Friday, October 27, 2023

Insight: A faith in humanity

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

For the record, I still believe in humanity. That’s not always easy to say, but deep down inside I cling to the belief that mankind is essentially good, and we are all part of this wonderful thing called life together.

As a journalist with a lengthy career, I’ve covered some of the most inhumane and uncaring activities imaginable while also reporting about some genuine acts of kindness and care for our neighbors, friends, and family. In my lifetime, I reported about the aftermath of war, hate crimes, murders, and horrible animal cruelty. Yet I’ve also told the stories of those who are determined to make life better for their community and those are the stories that have interested me the most.

Here are a few shining examples of things I’ve been fortunate to write about:

When I was a reporter in New Mexico in the late 1980s, I learned of a family struggling at Christmas just to survive, let alone to celebrate the holidays. The mother and father and three children lived in a mobile home 10 miles outside of town. The father was stricken with irritable bowl syndrome and had been laid off from his manufacturing plant job because he frequently missed his shifts because of his illness. The family didn’t have health insurance and there were days the father could not even stand up because of severe pain.

Both the mother and father refused to apply for welfare or food stamps and insisted that they could find a way out of their situation somehow. They owed two months back rent and both the electric bill and phone bill were overdue. They didn’t have a car to even go buy groceries and would ask neighbors to take them to the store when they had any money to buy food.

A local church group wanted to help purchase gifts for the children for Christmas and that’s where I came in. They introduced me to the family, and I spent an afternoon at their mobile home interviewing them for a story that was supposed to run in the daily newspaper on Christmas Eve. What I found in speaking with them was a strong will to overcome their circumstances.

With Christmas approaching, they were doing their best to find a way out and that meant something challenging for the mother. She had just been hired by Burger King and was walking 12 miles one way to her job and 12 miles back every day to support the family. Rain, snow or sunshine, the mother had been spotted by some community members walking on the highway each morning and afternoon.

Both parents told me they did not care about physical hardships they were faced with, rather they realized that they loved each other and even if they didn’t have Christmas gifts or even a Christmas tree, they were a family, alive and breathing. The headline for the article was “No Gifts But Poor Family Has Ample Love.”

The article ran in the newspaper, and it reaffirmed my faith in humanity. People read the story and throughout the day on Christmas Eve brought them food baskets, wrapped toys for the children, and a warm new jacket for the mother for her commute to work. An anonymous donor paid their overdue electric bill, and a county commissioner paid their telephone bill. A church group reached out to their landlord and paid their back rent and three months of advance rent for their mobile home.

But the best surprise was yet to come. A car dealer donated a used vehicle for the family on Christmas Day and brought it to them so the mother could drive to work instead of walking every day. Several local merchants also showed up on Christmas Eve with a Christmas tree, lights, and ornaments and an abundance of presents to go underneath the tree. A college professor offered to pay for the father’s medicine to help him get back on his feet and get back to work.

When I called the couple a few days after Christmas for their reaction in a follow-up article, they were speechless, humbled, and grateful.

I also once reported in Florida about a soldier who had lost a leg in combat in Iraq who returned home after his medical discharge. Less than a week later he was organizing a volunteer effort to build a wheelchair ramp for a home where a disabled World War II veteran lived. Despite his own injury, the Iraq War veteran was there during the build, sawing lumber and directing the volunteers.

When I asked him why he chose to do this at this time, he told me “Someone has to, and it might as well be me.”

These are just a few examples of people caring about the plight of others that I have reported about. I read just about every day about others. When I think of all the tragedies of wars right now, ghastly terrorist attacks in the world, mass school shootings and other unthinkable events, I’m reassured that there are good people out there who truly care about their neighbors, their community, and the world in general. <

Andy Young: The Challenges of Composing

By Andy Young

Authoring a weekly newspaper column of exactly 600 words is not a simple undertaking.

Believe you me, there are times when finding the necessary hours to complete such an essay is an exceptionally daunting task.

Coming to a decision regarding what to write about is the first challenge. During some weeks there are a myriad of options to choose from, but at other times my mind is utterly bereft of ideas.

Doing what’s necessary often requires sacrifice, since figuring out how to create the necessary time for writing, editing, and revising when no convenient opportunity exists often seems impossible.

Eventually though, I’ll decide on a topic to write about, and then explore the subject from several perspectives, or sometimes from just one offbeat or unique one.

