Falmouth's blog

BoSox Manager Loves Falmouth's Team - And His Falmouth Family

I sat in the Stockyard restaurant in Allston, simultaneously starstruck and eager to make my mark on history. Baseball history, Boston history, and the history of mankind, because all would be impacted by a Red Sox World Series win.
I was a freshman at BC, and a guy who lived on my floor had an aunt that was friendly with John McNamara, the manager of the improbable American League Champion Boston Red Sox and his wife. Knowing what a rabid fan I was of the Sox, he invited me to join him and his aunt for a private dinner with them.
So, as we drank beer and chatted baseball, I offered my take on strategy for the upcoming World Series. I suggested to the manager, in my youthful hubris and self-proclaimed baseball infallibility, that if the Sox won first two games in New York, that the manager should tap veteran Bruce Hurst to pitch game four on short rest and defer sending journeyman pitcher Al Nipper to the mound. The Manager’s beer-infused and unforgettable reply may very well have altered Sox history. “Nipper can’t pitch,” was his simple retort, flatly declaring his confidence in Hurst, his ace. Of course, history tells a different tale. The Sox did indeed win the first two games in New York, and McNamara tapped the lesser-known Nipper in game four (I slept on the sidewalk for two nights and had tickets to that game). The Sox lost, and the next several days saw an unraveling of a team, the dashing of hopes, a ball rolling under some legs and into infamy, and the ever-present Bambino Curse pervading a city. I’ll take to my grave the belief that if Johhny Mac had just listened to me, the Sox just might have pulled it off that year.
Nonetheless, that dinner was still one of the highlights of my life. The chance to talk baseball in an intimate setting with the manager of my beloved Boston Red Sox was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Until now.
As much as the Sox are Massachusetts’ team, the Commodores are Falmouth’s team. Even World Champion Boston Red Sox Manager John Farrell knows and agrees with that – and he’ll be here in Falmouth next week with the World Series trophy in tow to prove it. Along with Hall of Fame baseball writer Peter Gammons, Farrell will be featured at a “hot stove” baseball event at the Sea Crest next Thursday from 6:30 – 9PM. All proceeds will benefit the non-profit Commodores and the improvements they continue to make to Fuller Field – a recreational facility owned by the people of Falmouth. Tickets can be purchased on the Commodores’ website at: www.falmouthcommodores.com .
All three of the skipper’s sons played in Falmouth for beloved Falmouth Coach Jeff Trundy and were hosted by a local family, Tim and Emily Schorer. The Farrells have, as a result, become like family to the Schorers, and the kind and affable manager of the world champions has agreed to spend an evening in Falmouth talking about baseball in this place that his sons called home for a summer.
“Host families provide more than a bed – they provide a family,” said Commodores Vice-President Michael White as we chatted recently about this great event, conceived by Mike last year to help make improvements to the tired and dated ballpark behind the Police Station that Falmouth’s team calls home. Mike and team President Steve Kostas, joined by General Manager Eric Zmuda and a host of veteran volunteers who make up the Commodores board of directors – the team’s family - meet and plan year-round, donating hundreds of hours each season, organizing everything from host families hot dogs and the National Anthem at game time. They work day and night to bring first-rate baseball to our first-rate locale, all because they love this team and this town. All they ask in return is that their community – our Falmouth community - love this team right back. Next week is Falmouth’s chance to do just that and help the team raise some much-needed capital improvement funds.
I’ll be there on Thursday, savoring the chance to hear a hall of fame writer and a World Series champ chat informally about America’s pastime – and America’s champs. Maybe, just maybe, one of us will have the chance to offer a tip like I did back in ‘86 that could be the difference and make baseball history next year. If you don’t come, you’ll never know.
 

