Category Archives: People

Westport’s WWII Veteran Vera Cleaves’ Last Hurrah

Vera is celebrated in the Maine Historical Society’s Veteran’s Voices exhibit

On February 2, about 160 people turned out for the opening of the Maine Historical Society’s Veterans’ Voices exhibit. The exhibit highlighted first-person stories of 10 Maine veterans from World War II to Afghanistan — one of whom was Westport Island’s 102-year old WWII veteran Vera Cleaves.

Unfortunately, Vera died on January 23, about one and one-half weeks before she was to be honored at the exhibit’s opening. At the opening reception, Vera was also to receive medals from the State of Maine for her service in the armed forces and as a veteran of World War II. Her nephew, Brad Cleaves, and his wife, Patty Latham, received the medals and certificates on Vera’s behalf from Adria Horn, Director of Maine Veterans’ Services. They were sensitive to Vera’s pride in her military service and made attendance at the opening a priority to accept Vera’s honors on behalf of the family.

With an introduction from Brenda Bonyun, Tilly Laskey from the Maine Historical Society visited and interviewed Vera in December. Vera reviewed and edited the narrative from the 2-hour interview. She was honored and grateful to the Maine Historical Society for commemorating her WWII service. My last image of Vera was seeing her smile as she looked at the poster for the upcoming exhibit. Vera was looking forward to attending the opening on February 2 and speaking with fellow veterans. She died knowing her story will be remembered.

Read Vera’s story. The exhibit will run at the Maine Historical Society, 489 Congress Street, Portland through April 29.

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Westport Islanders Splash into the New Year

Taking the Penguin Plunge into Linekin Bay

Westport Islanders Edward and Lydia Kitfield have celebrated New Year’s Day since the early 2000’s by participating in the Boothbay Region YMCA’s Penguin Plunge. The chilly New Year’s benefit “plunge” into Linekin Bay from the public boat ramp on Murray Hill Road benefits the YMCA’s swimming program for second graders.

Lydia said that she and her husband were once part of a medical team on an excursion to Antarctica. They visited Deception Island which is home to a volcano and several crater bays. Lydia and Edward swam on Deception Island, and figured if they could swim in Antarctica, why not Maine. The two also take “dips” into the frigid waters of Montsweag Bay near their home from time to time… Wow!

May we all have the spirit and sense of adventure in 2017 shared by the Kitfields on this beautiful New Year’s Day!

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A Westport Island Farewell and Thank You

Senie Morton and Cheryl Greenleaf have gone west, but left some history on Westport Island

Sisters Senie Greenleaf Morton and Cheryl Greenleaf have moved to Arizona after a lifetime — and generations of family history — on Westport Island. Thankfully for us, they have also left the History Committee with an attic of family and community momentos. Members of the History Committee, along with family and friends, sent them off on Sunday, October 25, with a small thank you potluck for all they have given to their community.

Some may have seen Cheryl’s “Mitten Tree” at The First bank in Wiscasset last Christmas. Cheryl knitted over 400 pairs of mittens for those in need. Some decorated the bank’s Christmas tree alongside a sign to “take pair if you need a pair”. Cheryl’s mittens were given to area primary and middle school children, social service agencies and customers.

Maybe you bought a raffle ticket in years past in hopes of winning a quilt that Cheryl made for the benefit of the Westport Volunteer Fire Department. She was an active supporter of the fire department — volunteering her time for fundraising events, as well as cooking and crafting to support their fundraising.

Portrait of Verlie Colby GreenleafGenealogists whose searches lead them to Westport Island know the name “Senie” because of her photographs and histories on the “Find a Grave” site, where she has put pictures of gravestones and information on almost every gravesite in Westport’s 70 plus cemeteries.

And, for those who have admired the 2011 Westport Island community quilt in which 18 Island women created a quilted time capsule — three of the patches were made by Cheryl and Senie. Their patches were historical commemorations of the North End School, the Westport ferry and the Island’s logging and sawmill history.

Thanks to the family archives left to the History Committee by Senie (and her niece Dedee Greenleaf-Hodgdon), you may soon see more history relating to the schools, the ferry and the Island’s logging history. Some items from the “Colby-Greenleaf Collection” will be available for viewing on the Maine Memory Network in the coming months. The collection includes journals, photo albums and scrapbooks from Senie and Dedee’s grandmother, Verlie Colby Greenleaf, and Verlie’s sister, Jeannette Colby Fowle. Senie carried on her grandmother’s scrapbooking of Island history — including obituaries and news clippings — and has contributed her personal archives as well.