For the sake of my own mental, physical, and emotional health, I rarely stay up past 11 o’clock at night wordsmithing, as by that time I’ve usually reached (or passed) the point of diminishing returns.

Going any further at that stage, given that I’ve probably already had a day that’s been full of activity and/or stress, would more than likely be counterproductive, and probably frustrating as well.

Having space to write is important, and on that score I’m lucky, since the other people living at our residence generally don’t wake up quite as early as I do.

In fact, there are times when I’ll have been in front of the computer for two hours or more before anyone else in the house has gotten out of their bed.

Just the other day I began composing this particular essay at five o’clock in the morning, and aside from the sound of my fingers attacking the keyboard, I didn’t hear a peep until nearly four hours later!

Keys to ultimately succeeding include patience, imagination, and perpetual kindness, both to myself and to others.

Letting things I can’t control distract me is something I assiduously try to avoid.

Making the best use of the time I’ve got during any given week is essential as well.

Nearly as important, though, is staying cognizant of what’s going on around me.

Or to put it another way, maintaining awareness of my surroundings is vital.

Putting together a perfect essay in a single draft just isn’t possible, or at least it isn't in the world I inhabit.

Quickness is an asset if you’re trying to evade a defender on the basketball court or the soccer pitch, but it’s a rare writer who can put thoughtful, impactful and memorable words together in a brief period of time.

Rare individuals can produce memorable prose in just one sitting, but sadly, I’m not one of those prodigies.

Several factors are responsible for this, I suspect.

Trying to maintain balance in other portions of my life is one of them.

Under no circumstances, for example, would I give up time with loved ones just to produce 600 words.

Vocalizing what I’ve written (carefully reading each sentence out loud) is a surprisingly fruitful way of improving what I’ve cobbled together.

When my creative juices are flowing, I feel confident enough to believe that what I’ve put together won’t require additional hours of fine-tuning, although at other times I think I’ll never be able to produce anything that a rational person would want to read.

X-rays of my head would probably show nothing on those occasions.

You know what’s really tough, though?

Zealously trying to create a 600-word essay where the first word begins with the letter A, and each of the next 25 sentences starts, in precise descending order, with the next letter of the alphabet! <

Friday, October 20, 2023

Insight: An accumulation of helpful advice

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

Now that I’m older, everyone seems to assume that as we age, we suddenly become wiser. While that may be the case for some individuals, I’ve found that many others appear to regress in wisdom and common sense in later years. It really all depends upon the person.

Through the years, I’ve been fortunate to have been given some excellent practical advice that I’ve used successfully throughout my life’s journey and without reservation, I offer some of that advice to you here.
Change can be beneficial

After years of doing a layout and design job at a daily newspaper, I was asked by my supervisor to move my desk and change my duties to another responsibility. At first, I thought it was demeaning having to learn a new job when I was so good at my previous assignment. But he advised me that I needed to be flexible and see what would happen. Ultimately, I found the new tasks I was working on were challenging and interesting and I embraced my new role. Soon it led to a promotion, a pay increase and put me on a path in my career to a leadership position. Change is inevitable for all of us and through personal experience, I can attest that’s it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Multiple solutions for every problem

When I was serving in the U.S. Air Force, I recall being told that the best way to resolve problems is to explore multiple solutions, choose one and then to go back later and follow up to identify if the solution I chose worked the best for that problem. Through that process, I learned that my first choice wasn’t always the best way to fix a problem. Sometimes complex issues require simple solutions, while other times further effort and a different approach is needed. The method of examining problems has left me more rational and able to look at situations objectively when exploring potential solutions to problems.

You can’t please everyone

As a newspaper editor, I’ve found that every reader has a different opinion and that no matter how hard we may try, it’s impossible to please everyone. Instead of focusing on negativity, I prefer to dwell on achievements and accomplishments and the positive aspects of our work. I’ve learned that in the profession of journalism, no matter how much you strive for perfection, somebody will always find something they dislike about your product. I try to take that into account, not make the same mistake twice and continue moving forward.