A Living Wage - A Societal Imperative

The irony was not lost on me.
On the same day recently, as I surfed around the internet for the day’s news, I came upon two stories that highlighted the challenge – and the starkness – of the economic inequity in our society today.
The first came all the way from Dallas, telling the sad and maddening tale of the preventable devastation wrought by 16-year old Ethan Couch, a privileged teen who, after partying and making the fatal decision to get behind the wheel, killed four people and injured more after plowing into some good Samaritans who had stopped to help a disabled vehicle. In court, Couch’s attorneys, funded by his wealthy parents, asserted that he suffered from “affluenza,” an affliction brought on by his family’s immense wealth. Their excuse for his murderous behavior included the notion that his life was so privileged and without struggle that basic values, morals, and a sense of right and wrong were unable to be instilled. This mindless contention was compounded by Judge Jean Boyd’s reckless concurrence with the attorneys, allowing Couch to kick back in an alcohol rehabilitation facility for a year, before enjoying the rest of his life as a free man, while the families of the deceased piece together their shattered lives.
The notion that Couch’s attorney’s irresponsible and thoughtless theory would even get consideration in court demonstrates a troubling disconnect in our society, one where the super-wealthy can claim a disadvantage because of their wealth and actually be heard and considered.
As I scratched my head hard enough to wince in pain pondering that issue, I then came across a much more reasoned and thoughtful debate, but one that equally highlights the financial disproportion in our economy – here in Falmouth and throughout the United States – and the varied philosophies on how to address it. The thoughtful and detailed story by Elizabeth Saito discussed the proposed hike in the minimum wage, and the thoughts of our local business and political leaders on what it may mean. A bill recently passed by the Massachusetts Senate would have the minimum wage increased up to $11.00 per hour by 2016; a similar provision would increase the minimum for “tip earners” up to $5.50 by the same deadline.
Some in our service-based economy have raised concerns. However, they have given a nod, rather than disdain, to our local service workers. Most prominent among them, local restaurant magnate Bill Zammer, who is a generous and kind benefactor to many local charities and non-profits, has taken a pensive and not a pecuniary approach. He noted in the article that increases in the base wages for waitstaff would “have to be balanced with price increases,” resulting in higher meal costs for our residents and visitors. Unlike the lawyer and judge in the tragic Texas case, who abrogated any responsibility or ownership of the issue, Bill is facing this issue head-on and framing a respectful debate on this important issue. He knows that his waitstaff, largely immigrants on work visas who help support their families at home with their earnings form his successful restaurants, need to earn a decent living to remain here and keep the Coonamessett and other local institutions thriving.
Along with Chamber Chief Jay Zavala and State Rep. David Vieira, Bill is organizing a “listening session,” where business people will provide feedback on the proposal, which will be taken up by the House of Representatives later this month. Bravo to Bill for recognizing the importance of getting this one right.
I think of it this way. A retail worker earning the current minimum wage of $8.00 and working a 40-hour week will take home somewhere around $250 per week after taxes. That’s barely enough to put groceries on the table, never mind a roof, clothing, gas, and other staples. A table server in a local restaurant stands to make a paltry $80 in base wages for the same period, although that pay is significantly boosted by tips. Either way, those amounts make it difficult, if not impossible, to survive. A modest increase in the wage, even a few dollars a week, brings our friends and neighbors a little closer to a livable wage – and an ability to continue to live in our community which prides itself on economic and cultural diversity.
When the Board of Health proposed banning smoking in our restaurants, many in town, including me, warned of certain economic Armageddon. We were wrong. It’s great to see that our local business leaders, led by Bill, are taking a much more reasonable and responsible approach to this critical issue.
Would I be willing to pay a little more, likely pennies on each meal, to help provide our hard working Falmouthites, who are the backbone of our local economy, a step closer to economic security? I sure would. Against the backdrop of the economic thuggery of people like Ethan Couch, it’s even more apparent to me that it’s actually an economic – and societal – imperative.
 