Best wishes and thank you to friends and benefactors, Cheryl and Senie. We’ll miss you.

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A Westport Island Contender: Dock Dog Casco

Help support Erin Bailey and Team Casco head to the Dock Dogs World Championship

Casco with Speed Retrieve blue ribbonWhen Erin Bailey saw Dock Dogs a canine aquatics competition on TV, she thought it would be fun — and she had the perfect dog to participate: a young, high energy black lab. What lab doesn’t like to run, jump and swim? The aquatic events include “Big Air” — the long jump; “Speed Retrieve” — racing the clock to run, swim and retrieve; and “Extreme Vertical” — the high jump. Erin’s previous dogs, Moose and Bear, gave an open practice session of Dock Dogs a “paws down,” so Erin let go of what seemed like a fun idea. Then came Casco and the Seacoast Dock Dogs Club in Berwick…

At Seacost Dock Dogs, club members are very supportive and go the extra mile to help dogs get comfortable with jumping into the pool. Casco seemed enthusiastic and was itching to go after the toy. After some coaxing — from both inside and outside the pool — he made his first jumps. Casco took to the sport, and Erin took to being a Dock Dogs mom. The two – often with their support team, sister Jessica and their mom and dad, started taking Casco to practice sessions and competitions around New England, including the Union Fair the last two years.

Casco's invitation to the nationalsOn September 13, Casco participated in a Dock Dogs Wild Card Event at the Hebron Harvest Fair in Connecticut. In the Speed Retrieve event, Casco was the top scorer running from a sitting position half way down the runway dock, jumping into the pool and retrieving a toy from the opposite end of the pool. He scored 7.254 seconds in the Turbo Division (a 7.000 to 7.999 seconds bracket) — winning himself an invitation to the Dock Dog World Championships in Dubuque, Iowa, from November 11 – 15. Yea Casco!!

Now Erin and Team Casco need to raise money for the entrance fee, the drive to Iowa and accommodations. To support the home team, there is a Go Fund Me page; you can follow Team Casco on Erin’s Facebook page; and you can purchase a sweet treat at a bake sale at Ames True Value on October 17th from 10 – 2.

In a shout out to support Team Casco — 2016 Dog Licensing at the Town Office starts on October 15. One dollar of every dog license is an agent fee (the remaining dollars support Maine’s Animal Welfare Program and Westport Island’s Animal Control Officer). The agent fee for every dog licensed in October and November will be donated to Team Casco — it’s a win/win. Go Team Casco!

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Photo credits to the Bailey family and John Thurston, Seacoast Dock Dogs

Westport Island Remembers John Nelson

A friend to Westport Island and to those he engaged…

The Westport Community Church was full this afternoon with friends and family remembering John Jesse Nelson (1928-2014). He was remembered with love and with appreciation for his good.

John: husband to Ruth, father to their seven children, grandfather, WWII veteran, science teacher, friend, animal lover, neighbor, civic volunteer, John Deere operator and neighborhood road crafter…and active participant in the journey of life and learning. (Apparently, also a devotee of hats, tropical shirts and red carnations.) A man who felt proud to have earned the acceptance and respect of Westport Island families who have grandparents on the island. Although his history with the island “only” went back to 1968, he felt roots in the “rock”….

On the Island, John was a member of the Wright Landing Committee, believing in public access to the waterfront as well as a working waterfront; and he had served on the Conservation Commission and the History Committee. He kept up — reading the town report carefully enough to report typos to the Town Clerk — and he always participated actively in town affairs.

One of John’s sons pondered the idea of describing his father in one word, and he could not decide between complicated and contradiction. John was a man who was gruff and had difficulty expressing emotion, yet turned gushing and affectionate when Snafu, Leonardo or one of the long line of Nelson cats jumped onto his lap. He was extremely impatient in general, but infinitely patient as a teacher…

John’s most significant achievements in life were, of course, the love of a good woman, Ruthie, and seven children who — following his tutelage and caring – excelled, achieved and loved him. They are a credit and a legacy.