It’s not always about you

Playing the safety position on the Junior Varsity football team at Rush-Henrietta High School in September 1969, I spent a lot of time holding a tackling dummy in the defensive backfield during practices as the team’s offense worked on learning plays. It wasn’t the most glorious way to spend a fall afternoon, and when I asked my coach, Rocky Valentine, what the purpose of me standing there holding a tackling dummy was. He told me, “Mr. Pierce, it’s not always about you.” Later that same afternoon, the team’s offensive linemen started blocking those of us holding tackling dummies in the defensive backfield. I quickly learned that football practices are highly organized and it’s best to leave the thinking to the coaching staff.

Never make assumptions

I once asked an 88-year-old man visiting our office how far along a 16-year-old pregnant girl who had accompanied him there was. I assumed she was his granddaughter when I asked that question. He snarled when he told me that the pregnant girl was his new wife. I returned to my office totally embarrassed and decided it probably wasn’t very wise for me to make assumptions about people based upon their looks.

Better to be safe than sorry

When renting a home in New Hampshire a few years back, my wife called me while I was covering a meeting on a winter evening one night and told me she smelled a funny odor in the house. I asked her to call the landlord and evacuate the house until we could figure out what was producing the smell. Apparently, the propane in the tank was empty and needed to be refilled. Everything turned out OK, but it could have been much worse. From that point on, I decided to monitor the propane tank contents carefully and keep the tank filled properly to avoid potentially dangerous situations like that in the future.

Learn from a mistake

My father would always tell me that it’s human to make mistakes, but he found that those who are successful try hard to not make the same mistake a second time. I have carried that with me to this very day and believe that each mistake that we make is an opportunity for growth and learning. My dad encouraged me to seek out whatever lessons could be learned from making a mistake and to try and remember that when I encountered similar situations down the road.

The purpose of asking for advice is to seek guidance when we are unsure about something. The choice to accept advice remains entirely up to us as individuals. <

Jessica Fay: Stepping up to protect Maine’s natural resources

By State Rep. Jessica Fay

Greetings! It sure looks and feels like fall is finally here! While we take this time to appreciate all that fall in Maine has to offer, we are proud of the work our state has done to protect our natural resources.

State Rep. Jessica Fay
As your state representative, one of my top priorities is to safeguard our environment for us, our families, and generations to come.

This past legislative session, we enacted a budget that will invest $3 million in community grants for climate resilience, $7.5 million in infrastructure adaptation for storms and nearly $17 million to match existing federal water quality program funds.

Further, we passed legislation to expand protections for Maine loons and other waterfowl by prohibiting the sale and use of certain painted lead fishing tackle, invested $200,000 in the Lake Restoration and Protection Fund to support efforts to improve and maintain water quality, balanced Maine's renewable energy development goals with efforts to conserve the state’s valuable farmland, soils and fish and wildlife habitat as well as my bill to allow water utilities to partner with conservation organizations to preserve land while protecting water quality for their ratepayers.

But despite these successes, I know there is still much more work to do to address all of the challenges facing our environment, not only in our community, but across the state.

I will be working with fellow legislators to submit a bill to assist municipalities as they work to protect water quality by enforcing Shoreland Zoning laws.

I'm looking forward to continuing this work so that every Mainer has an opportunity to enjoy all of the natural resources our state has to offer for years to come.

As always, please reach out to me if you have questions, need help or want to voice your opinion.

Fay, a Democrat, is the Maine House chair of the Government Oversight Committee and a member of the Joint Standing Committee on Appropriations and Financial Affairs, and is serving her fourth term in the Maine House of Representatives. She serves the community members of Casco, Frye Island, Raymond, and part of Poland.<

Reach State Rep. Jessica Fay by calling 207-655-5020 or by email at 

Andy Young: Taking a crack at acting my age

By Andy Young

Some years ago, when I was both much younger and certain I’d never grow old, frail and crotchety, I vowed I’d never become one of those long-winded old geezers who spends his time perpetually muttering about how much better things were in the good old days, rambling on about his myriad medical issues to anyone who’ll listen, and perpetually yelling at random passers-by to “Get off my lawn!”

But that was then. This is now, and I need to vent.

Baseball’s postseason includes too many teams; getting to the World Series has become a virtual crapshoot. This year none of the three 100-win squads even got as far as their league’s championship series. Besides that, I’m sick of watching jewelry laden, tattooed egotists gesturing to the heavens and mugging for the cameras while they showboat their way around the diamond after slugging a Superball wrapped in horsehide over the fence.