A Restaurant Renaissance in Woods Hole

Beth Colt has seen the signs and bumper stickers that still hang in garages and shops in Woods Hole as a marvelous reminder of the power of community – and the people in it. “Keep Woods Hole Franchise Free,” say the signs, those words hanging in our memories as simple but powerful reminders of a time when Ronald McDonald came to town, and was met and stopped at the border by a well-organized and passionate citizenry. Beth is equally passionate about the village in her adopted hometown where she summered her whole life, and speaks lovingly about the time when the idea of a burger franchise in one of Falmouth’s truly special locales had people “marching in the streets.”
I remember it well. The late (and most certainly great) Hank Jonah, an unforgettable and adventurous mainstay of the village, who transformed his dad’s seaside watering hole into one of the iconic buildings in the heart of Woods Hole, struck a deal with McDonald’s to lease space overlooking the Steamship Authority terminal. The Zoning Board of Appeals ruled, as a matter of law, that the proposal was appropriate. The Planning Board disagreed. The Board of Selectmen provided leadership and cash, and approved funding for the Planners and the Zoners to fight it out in court. The Zoners won, and it appeared that two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions and a sesame seed bun were all headed to the village.
Then Maggie Crowley stepped in. As the matriarch of one of Woods Hole’s first families of restaurants and owner of the Captain Kidd, Maggie worked out a deal with Hank to purchase the Leeside and the building, and along with her dedicated and capable sons, helped keep that pulse in the heart of the Woods Hole village beating for another generation of residents and visitors. Their commitment to the Falmouth community – and generosity in preserving the character of the village - will have an impact on the charm and appeal of this seaside hamlet for decades to come.
And now, it’s Beth’s turn to continue that erstwhile local tradition by taking over the house that Hank built (and the Crowleys saved) and expanding her success down the street a bit by making the Leeside into the Quick’s Hole Tavern. She is no stranger to transforming a village tradition into a village success. As the current owner of the Woods Hole Inn and the popular Quick’s Hole Taqueria just around the corner from the former Leeside, Beth is already on the winning end of a self-proclaimed “long shot” that continues to pay dividends for her family and her community. By moving her family here from L.A. and taking over the Inn made almost-famous by another Falmouth legend, Bob Schneider, Beth took a risk. However, she believed in the strength and character of Woods Hole and the wider Falmouth community. Her risk paid off. The Quick’s Hole Taqueria is a fun, delicious, and eclectic choice on Woods Hole’s restaurant row. She brings that same eye for success, talent and belief to the Quick’s Hole Tavern, offering such fun and delightful offerings as homemade potato chips and award winning chowder.
“I’m standing on the shoulders of some Woods Hole greats,” she said to me as we chatted about this new endeavor and the village vicissitude she is leading, noting that she too is passionate about the history and character that gives the southwest corner of our town in a special status in our hearts. She noted that, as the construction progressed to transform the Leeside into the Quick’s Hole Tavern, she found widespread support throughout the town. Even the contractor, Arthur Vidal, who built the original three story pillar of the village in the 1980’s, is on board for this new phase, and is bringing his meticulous approach to Beth’s excellent adventure and the tavern’s sweeping views of the Woods Hole Passage. “I love how the people work together, not just in Woods Hole but in all of Falmouth,” said this enthusiastic and creative credit to the community. “There’s lots of support. The passion for the village is palpable,” she continued. The wonderful irony of her statement is that her enthusiasm and passion are contagious and are teaching us all ongoing lessons on the power of positive thinking.
The Quick’s Hole Tavern carries on the tradition, as their website says, “seven days a week – ‘till the last ferry.” Stop in and see the passion, say hello to Beth, and see a restaurant renaissance unfold.
 