He gave his children, his grandchildren, and his students a road map for life:

Be as good a person as you can be
Respect your elders
Respect nature
Have a good work ethic
Be organized, be prepared
Pursue lifelong learning
Walk in another man’s shoes

As another son said, “A person lives until his name is no longer spoken.” It is likely that John Jesse Nelson is a name that will be remembered and spoken for some time to come…

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Happy 50th Mr. & Mrs. Bodmer

From your island home

Carole and JerryWestport Island’s Second Selectman, Jerry Bodmer and his wife Carole, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary tonight with family and friends at the Island’s historic Town Hall. They have lived 47 of their 50 years together here on Westport Island.

Carole says when she, Jerry and their first baby arrived in their new home 47 years ago, she walked over to a window and looked outside. When she saw nothing but trees, she put down her suitcase and cried. She was used to having more people and activity around; so initially, she faced life on the island with great trepidation.

Tonight, Jerry thanked his children for organizing the celebration, and he attempted to sum up 50 successful years of marriage and family. He credited Carole for her love and continual support; and he credited the Island as a contributing factor in building a good life — through both its people and environment. These many years later, Carole was quick to agree.

Happy 50th Mr. & Mrs. Bodmer, and thank you for all you have given to the Island.

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A Westport Island Birthday Remembrance

Remembering Verlie Greenleaf

a young Verlie GreenleafIf she was still alive, Verlie Greenleaf would have been 124 years old today. When she celebrated her 100th birthday in 1991, there were probably some who thought she might live to celebrate her 124th. Verlie lived to be 101. She served as Westport’s Treasurer and Tax Collector for 45 years, retiring at age 87. She played piano at Island dances for years and years, first at Camp Molly on the North End and later at the Town Hall — Verlie even played for her own 100th birthday celebration.

Verlie was interviewed by Louise and John Swanton in 1987 about growing up on Westport Island. And, she wrote her own notes to pass on. Here are a few of those captured remembrances…

My mother said I was born in a snowstorm, a good snowstorm, the 19th of February, 1891, and she said it really was a snowstorm. They used to get the doctor. The women had their babies at home. The doctor came from Wiscasset, and then you had to row him across because we didn’t have any ferry. You had to meet him across the river. He would come down to Bailey’s land, they’d row across and pick him up and bring him over…

…[We] didn’t have any ferry. When I was first growing up, they had rowboats at the shores. Everybody had rowboats. …years ago when there was nothing but oxen and there were two horses, the south end was just as far away as Boston would be for us. …There was the north end and the south end. Everybody walked…

There was a Post Office of course, down at the Center but it was easier for my father to row to Wiscasset to get his groceries and he had a post office box up in Wiscasset, and that’s where his mail came in. Sometimes if he was busy my mother would row up and get the mail. She wouldn’t be going there in the middle of winter…

They didn’t plow [then]. When I was a kid I can see them now. Nehemiah Colby had a yoke of oxen and they had something looked like a long sled…and in front of it they’d tied on — I don’t know whether it was a plank or whether it was a log right in front, and the oxen — I can see them going down by the house now — used to go down by the house, those oxen, and just push the snow down. That’s all we had…

Up on Uncle Jake’s hill there, we used to go up there and slide down the hill, come way down where I lived, way down to the farmhouse… Many years we’ve gone sleighing Thanksgiving… We had horses. But there were several yoke of oxen on the island, and then they used to break the road with the horses. We used to call them heaters, with that log in front.

I was in my teens when the first car came on the island. It was owned by Arthur B. Fels of Yarmouth who married Josie Fowle of Fowle’s Point.

Verlie Greenleaf at her 100th birthday celebrationVerlie (1891-1992) lives on in the words, deeds and photographic record she left behind. Her granddaughters, Dedee Greenleaf-Hodgdon and Senie Morton, have donated a large collection of her photographs and memorabilia to the Westport Island History Committee. Verlie’s written remembrances, as well as the care put into identifying the people and places in this collection, make it a very valuable addition to the Island’s historical record. Thank you.

The Super Bowl Trophy Heads Back to New England

…The Westport Island football has optimistically been waiting

wood crafted football mailbox finialCheryl Anderson has said her husband, Ken Shepherd, sometimes wakes up in the night and heads to his CAD program to bring his wood crafting ideas to life. The latest addition to the Shepherd mailbox finial collection, however, was Cheryl’s idea. In anticipation of the Super Bowl, she suggested a football — which her talented master woodturner husband made happen.

