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  • Tammy L Wells

York County Maine Government Bestows Spirit of America Awards

ALFRED, Maine – For years, US Marine veteran Wesley Stacey scouted out old cemeteries in Parsonsfield, looking to make sure early settlers were not forgotten, and helped clean as many as he could. He marked veterans’ graves with flags for Memorial Day every year. He was a member of the American Legion and other organizations, and in prior years, plowed the town’s roads.

Several miles away, the Lyman Cemetery Committee tacked a similar task – the town is home to 115 ancient cemeteries - and while the first cemetery committee was formed in 1879, the most recent incarnation of the group began finding, cataloguing, recovering and repairing them – cutting brush, repairing headstones, and more, in 2015.

In Newfield, Peter Stickney started the Tiny Food Cupboard at Newfield Community Church, when, municipal officials said, people were isolated, afraid and facing financial hardship during the pandemic. “In so doing, he inspired us to come together and provided a means for us to contribute and not feel so helpless,” they said.

As well, Newfield resident Allen Moulton was recognized for his years of service as Chief of Newfield Volunteer Fire Department, as a trustee of a scholarship fund, a member of the 911 addressing committee and his years as a town constable.

In Shapleigh, election workers exhibit “exemplary citizenship and outstanding dedication to the election process,” municipal officials said.

These folks and a host of others from many corners of the county were recognized for their contributions on Wednesday, Nov. 15 as York County Commissioners conferred the annual Spirit of America Foundation Awards at a reception to recognize community service.

Those earning awards were nominated by their municipalities.

York County Maine Government Manager Greg Zinser noted the county conducts a ceremony annually to honor volunteerism.

“Government wouldn’t function if (you) didn’t volunteer your time and resources,” Zinser said.

In North Berwick, an entire elementary school class earned a Spirit of America Award.  North Berwick teacher Brigitte Reid’s third grade class wrote letters to the Select Board asking that an anti-littering ordinance be placed on the annual Town Meeting ballot. It was – and was overwhelmingly approved by voters, municipal officials said.

“Volunteerism is its own reward,” said Cornish resident John MacIntyre, as he received his award. MacIntyre has served as an election warden, as chair of the Pike Hall and Memorial Day committees, and assisted with vintage baseball and other volunteer tasks throughout the community, according to the town of Cornish, who nominated him for the award. “John is a great guy, and we appreciate everything he does,” municipal officials said.

The Emery’s Bridge Community Improvement Association earned a Spirit of America Award for their efforts to restore the old #11 schoolhouse at the corner of Emery’s Bridge and Belle Marsh roads. “In the association’s mission to repair the schoolhouse, they are hitting the trifecta of community spirit with preserving the past, inspiring the present and building a future for the community,” the town of South Berwick wrote in nominating the group.

Patricia Dearborn “is a lifelong friend and volunteer who provides faithful and kind service and love to the residents of Limington,” said municipal officials of their nomination of Dearborn for a Spirit of America Award.

In Kennebunkport, Kathryn “Ki” Leffler received the award for her service on a number of municipal boards and committees, is a member of Rotary and, municipal officials said, is dedicated to giving back to her community.

Two Biddeford residents were recognized – Paul Gagne, a longtime volunteer with LaKermesse and other organizations, including the Biddeford Cultural and Heritage Center, and Denis Letellier, for his involvement with Biddeford Historical Society and other volunteer efforts.

Paula Hodgdon, 94, has been a volunteer at Salmon Falls Library in Hollis for 18 years, according to the Hollis Select Board. “With a PhD in physical education, Paula built a successful career as a high school teacher, college professor and field hockey coach. When she retired, their loss was our gain,” the Select Board wrote.

Also in Hollis, the Community Clothing Closet volunteers were recognized as Spirit of America award winners for their efforts to serve the community with clothing and household items at no cost to Hollis and surrounding communities.

Buxton Selectman Frank Pulsoni, formerly the board chair, was recognized for his contributions as a police officer, firefighter, EMT, and dispatcher. Pulsoni also served as the community’s interim police chief for a time.

Pulsoni offered his thanks to his wife Linda for her support. “My wife has been beside for 44 years,” he said. “When you’re in public service, it is not just you.”

Among the Lyman Cemetery Committee volunteers are Bob and Katrina Randall. Bob maintains the equipment - chainsaws and other implements, and Katrina says she enjoys the work and being outdoors. She noted that high school students and the ROTC group help, and in so doing, they get an appreciation of the old cemeteries in town.

At the ceremony, Alison Stacey accepted the Spirit of America award on her late father’s behalf. His wife, Suzan said her husband, who passed recently, was very proud of being a U.S. Marine, for being recognized by his community of Parsonsfield, who dedicated the 2023 Town Report in his honor and by the County of York. “This award was one of the last things he talked about,” she said.

As the ceremony wound down, Zinser noted York County Commissioners were happy to conduct the awards ceremony recognizing volunteers.

“Thank you very much for your dedication and hard work,” he said.


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