SSA Needs A Uniter, Not A Divider

I’ve often used the image of a mosaic to portray the value – and importance – of the diversity in our community. Just as a mosaic has tiles of various colors, shapes, brilliance and purpose, our town is a community because of our varied and diverse citizenry, each citizen providing their own tile to the Falmouth community mosaic.
To be sure, some tiles shine more brightly than others. When I was cutting my teeth in politics and local government two decades ago, Bob Marshall was a brightly shining tile in the complex and fascinating montage known as Falmouth’s political scene. Today, he still is. Back then, as the Chair of the Finance Committee, which in the early post-charter years still wielded significant influence in town (that impact was sustained under Bill Smith and re-emerged under Gary Anderson’s determined direction years later), and later as the Town Moderator, Bob brought a tireless volunteer work ethic coupled with a thoughtful, reasoned approach to problem solving. His pleasant and sociable temperament allowed him to approach some thorny problems – and people – with the right mix of humor and persistence; many solutions were forged via Bob’s ability to welcome detractors into the discussion and forge a compromise.
I remember a discussion at a Town Meeting in the early 90’s on a resolution introduced by community activist Richard Hugus that sought to take a decidedly firm stand on a continued military presence at Otis ANG Base. The vote actually ended in a very rare tie, and Bob cast the deciding vote as Moderator, but not before he paid tribute and gave kudos to those on both sides of this intense and emotional debate for keeping their cools and respecting one another. I admired and sought to emulate his dignified and deferential approach. I still do.
Bob brought that same approach to his years as a member of the Steamship Authority (SSA) board. Particularly in recent years, when Falmouth’s weighted vote plummeted from a full one-third representation to a scant ten percent minority vote, Bob was still able to strongly represent Falmouth’s interests by building relationships with the island representatives, who carry a 70 percent vote, while remaining firm on Falmouth’s interests. He represented us well. He represented us with conviction. He represented us with class. Bob continued to work indefatigably for a reduction of freight traffic through Woods Hole, and appeared before the Selectmen each year, seeking guidance and providing detailed updates on his work on behalf of the town.
The silence since Bob’s resignation after more than three decades of service to this community screams out a chorus of timidity and a roar of disrespect. Let me say, on behalf of a grateful community, what others should have and did not. Thank you Bob, for your service, your dedication, and mostly, for demonstrating to generations of Falmouthites the definition of public service and love of community. Your tile will shine brightly for generations to come.
I’m thinking that some of that silence – some of the hushed voices that should be shouting thanks and praise – is due to the poor behavior that was exhibited by others – by some not so brightly shining tiles of Falmouth’s mosaic - at Bob’s last meeting representing Falmouth to the SSA, and the cloud they have cast over the SSA’s discussion of a new terminal in Woods Hole.
Chief among the critics of the SSA’s laudable plan to reach out and seek public input – and of Bob himself – is former one-term Selectman Catherine Bumpus. Rather than revel in the reverberations of her own cacophony of complaints, Catherine would do well to pause, listen, and take a page from Bob’s proven playbook of conciliation and compromise. Her approach is the diametrical opposite of Bob’s. The same “criticize first and ask questions later” approach to governing that led the voters to dismiss Catherine after one term of her decidedly village-centric approach has emerged yet again in her approach to the SSA. The recent meeting where Catherine and others obscured the discussion of a new terminal with complaints on a wide variety of issues, ended in discord and disappointment for all in attendance. Let’s hope this is not a harbinger of things to come for in a post-Marshall SSA.
Whether you support or oppose the SSA’s current plans to replace the fatigued edifice near the corner of our peninsula, progress will be best made with dialogue, not dissension. The Selectmen need to carefully consider the cast of candidates to carry on Bob’s positive legacy and appoint a uniter, not a divider. After all, the SSA does not need the public’s – or Falmouth’s - input. The 70% vote of the island members means Falmouth’s interests are protected through cooperation, not condemnation.
Yes, indeed. Some tiles shine more brightly than others in our local mosaic. Let’s hope the Selectmen have an eye for art and appoint a shiner, not a stinker, to replace Bob.
 