Whatever happened to modestly circling the bases after a home run, getting patted on the rump by the third base coach, shaking hands with the next hitter, and then returning to the dugout without fanfare so the game could continue? Major League Baseball’s regular season has become just as meaningless as the National Basketball Association’s or the National Hockey League’s.

Why should anyone pay the stratospheric prices required to see a bunch of callow, over-privileged millionaires play a silly regular season or playoff game, anyway?

Speaking of sports, can anyone in the National Football League score a touchdown, recover a fumble, or intercept a pass without immediately going into a childish, poorly choreographed celebratory routine with their fellow steroid monsters? My favorite player is whoever just gives the ball to the referee after he makes a big play, or more accurately, does what he’s being paid to do.

And when it comes to the “Hey, look at me!” set, athletes in other sports aren’t any better. I’ll respect any NBA player who can slam the ball through the hoop and then hustle back to the defensive end of the court without thumping his chest, unleashing a primal scream, or simultaneously trash-talking and pointing at the guy on the other team he just posterized. And don’t even get me started on those prima donna soccer players!

Another thing: kids today are lazy, spoiled, and entitled. They spend the day mesmerized by their phones, listening to ear-splitting, off-key cursing they call music, and chugging oddly hued beverages with more caffeine in them than 10 cups of coffee.

No wonder the average high schooler has the attention span of a gnat! These teenage twerps leave campus at mid-day, then return at their leisure for club meetings, acting in the school play, or competing in interscholastic sports. And it’s all thanks to spineless, enabling school teachers, and administrators.

Kids come and go as they please because they’re driving Mom’s SUV, or the car their spineless, enabling parents provided for them. And they’re hypocrites, too! Anyone want to guess how many members of the Environmental Protection Club get to and from school via public transportation?

My vision is blurred. My hip keeps acting up. My neck is stiff. My back hurts all the time, and I get winded climbing the stairs. It hurts to sit. It hurts to stand. Lying down feels okay, but how am I supposed to make a living? Are there any companies offering competitive salaries and a decent benefits package for full-time mattress testers?

What a relief it is getting all that off my chest! I feel spiritually cleansed. However, there is just one additional thing I’d like to say.

Get off my lawn! <

Friday, October 13, 2023

Insight: A sentimentalist at heart

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

Those who know me best are aware that I sometimes tend to wear my emotions on my sleeve. I’m a sucker for sentimental movies about the protagonist persevering through challenges and overcoming obstacles to ultimately achieve their dream.

With my schedule these days, it’s hard for me to find the time to sit down and watch some of these tear-jerkers but that’s exactly what I did earlier this week when I was drawn to a film called “The Hill.” Screenwriter Angelo Pizzo has written true-life sports films previously that harpooned me and took me on an emotional roller coaster ride such as his classics “Hoosiers” and “Rudy.”

Those films closely follow the script of triumph over adversity, so even though I originally missed seeing those movies at the theater on the big screen, I nevertheless watched them for the first time on videotape in the 1990s and now it’s a tradition for me every year before the start of basketball season in November to screen “Hoosiers” and every September I rewatch “Rudy” for the 40th or so time prior to the launch of another college football season.

In choosing “The Hill” this week, I noticed actor Dennis Quaid was listed in the credits as the star of the movie. I recalled Quaid’s performance in another moving sports film I had watched a few years ago called “The Rookie.” Like “The Hill,” that movie is about baseball too, but in “The Rookie” Quaid portrayed the real-life Jim Morris, a high school science teacher who had hurt his shoulder when he was younger and gave up on his goal of pitching in professional baseball. Morris was convinced to try out again and he made his major league debut at age 35 appearing in a game against Texas for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

Quaid’s role in this new movie “The Hill” is much different. He’s no longer playing the star athlete, rather in this film he’s a stern and strict preacher father who struggles to overcome abject poverty in rural Texas in the 1960s. With a wife, three children and an aging mother-in-law to feed, Quaid’s character finds himself at rock bottom when he’s fired from his job as a church pastor, losing his church-provided home and is forced to pack up everything and hit the highway searching for work. Along the way he runs out of gas and has a flat tire with no spare tire because he’s traded it for a tank of gasoline.

But Quaid’s struggles are just part of what hooked me on this film. This genuine and true story is about the family’s youngest son, Rickey Hill, who was born with degenerative spine disorder and must wear braces on his legs just to be able to stand. As played by actor Colin Ford, Rickey Hill falls in love with the sport of baseball at a young age and dreams of playing some day. His father, however, disapproves of his dream and has a strained relationship with his son because of it.

