax relief, and much more. These are not just line items in a budget but an embodiment of our shared values and vision for a better Maine.

The decision to approach the biennial budget in two parts — focusing first on current services and later debating new initiatives — is designed to provide stability and transparency for our families, communities, and small business owners. By making good on our commitments and paying the bills, we’ve laid a solid foundation for future growth and development in our great state.

Part I of the budget keeps our promises on property tax relief, early childcare and education, and health care. It respects Maine’s revenue-sharing program, protects the Property Tax Fairness Credit, upholds the Homestead Exemption Program, and provides tax breaks for older Mainers. It also makes good on the state’s commitment to fund education at 55 percent, provide free school meals for all, support Maine’s childcare workers, and fund teacher retirement.

As a lifelong advocate of public health, I am pleased to see that Part I of the budget prioritizes health care coverage for children and families through the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), as well as funding for nursing homes, long-term care facilities, and in-home and community support services for older Mainers and other adults. Additionally, the budget includes funding for the low-cost drugs program, which helps retired Mainers access affordable medications.

By funding education at 55 percent, supporting our childcare workers, and ensuring our retired neighbors can enjoy well-earned tax breaks, Part I of the budget acknowledges the dedication of hard-working Mainers all across our state. Our children will continue to benefit from school meals at no charge, and we'll keep investing in crucial health care programs like CHIP for our youngest Mainers.

This continuing services budget might not make for exciting headlines, but it does make for good government. By maintaining the revenue-sharing program at 5 percent, we ensure stability for property taxes, providing municipalities with the necessary funds to cover essential services like law enforcement, snow removal, and more. This is the first-ever two-year budget to fully restore the revenue-sharing program since its elimination in 2015.

As a former member of the Windham Town Council, I understand how important it is for the state to pay its fair share and provide stability for local municipalities and schools that are currently working on their own budgets.

Knowing what funds that they can expect from the state allows local leaders and school officials to budget more effectively and ensure that municipal taxes don’t increase if they don’t have to. Maine families, communities, and small business owners deserve this type of transparency and leadership from our state government.

Now that we’ve paid all the bills that we agreed to in the 130th Legislature, we can move forward, working across the aisle, to decide what new projects and programs we want to see in the second part of the budget. Importantly, splitting the budget into two parts helps us avoid a government shutdown this summer and guarantees our neighbors, municipalities, and businesses will continue to receive the state services they count on.

As we move forward with the second part of the biennial budget, I will continue working alongside my colleagues to find new ways to strengthen our communities and improve the quality of life for all Mainers. I aim to be your voice in Augusta, representing your hopes and aspirations for what good government means to you.

Thank you for placing your trust in me as your state senator. I remain committed to advocating for the well-being of our families, communities, and local economies. By working together, we can shape the future for a better Maine, where everyone has the opportunity to thrive. If you or someone you know needs assistance, wants to discuss legislation, or needs help connecting with a state agency, please don’t hesitate to reach out. My email is, and my office phone number is 207-287-1515. You can find me on Facebook at To receive regular updates, sign up for my e-newsletter at <

Andy Young: Nine remarkable decades

By Andy Young

My friend Vaughn Fuller loved meaningful conversation.

Several months had gone by since I had last heard from him, and since we corresponded semi-regularly, when an electronic letter I sent to his distinctive email address ( bounced back, I donned my electronic detective hat, typed his name into a google search, and hit my keyboard’s “return” button. Seconds later I learned that my friend Vaughn Fuller had died.

I can’t remember the exact content of the long-ago letter to the editor of the Portland Press Herald I had written that had initially gotten Vaughn’s attention, but whatever it was, he took the trouble to write and let me know he staunchly agreed with the views I had expressed. I was impressed not only by his kindness, but also by his having taken the time to find my home address; apparently, I wasn’t Maine’s only skilled internet sleuth.

Because I’ve never been able to resist responding to thoughtfulness with more of the same, I wrote him back which began an enduring friendship. Vaughn and I had similar senses of humor, and our thoughts on many issues, both historical and contemporary, were often remarkably similar. And on those rare occasions when we differed, my first reaction was to question my own opinion, since Vaughn always cheerfully expressed his beliefs eloquently, and in terms that were equal parts logical, thought-provoking, and civil.

“Uncle Vaughn” (he signed most of his correspondence that way) told me he was a retired educator. A devoted dad and granddad, he and his wife Marie were married for 68 years. He coached baseball and basketball in his younger days, which gave us something else in common. Even though he was retired, U. V. had no trouble staying busy, but despite that (and the fact I had three young children of my own) we arranged to meet for lunch in exotic Damariscotta one summer. I brought the oldest of my brood along for company, and we had a delightful time. Vaughn was every bit as great in person as he was via correspondence. He also made sure to involve my young son in everything we chatted about; inclusiveness was instinctive to him.

Time kept passing, life kept happening, and our chats became less frequent. But it was always a red-letter day when I’d hear from U. V., and I trust he felt the same way when he’d get something from me, either via email or, if I was inspired, in his actual mailbox.

Uncle Vaughn’s obituary made great reading even if you’d never met him, because it made it clear what an amazing 90 years he lived. He’d mentioned in passing that he’d been a teacher and a coach; but I hadn’t known he had coached a state championship girls basketball team at South Portland High School in 1977, or that he had a master’s degree from an Ivy League school. I didn’t know that because he had never brought it up, any more than he ever boasted of having been, in no particular order, a naval aviator, a Maine Guide, an architect, an artist, and a bush pilot who loved paddling canoes and taking motorcycle trips. In retrospect that makes perfect sense. Vaughn didn’t care much for braggadocious self-promoters.

But while he abhorred narcissists, as a former athlete and mentor Vaughn greatly admired baseball immortal Jackie Robinson, whose tombstone reads “A LIFE IS NOT IMPORTANT EXCEPT IN THE IMPACT IT HAS ON OTHER LIVES.”

If there is indeed an afterlife, I expect that Mr. Robinson and Uncle Vaughn are currently enjoying numerous conversations that are both meaningful and impactful. <