The Falmouth Christmas Parade - So Much More Than Pageantry

The Falmouth Christmas parade is so much more than the pageantry of the day. Yes, the colors, sounds, and memories of this annual celebration of the season capture the imaginations and stimulate the senses of the multitudes who gather to watch along the meandering procession route through the heart of our downtown, but this day has an even greater meaning and purpose for Falmouth.
To find the true meaning – the true value - of this event, which is sponsored by the Falmouth Chamber of Commerce and supported ably by the volunteer efforts of the Parade Committee, you have to find the people who work for weeks and sometimes months leading up to the holiday spectacle, our annual community Christmas miracle. They exemplify the community spirit and community commitment that is the real significance of this special day.
Elizabeth Sherman is one of those people. Her love for her hometown of Falmouth is boundless, instilled in her by her parents, legendary Falmouth volunteers Rich and Kathy Sherman. This affection for her hometown was manifested during Sunday’s rolling pageant through our revitalized downtown. As the quarterback for the Carousel of Light’s entry in the parade, Elizabeth coordinated, cajoled, and cheerleaded her volunteer colleagues into producing an award-winning entry, showcasing Lance Shinkle’s hand-carved masterpiece with unparalleled flair and splendor, and winning the hearts of the Parade Committee, who rewarded Elizabeth’s creativity and leadership with the “Committee Choice Award,” a recognition of the weeks of planning, days of preparation, and hours of execution. Liz’s selfless and loving efforts, joined enthusiastically by Carousel volunteers Lissie Hoffert, Nick Kleimola, Ben Smith, Justin Perkins, and supported on the float by Mrs. Claus (a glowing Denise Terry) and a baltering Carousel President and omnipresent volunteer Jim Bowen, illustrate the spirit of Falmouth that this holiday happening reveals for all to see.
That spirit hung like a festive wreath over the entire parade route on Sunday. The cheerful mood was palpable as Donna and I strolled from Palmer Ave. to our perch in front of Stone’s Barber Shop. As we made our way down the sidewalk, I spotted a jolly Ken Buckland surveying the hot cider at the Bean & Cod. I heard reports of a celebrity sighting (did anyone else see Julia Roberts along the parade route?) from dear friends Jack Rosenbaum and Annie Holden. As I poked my head in to check on the hot dog sales from the Masons, old FHS pal Brian Ferreira offered a warm holiday hello. Speaking of warm, local plumbing guru Dave Costa was staying toasty by the flaming heaters at Anjeo as he offered an ebullient Christmas greeting, just as Falmouth PD veteran Rich Castleberry was warmly engaging in community policing with revelers along the route.
As we meandered down the day’s rue de revelry, John Hickey was brewing something special, having made the long trek from Bourne to enjoy the day, just as he passed Tim Moniz and his festively-festooned pooch. Local mechanic Paul Siegmund was fixing something special at his shop across from Betsy’s just as a jauntily dressed Jessica Prendergast was remarking, “Isn’t Falmouth Nice!”
As we finally nestled in at our chosen viewing locale, joined by my mom Donna Stone, nephew Brady Perkins and my ever-beaming daughter Sydney, the procession began with the welcoming site of our dedicated constabulary, led by Sgt. Chris Hamilton, and swiftly followed by long-time biker, Det. Bob Murray. The Police honor guard was proudly carrying the colors, professionally represented by PD stalwarts Brian Kinsella, Dean Eisen, and Jim Rogers.
Town Crier David Vieira then announced the coming spectacle, ever representing his home with passion and professionalism. A bevy of celebratory public servants then charted the parade route, led by citizen of the year Mike Duffany. Congressman Bill Keating took the time to offer a holiday handshake, just as I caught a twinkle in the eye of State Rep. Tim Madden. The town hall tandem of Pat Flynn and Rebecca Moffitt were both appropriately merry, while colleague Kevin Murphy spread smiles and cheer to all. Town Manager Julian Suso administrated a warm response, ably assisted by skillful sidekick Heather Harper. Former Selectmen Ahmed Mustafa and Andy Dufresne then followed close by, proudly representing their status as veterans – both of our armed forces and of public service here in Falmouth. Amvets fixture Phil “Flea” Furtado also added some merriment to the day.
Where else but Falmouth and when else but this Christmas-by-the-Sea weekend can you enjoy the pleasure and proficiency of young people flipping down our thoroughfare? As the smile waned from that spectacle, the sounds of the FHS band filled the chilly air. Steve Edwards continues to lead an enthusiastic and talented bunch, equaled only by the FHS cheerleaders and their leader Gretchen Lenox who followed.
Falmouthites Steven Kapulka and Doug Gregory escorted tomorrow’s ice hockey standouts representing Falmouth Youth Hockey, just as a smiling Jenn Connors cheerfully chomped on a turkey leg as she sauntered by. A troupe of troops then shared some smiles, as BSA leaders Tom Pandisco, Drawde Geishecker, and Richard Peal escorted a bevy of Boy Scouts.
A proud and grateful roar erupted as Kevin Lynch and Carole Kenney headlined the offering from the Falmouth Military Support Group, followed by Scott Thrasher, Steve DeMatos and our Fire Department Honor Guard proudly displaying the colors. Falmouth’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) was ably guided down the road by Dan DiNardo, and East Falmouth standout Tony Spagone proudly represented the Knights of Columbus.
Just as the Carousel’s labor of love was finishing up at the Village Green, another group of uber-volunteers displayed their volunteer chef-d’oeuvre. The Falmouth Commodores continue to demonstrate the true meaning of team, as our hometown baseball crew put together a perfect game of a float, expertly organized by dedicated supporters Staci Santos and Cheryl Brennan. The float came alive with team President Steve Kostas beaming a winning smile, supported by tireless volunteer Donna Curtis. This superb squad is indeed Falmouth’s team.
The Sea Crest brought grins to all with their funky offering, as happy hotelier Clark Guinn offered tidings of comfort and joy. The Falmouth Housing Trust displayed their Odd Fellows, led by proud fellow Carey Murphy and cheerful coordinator Annie Saganic.
As the Wells Fargo Wagon passed and Santa offered a wave aboard the Mahoney’s express, Officer Ruben Ferrer helped clean up the scene. As we made our way back to our own Christmas village on Palmer Ave., I enjoyed a hug and hello with old pal, erstwhile arborist and all around maharishi Brian Dale. As I sipped on a delightful hot chocolate with real whipped cream provided by Main Street Mayor Mark Cilfone, the first fella of flavortown, I breathed a deep sigh of gratitude, soaking in the spirit that still enveloped our special village.
Yes, the pageantry is superior, but the spirit of the season – and the people who make it special – are the true meaning of this uniquely Falmouth day.
 