Behind the church where his father preaches, young Rickey Hill spends hours every day hitting rocks with a stick and develops a talent for batting, which leads him to remove his braces and try to play Little League and high school baseball over his father’s objections. In the film, Rickey Hill’s friends and supporters raise enough money for him to have corrective surgery so he can pursue his dream, but the surgeon delivers devastating news to him and his family. The damage to his spine was irreversible and will continue to worsen leaving him struggling to walk, let alone play professional baseball.

But true to form, Rickey Hill does earn a tryout and signs with the Montreal Expos as an outfielder and first baseman. His first roommate in the minor leagues was Andre Dawson, who was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2010.

Hill’s talent was evident over four seasons of playing in the minors from 1975 to 1978. He hit .298 in 201 games with 26 home runs and 116 runs batted in but when his physical condition worsened significantly, he was forced to abandon his dream of someday suiting up for a major league baseball team. He’s now a Little League coach, a preacher, and a motivational speaker based in Texas.

By the end of “The Hill,” I was wiping away tears once more and my wife Nancy handed me a box of Kleenex. She told me that I really am a sentimentalist at heart, and I guess she’s right. This type of sports film gets me every single time, whether it be the tragic ending of Jared Leto’s character in “Prefontaine,” about U.S. Olympian Steve Prefontaine or “Glory Road” about Texas Western’s college basketball team capturing the 1966 NCAA college basketball championship with an all-black lineup defying the segregationist attitudes of that time. Then there’s “Brian’s Song” about the real-life friendship of Chicago Bears running backs Gayle Sayers and Brian Piccolo which is tested when Piccolo is stricken with cancer.

If you haven’t seen “The Hill” yet, I recommend you do. But be forewarned, bring along plenty of tissue for this one.

Andy Young: The Best Ever (plus two)

By Andy Young

When I was growing up, 14 ears of corn cost a dollar.

The price was actually a dollar a dozen, but the farmer always threw in two extra ears just in case one of the others had a worm in it, which often happened back before genetic engineering and various pesticides sent those disgusting green wrigglers to wherever it is big watermelon seeds, tomatoes that taste like tomatoes, and other no-longer-existing agricultural products and byproducts of my childhood ended up disappearing to.

Those delicious ears of corn came to mind last week when some friends and I were discussing what we thought the best twelve books in history are.

I love being asked for my point of view on something, because I can’t give a wrong answer. It’s my opinion; ergo whatever my response, it is the correct one.

Picking the best dozen books out of the literally millions ever written is a tall order, even if the search is limited to works authored in one’s native tongue. In my case, that means English, since I am unable to fluently speak or read any other language.

But where to begin? I’ve always preferred non-fiction to made-up stories, and a significant percentage of what I’ve read over the years is baseball related. What about other genres, like children’s literature?

Two children’s books occupy space on my shelf. Go, Dog. Go! was a Christmas gift from my parents; my original copy still has my mom’s handwritten “Merry Christmas, Andy” in it. That particular book is truly the gift that keeps on giving; it had me convinced my oldest child was a prodigy, since he was reading it to me, verbatim, before he was 3 years old!

Unfortunately, an acquaintance who enjoyed destroying parental fantasies haughtily informed me my son wasn’t actually reading the words; rather, he was reciting them from memory, since they had been read to him so many times previously.

(Historical note: the person who destroyed my son’s chance to graduate from high school at age 12 and/or earn a Rhodes Scholarship is no longer a part of our lives.)

The title character in Sylvester and the Magic Pebble is an introspective and kind young donkey who likes collecting small stones of various shapes, sizes, and colors. To reveal anything else would spoil the story, which is as gripping and memorable as the message(s) it conveys are important. Go, Dog. Go! and Sylvester and the Magic Pebble are definitely two of the best dozen books ever written.

Holy cow! There’s no way anyone can ever describe the best twelve books of all time in just 600 words, so I guess I’ll have to just list them. In no particular order, the 10 best English language books ever, besides Go, Dog. Go! and Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, are:

Blue Highways, by William Least Heat Moon

Forward from This Moment, by Leonard Pitts, Jr.