Ken is the craftsman who designs and crafts the objects which adorn the family’s mailbox; and Cheryl is the finish painter. Together, they bring us mailbox toppers with tidings of the seasons. Thank you neighbors. Go Pats!
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Westport Island 2014 Spirit of America Award Recipient

The Town says “Thank You”

Award presentationWestport Island Treasurer, Susan Partelow, had a rare speechless moment following the 1st Selectman’s award presentation at today’s 5th Annual Lincoln County Spirit of America awards ceremony. Susan was recognized for 12 years of service to Westport Island as Tax Collector, Treasurer and its first Administrative Assistant providing management support to the Town’s Selectmen. In her tenure, she has also given significant personal time as a volunteer on the Human Resources Committee, the Community Association, the Budget Committee and the ad hoc Historical and Records Vault Committee

When called upon to speak, Susan could only say, “Thank you. I love Westport Island.”

In her tenure as Treasurer and Tax Collector, Susan has overseen the conversion of the Island’s finances to a computerized system that encompasses all Town operations — improving the efficiency and uniformity of the Town’s revenue collections and expenditures. With the expertise and professionalism she brought to the job, Susan has done much to improve Westport’s overall financial operations.

The Spirit of America Foundation Tribute is presented in the name of Maine municipalities to local individuals, organizations and projects for commendable community service. This year, in addition to recognizing Westport’s nominee, Susan Partelow, the Spirit of America Foundation recognized Westport Island with the Gold award for its volunteer contributions to the operations of Lincoln County. The Town has participated in the Spirit of America awards for four of its five years in Lincoln County — recognizing volunteerism as a critical component of local government. 1st Selectman George Richardson has served eight years on the Lincoln County Budget Advisory Committee and is a liaison to Lincoln County Regional Planning (LCRP), 2nd Selectman Jerry Bodmer serves as liaison to the Register of Deeds, and 3rd Selectman Ross Norton serves as an alternate to LCRP on behalf of the Island.

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Westport Island Says Thank You

To Mary Ellen Barnes for “putting its history in order”

Westport Island has an “attic” of photographs, news articles, genealogy, artifacts and letters that tell stories of our Island’s people and their times from the early 1800’s to today. There have been residents in times past that have compiled and shared this history in writing — Bea Harriman, John and Louise Swanton, and Ron and Cora Tarbox among them — whose books continue to be the mainstay of Westport history. There have been others who have organized events, tours or special preservation efforts for landmarks like the Town Hall,the Community Church and the Squire Tarbox Inn.

Mary Ellen Conducting History Program on Westport IslandWhen Mary Ellen Barnes came to this Island in 2003, she brought a professional background in history and historical preservation and a vision for preserving Westport Island’s historical artifacts. She had worked at the Maine Folklife Center, the Maine Forest and Logging Museum and the Yarmouth Historical Society. Her passion for history helped to motivate the formation of a History project started under the Conservation Commission in 2005. When the History Committee was formed in 2008, Mary Ellen was elected Chair and has served in that capacity until this last month. She will continue to serve on the History Committee as a member.

As Mary Ellen steps down as Chair, Selectman George Richardson, the History Committee and community members took a moment to say thank you. She has worked tirelessly in her “spare” time to advance the preservation of our history, grow the collection, and advocate for improved and expanded storage space to protect our history and make it more available to residents and researchers. The “attic” is now cleaner and more organized. The beginnings of internet – and broad-based — access to our historical collections are underway and our digital library will continue to grow on the Maine Memory Network.

Mary Ellen with the 2010 Westport Island quiltA very special thank you gift was created by Sandy Besecker and Jill Cooney with the help of all the quilters who created the 2010 Westport Island quilt, the newest member of our historical quilt collection. All 18 quilters signed a remnant fabric square from the 2010 quilt. The squares were stitched into a signature quilt wall hanging that will memorialize the work and cooperation that made the quilt — and makes the caretaking of our history — possible.

Mary Ellen will continue to work as a part of the History Committee to see her vision through: more storage space, improved preservation conditions, and a small exhibit space that makes our rich heritage available and visible to all.

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