Falmouth School Committee Wrong About Voting in Schools

I’ve been to Dixville Notch. It is an inspiring civics lesson unto itself.
The charming, scenic village in northern New Hampshire, home of the venerable Balsams resort, is renowned for being the first in the nation community to vote for President of the United States. An entire room is dedicated to this distinction at the resort. Dixville’s proud citizenry cherish and celebrate the fact that voters go to this locale before any other in these United States to exercise that treasured right to vote.
I was up in Dixville Notch a few years back on a golfing trip with several buddies from Falmouth; we spent some time in the mini-museum they have set up to commemorate dozens of elections and marveled at the civic engagement and civic pride of this community of fewer than 20 residents (12 in the 2010 census). They take their right to vote for what it is – a privilege that has been earned, defended, fortified, and secured – again and again and for generations – so that proud citizens can choose how they are governed and the people who govern.
I’d like to schedule a trip to the Balsams and bring along Superintendent Bonny Gifford and the School Committee. Maybe by seeing – by being reminded – how truly special our democracy is, they might reverse their recent decision to close their doors to our citizens. It appears that they may have lost a bit of that sense of the sanctity of the ability to vote in our free society. Their recent decision to evict the voters from schools in Teaticket, East Falmouth, and downtown at Morse Pond School is an unfortunate example of government by petition, where a vocal minority forces a policy change (and in this case an ill-advised one) based on a reaction to an incident, rather than on a thorough and thoughtful approach.
I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment that the safety of our children is paramount. I also concur that in today’s unpredictable and unfortunately randomly violent society, we have to sometimes take extraordinary precautions to keep our kids safe. However, I also agree with our experienced and talented Town Clerk Michael Palmer’s assertion that we can balance the imperative of school safety with the mandate of voter access. For many of our citizens, voting is the only chance they get to see our schools; it’s a few times a year opportunity to see the working value of nearly half our tax dollars. He suggested a great compromise in closing school the day of elections, which would address the issue of safety while preserving neighborhood voting access. The answer was no. The School Committee members are elected by all of our residents, not just the hundred or so who signed the petition that led to the eviction. Don’t the rest of us have a say?
The decision to expel voters from these three schools was in reaction to an incident witnessed by a parent when two voters engaged in “an ugly altercation” at Teaticket School. So, let me get this straight. A couple of passionate voters (don’t we need more of them?) engage in a disagreement, and as a result, access to all voters is revoked? If the altercation were between two parents dropping off their kids at school, would drop-offs be banned? This kind of reactionary government is a slippery slope that lends credence to the emotion-not-facts trend that is sweeping our society and taking the place of sound, reasoned debate. Falmouth is better than that.
Our School Committee is comprised of dedicated and respected volunteers. I have friends among their ranks. They care about our community and are there for the right reasons; there isn’t a throttlebottom among them. I think they just got this one wrong.