The Glory of Their Times, by Lawrence Ritter

To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

Loose Balls, by Terry Pluto

Ball Four, by Jim Bouton and Leonard Shecter

The Lost Continent, by Bill Bryson

The Runaway Jury, by John Grisham

The Fifties, by David Halberstam

What I Know for Sure, by Oprah Winfrey

I’m also going to throw in Holes, by Louis Sachar, and The Gift of Nothing, by Patrick McDonnell, as bonuses. If that farmer was kind enough to add a couple of ears of corn to the bag, I can be equally generous by adding two literary additional gems to my booklist.

Those are, in my considered opinion, the best twelve (plus two) English-language books ever written.

Now let the discussion continue. <

Tim Nangle: We're building a stronger, safer and more sustainable Maine

By State Senator Tim Nangle

As your state senator, my priority is to make Maine a better place to live, work, and raise a family. We've made meaningful changes this legislative session, focused on ensuring the well-being of our community members and strengthening our collective future. I want to make you aware of a few laws that will be taking effect soon that will benefit our communities in a variety of ways.

State Senator Tim Nangle
Protecting our lakes, rivers and streams is critically important to our health and way of life. That’s why I was glad to support LD 211, designed to protect water quality in areas like the Sebago Lakes Region. Clean water is not just an environmental issue; it's a public health matter. By allowing consumer-owned water utilities to fund land acquisitions that will protect our water resources, we are investing in our collective well-being.

One of the most critical sectors we focused on in this legislative session is Emergency Medical Services (EMS). LD 526 provided significant financial relief to EMS departments across Maine, ensuring they are adequately funded to respond to emergencies. This measure is part of a broader strategy to build a robust EMS infrastructure that meets our community’s needs.

Along with funding ambulance services on the brink, I was also proud to support LD 1701, which will allow the Blue Ribbon Commission on EMS to continue its work. Created in the 130th Legislature, the Commission examines and makes recommendations on the structure, support, and delivery of emergency medical services in Maine. Only by listening to the first responders can we better determine how to effectively and efficiently support and sustain these first responders.

My colleagues and I kept our commitments to working families by making historic investments in the childcare industry. LD 1728 boosted the childcare affordability program and nearly doubles provider stipends to help retain qualified staff. By having a strong childcare industry across Maine, parents can go to work and feel good about the care their children receive.

Additionally, I was proud to support a budget that continued to prioritize the funding for universal free school meals at no added cost to Maine families. From my visits to schools in our district, I can tell you the significant impact a meal can have on a student's ability to learn. Nutrition is directly tied to academic performance, and when a kid has access to a filling, balanced meal, they are better prepared to learn.

Offering universal free meals removes the stigma that comes with free or reduced lunch programs, ensuring that no child feels singled out because of their economic background. It also alleviates pressure on families struggling to make ends meet, ensuring their children receive at least two nutritious meals during the school day at no cost to them.

These are just a few of the things we were able to accomplish, but I encourage you to reach out to me, and I’d be happy to let you know about more we’ve done on the issues of education, tax reform, housing and much more.

The legislation we pass is never created in a vacuum. I'm grateful to the many folks who’ve reached out with their concerns, suggestions, and experiences. Your input shapes my legislative priorities. By working together, we're building a Maine that reflects our shared values and aspirations.

We've achieved a lot this session, but there's always more to do. I'm committed to keeping the lines of communication open. If you have any legislative matters or need assistance, you can reach out at or call 207-287-1515. For the latest updates, follow me on Facebook at, and sign up for my e-newsletter at <

Friday, October 6, 2023

Andy Young: The perils of reading aloud

By Andy Young

When I was around 7 years old it was easy to gain the admiration of my age-alike peers. I could do that simply by making faces, or imitating certain sounds the human body makes. But at that age what I really craved was approval from adults, or “Big People,” as we called them back then. And once I found a way to obtain appreciation from my elders, I milked it for all it was worth.

As a second grader I excelled at three things: kickball, adding small numbers, and reading out loud. All three of those talents dependably earned me praise from some Big People. Unfortunately, the first of those assets was seasonal. Once the temperature dipped below the freezing mark, kickball games vanished. However, math and reading were year-round parts of the school curriculum. That’s why any time Miss Goldman needed a volunteer to read a challenging passage aloud, I was on it.