Hey Jude - Goodness is There - If You Look For It

Maybe the story is true. Maybe it’s not. It doesn’t matter, really. The lesson is an important and relevant one during this season of giving and gratitude. A viral article darting through social media recently tells the moving and instructive tale of a large congregation gathered in their house of worship, anxiously awaiting the arrival of their new pastor. Seated at the back of the church is an unkempt, haggard homeless man, asking for help from the parishioners in the form of alms, comfort, and simple kindness. The man, rather than being embraced by the 10,000 worshipers, was scorned and ignored. When the time came for the new pastor to be introduced, the homeless man strode to the front of the congregation and introduced himself as Pastor Jeremiah Steepek. He then provided a potent and powerful lesson to those who may have forgotten some of the basic concepts of gratitude, charity, and compassion.
This story moved me, partially because I read it soon after reading the lament and disillusionment offered by a local who is known for his positive contributions to our community. My friend and former political rival Jude Wilber posed an intriguing question and planted a seed of reflection in an email to a variety of Falmouth thinkers and doers by asking, “Do you see anything Good happening in this nation in the next 5 years? I would have to say that some people remaining optimistic about ‘communities’ does not qualify as something good actually HAPPENING.” As a leader in our community and someone who has offered positive contributions to our environs for a generation, Jude’s concerns gave me pause and caused me to give some significant reflection on the concept of good things happening in our midst.
Well, Jude, I’ve given this quite a bit of thought. Actually, I believe the converse of your assertion is actually true. Not only is the fact that people remain optimistic about their community something good, this optimism and its resulting good works, deeds, and events is the necessary foundation of our collective future. You see, it is only by highlighting the everyday, seemingly mundane goodness in our lives and in our community that we collectively impact a more positive future. Sure, I lament here and there on the tone of our local discourse and the sometimes head-scratching decisions and debates that unfold in Town Hall Square, but I see things within our borders every day that prove to me that good is indeed actually happening.
Take the story of Morse Pond middle school student Jacob Mello. While running in the school’s annual Turkey Trot race, and leading his peers in first place, Jacob spotted a classmate in trouble, having difficulty breathing. Jacob relinquished his likely first-place finish, and walked with his friend to the finish line, clearly wise beyond his years and mindful that helping another is far more important than individual accolades and victory. Wow. What a wonderful lesson and powerful display of goodness.
But Jude, that’s not all. How about our Freshman Clipper football team? Secured by three touchdowns by unshakable running back Mike LaFrange, our stars of tomorrow recently handed arch-rival Barnstable a stinging 42-14 thumping, capping off a flawless 12-0 season. This team, also boosted by the reliable and stellar play of Quarterback Nick Couhig, Center Jack Karson and versatile back Sam Koss, has made a declaration that Falmouth football has a bright future. We owe them nod for providing some much needed community spirit.
Yes, Jude, goodness is plentiful if you seek it. Another member of a local family of gifted and talented artists has just joined our citizenry. Chelsea Maffei, daughter of local artistic legend Lance Shinkle, carver and creator of the incomparable Carousel of Light, and her husband Chris, just welcomed daughter Olivia Pearl to our seaside hamlet, making a third generation of enthusiastic supporters of Lance’s dream and gift to Falmouth. Both Chelsea and Chris serve on the non-profit board that is working to preserve a home in Falmouth for the Carousel. The simple joy of a new life brought to two wonderful people who take time out of their busy lives to work for the betterment of us all is certainly worth noting for its inherent goodness.
And Jude, what discussion of goodness this time of year could occur without mentioning the magic that occurred yesterday at the Portuguese American Club? In this annual display of unity and charity, hundreds of Falmouth residents, and a nearly equal number of spirited and devoted volunteers provided a Thanksgiving meal and heaping helping of love, kindness and neighborliness. The inimitable teams of Johnny and Debby Netto, supported by benevolent brothers Dave and Gary Mutti, are most certainly something good here in Falmouth.
These are just a few examples of good happening in our community – in our Falmouth. Many, surely dozens, perhaps hundreds of similar stories occur each day.
So Jude, I guess that means that to find goodness in our community, we have to take the time to look for it. Goodness begets goodness. Good deeds beget additional good deeds. So, my friend, I pledge to spend some time this holiday season looking for and doing some good. Let’s all do the same.
 

Grateful for Falmouth on This Day of Thanks

It’s been five years since I wrote this column after my friend Dave shared his wonderful and heartwarming story about how his Falmouth had made such a difference in changing his life. He continues to thrive in our community. Dave, and so many Falmouthites like him who make our community such a special place to live, is one of the primary reasons I consider it a privilege to write this column. Happy Thanksgiving to all of Falmouth. Here is Dave’s story:

As we bask in the wonderful memories (and delicious leftovers) of yesterday’s celebration of that day nearly 400 years ago when near strangers celebrated their thanks together, we should all take time to ponder that for which we are grateful. You see, I have come to believe that one of the things that allows me to remain grateful—full of thanks on this Thanksgiving Day—is remembering and recounting stories about this community, our community, that keep me full of gratitude. I’d like to share one with you that was shared with me recently. It demonstrates my appreciation for Falmouth on this most thankful of days.

Fran was a hard-working mom with four great kids ranging in age from 18 to 7. She and her husband had a beautiful house here in Falmouth, and had what appeared to be a storybook small town life. On a November day not unlike today, her husband left for work and never came home. He had a heart that knew few bounds when meeting others, but that could beat no longer. Fran, at 36, was left alone and in shock, wondering how she would care for her kids, never mind how to manage a Thanksgiving dinner for them.

Without a second thought, her neighbor Sue, a summer resident but year-round friend, opened her home in Connecticut to Fran and her family. That Thanksgiving and the Christmas that followed were but the first of countless kind and selfless acts from Fran’s Falmouth neighbors that would help keep the family together during such a devastating time.