Then one day I was confidently zipping along, fluently enunciating every syllable of Dick and Jane’s adventure, when my eyes spied a lengthier-than-normal word I didn’t recognize. However, convinced of my reading infallibility I plowed on, announcing audibly to one and all, “Jane put her money in the mack hine.”

My classmates began by tittering. Then they started chuckling, and before long the situation had escalated out of control. Every boy and girl in that classroom was laughing out loud, and at me! It turned out the unfamiliar seven-letter word I had butchered should have been pronounced muh-SHEEN.

I don’t think I was permanently damaged by that little mis-step, although given that I still remember the incident more than five decades later, some might disagree. But I’m certainly not the only person who’s mispronounced a word publicly; after all, it wasn’t that long ago the nominal leader of the free world couldn’t deduce that n-u-c-l-e-a-r spells NEW-clee-ur, not NEW-cue-lur.

Besides, English is a language that often doesn’t make sense. How does anyone get SEG-way out of segue, KER-nil out of colonel, SAM-inn out of salmon, or KEY out of quay?

Years after my memorable mispronunciation I again found myself in a class where oral reading was occasionally called for. I had returned to night school with the goal of securing a teaching license, and one evening the professor had different members of the class reading passages from a lengthy text which she considered significant.

There were 12 adult students around the table, and each of us had a paragraph to read aloud. My turn was coming up when the woman reading directly before me clearly mispronounced an eight-letter word. I smiled, but not wanting to embarrass a peer, I bit my lip to keep from laughing out loud. However, to my surprise the class continued on as if nothing unusual had happened.

I was incredibly impressed by the kindness of those people, each of whom had, apparently independently of one another, shown the self-control necessary to keep from making a classmate feel bad about her humiliating error.

That was until I got home and discovered that p-a-r-a-d-i-g-m is indeed pronounced PAIR-uh-dime. If that passage had been mine, I’d have read the unfamiliar word as PAIR-uh-DIJ-um, and all those mature adults would probably still be laughing about it today.

What a narrow escape that was! Still, it could have been worse. Reading a sentence aloud that concerned how banal (buh-NAHL) some of history’s annals (ANN-ulls) are might have gotten me thrown out of school.

But I’ve gotten smarter since then. These days when I want to impress someone, I just take them to watch me play kickball. <

Insight: Making a difference in life

By Ed Pierce
Managing Editor

The world has recently lost two sports figures who for me define the epitome of class. One I knew personally and the other I’ve admired since I was young, and the deaths of both these men left me profoundly saddened.

Baseball fans everywhere are mourning the recent deaths
of two great ballplayers and charitable men, Tim Wakefield
and Brooks Robinson. COURTESY PHOTO 
Former Boston Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield, 57, died of brain cancer on Oct. 1, while Hall of Fame Third Baseman Brooks Robinson of the Baltimore Orioles passed away from heart failure on Sept. 26 at age 86. Each of these individuals leave behind a legacy of love for their families and the respect of countless fans who followed their lives and careers.

I first came to know Tim Wakefield as a sportswriter for Florida Today, a newspaper in Melbourne, Florida. Wakefield grew up in Melbourne and played high school baseball and attended Brevard Community College before transferring to Florida Tech University in Melbourne to play first base. He was drafted in the eighth round by the Pittsburgh Pirates, who converted him to a pitcher.

Wakefield debuted in 1992 for the Pittsburgh Pirates and he also pitched for the team in 1993 before spending the entire 1994 season in the minors and then was released. He wasn’t ready to call it a career though, and learned to throw a unique pitch called a knuckleball. In April 1995, he signed with the Red Sox and pitched another 17 years for Boston, winning two World Series titles, and earning Major League Baseball’s Roberto Clemente Award in 2010 as a player who exemplifies the game of baseball through sportsmanship, community involvement and contributions to his team.

In 2008, I covered the Tim Wakefield Celebrity Golf Classic for the newspaper and was tasked with writing about the annual event he launched to raise money for the Space Coast Early Intervention Center, now known as Space Coast Discovery Academy for Promising Futures. The school offers Preschool, Kindergarten, and First Grade classes for children with or without disabilities in Brevard County, Florida.

I walked up to Wakefield before the tournament started and introduced myself and he graciously answered all my questions. He then introduced me to some of the celebrity friends playing golf that day, including then Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell, who would one day serve as Boston’s manager, and Hall of Fame outfielder Jim Rice of the Red Sox. Wakefield also introduced me to actor Jeffrey Donovan of the television show “Burn Notice” and designer Candice Olson of the HGTV show “Divine Design.”

Several years later, Wakefield called me at the paper with a story idea for me about Lee Stange, a former Red Sox pitcher who was serving as pitching coach at Florida Tech. Later that week, he met me at the field in Melbourne and introduced me to Stange to set the article into motion.

In 2012, Wakefield was one of the inaugural inductees into the Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame and at the induction dinner in Cocoa Beach, I had to interview him once more. He was kind and generous with his time and even bought me a drink before the event started.

When I heard the news that he had passed away last weekend, I was floored, and it’s taken me a few days to come to terms with his death. I’m shocked and deeply saddened for his family and those he cared about. Through the years, Wakefield raised more than $8 million for the Space Coast Early Intervention Center, and he made a difference in the lives of many disabled children.

Over the years working for different newspapers in my career, some colleagues would notice that I kept a 1965 Topps baseball card of Brooks Robinson on my desk. I grew up as an Orioles fan and remain so to this day. One of my favorite players was Brooks Robinson and I sat transfixed as a high school senior in the fall of 1970 watching the televised games when he nearly single-handedly helped Baltimore to win the World Series through his defensive prowess and driving in runs in the first four games of the series.

In 1979 while serving in the U.S. Air Force, I was assigned to The Pentagon in Washington D.C., and considered myself lucky to tune to hear Brooks Robinson as the color analyst for Orioles games on WMAR-TV. Robinson was renowned for endearing himself to baseball fans throughout his lifetime by always being available for them, signing autographs and asking about their lives and their families.

His care for others extended to going out of his way to welcome new teammates and helping found the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association, an organization that helps retired professional players secure benefits, promotes baseball, raises money for charity, and helps retired players interact with each other. Robinson served as that group’s president for 33 years before stepping down because of his declining health.

Author Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”

Both Tim Wakefield and Brooks Robinson did that and today we mourn their passings.

Jane Pringle: Providing more meaningful property tax relief for Mainers who need it

By State Rep. Jane Pringle

It has been an honor to represent part of Windham in the Maine House of Representatives this year. I was pleased that, despite the significant challenges that we are facing as a state, we were often able to come together to find solutions to improve the lives of all Mainers. This includes taking steps to provide more meaningful property tax relief.

State Rep. Jane Pringle
Last year, before I began serving my term, the Maine Legislature created the Senior Property Tax Stabilization Program, which allowed Maine residents over the age of 65 to “freeze” their property taxes indefinitely, with no limits based on income or property value. The intention behind this program was noble. Many of us here in Windham have seen our property taxes increase significantly in recent years, and retired folks on fixed incomes have been impacted particularly hard.

Unfortunately, we discovered this year that the program had many unintended consequences, including that it would have greatly increased property taxes for those not eligible for the program. It also put an unsustainable financial strain on towns like ours. Many were facing significant revenue shortfalls because of the program, which would have forced them to make tough choices about cuts to other essential services.

To fix this, the Maine Legislature worked on a proposal that received bipartisan support in the Taxation Committee before it was included in the supplemental budget that we passed in July. This measure repealed the stabilization program and expanded two existing, highly successful relief programs instead.

First, it increased the Property Tax Fairness Credit for Mainers 65 or older from $1,500 to $2,000, providing money directly back to folks who need it. It also expanded income eligibility so more middle-income Mainers will benefit. And it made a change to ensure that the benefit amount won’t be reduced even after a spouse passes away.

Second, it expanded the Property Tax Deferral Program, a lifeline loan program that can allow older Mainers to keep up with their property taxes without putting their homeownership at risk. It raised the maximum income to qualify from $40,000 to $80,000 and increased the maximum asset test to $100,000, so more folks can qualify and utilize the program if needed.

Together, these proven, fiscally responsible programs will be able to target better property tax relief to the members of our community who need it the most, without passing the costs onto other taxpayers or the town. Our whole community benefits when those who need help staying in their homes can do so. These programs will go a long way to help us accomplish that.

If any changes need to be implemented in the future to make these programs more effective, I look forward to working with all of my colleagues to find solutions.

There is much good bipartisan work going on in Augusta, which I hope to share with you in future columns. As always, please continue to share your thoughts and ideas with me at <