Make no mistake, the love, faith, and sometimes sheer will of Fran to stabilize her kids’ lives and surround them with her boundless love were the glue that kept the family intact, but it was the love and support of neighbors, linked by geography as Falmouthites but connected by an unbreakable sense of community that helped the family thrive. And thrive they did. Buoyed by random acts of kindness ranging from free care from a local orthodontist to visits to the house from Boy Scout leaders, to the watchful eye of caring teachers at Falmouth High, Fran’s kids grew up as good kids—and became good citizens—with much having been given by the Falmouth community.


He needed help; his family and his Falmouth were there.

Falmouth’s kindness, though, was not yet done with this family. A generation later, Fran’s son Dave showed up, as he did most days, on her doorstep for Thanksgiving unstable on his feet, the result of that day’s escape in a bottle that had become his only trusted friend and at the same time his mortal enemy. Dave lost his footing as he entered Fran’s house for that day of thanks, resulting in a couple of broken ribs, a shattered ego, and a broken man. He needed help; his family and his Falmouth were there.

Dave’s journey continued, and he got the help he needed—from a newfound faith and a new set of Falmouth friends who joined together in fellowship—but there he was, the same age as his dad was at his demise, sober but jobless and penniless, contemplating how he would take care of his wife and kids, never mind Thanksgiving and Christmas.

 

 

$190 installation of Andersen and EMCO storm doors through October 31 from Wood Lumber Co.

 

Like neighbors and friends had more than 20 years before, Falmouthites filled up Dave’s fridge and a month later his Christmas tree in a selfless display of neighborly love. This time, the Falmouth Service Center and its dedicated volunteers played a part as well—and helped out with regular supplies of food and advice on keeping Dave’s new way of life part of his future.

Yesterday, Fran, Dave, and all of their family, including a roomful of grandchildren, celebrated America’s day of thanks—and they did it together as a family and together here in Falmouth.

When Dave recounted this heartfelt story to me I realized, as I wiped a tear from my cheek, that similar stories are all around this community—if you look and listen. So look, listen and give thanks for this day and this town, for our community, our Falmouth.

So, as you carve the turkey and celebrate gratitude this week with family, friends, and others who need love and support, think of how Dave’s life—and the lives of his family and friends—has changed because Falmouthites reached out to help a neighbor in need.
 

My Falmouth Mood Makeover

The news last week that a convicted sex offender was arrested lurking near the Teaticket School is a stark and troubling reminder of how much our society – and our community – has changed. The events since then, both those related to that event and several I observed in my daily travels throughout town, though, reminded me that our town of Falmouth is still very much a community, close-knit and supportive, united and caring.
After the discovery of the 30-year old predator through reports of a person smoking in the woods behind the 7-11 on Teaticket Highway, across from what used to be Donahue’s Grocery Store where my brother worked, newly minted Superintendent Bonny Gifford acted swiftly with Police Chief Ed Dunne to reach out to a justifiably concerned public. They provided a truly valuable and precious commodity – information – and turned a potential crisis in public confidence into a local government success story of collaboration and effective outreach.
Those events made me think back to my childhood, growing up in Davisville’s Fisherman’s Cove in the 1970’s. My mom pioneered a program called “Helping Hands,” where neighbors displayed a bright orange hand in their window, symbolizing that their home was a safe place for a kid to go if they were lost or in trouble. I remember Falmouth Police Officer Andy Nyari and “Safety Officer” Bob Ronayne pitching this idea as they handed out Halloween collection bags at East Falmouth School under the supportive and kind eye of Principal Ray Kenney. We were a community that came together and protected and supported our own.
As I contemplated over the weekend on those incidents and the change they represent, in our society where discussion of predators in our midst has become daily conversation, and in our community where, like any place in our great nation, the ugly side of psychological disorders and a mental health system that puts people in need of care back on the street in deference to insurance companies, is tangible and reflected in our local challenges, my thoughts turned from lament to optimism as the weekend unfolded. What began as a solemn reflection on the challenges of our society ended as a hopeful reflection on the sense of community and togetherness - the “helping hand” that still envelops our town – our Falmouth.
My mood makeover began on Saturday, as Donna and I were browsing through Hubbard’s paint on Main Street, picking out colors for the walls of our new home. I never knew there were so many shades of white. As we began to sink into an overwhelming sea of cloud white, bright white, sailcloth, and dove white color swatches, a kind face appeared from around the paint samples. We were tentative at first, not sure if this random helper was someone just keeping warm in the paint store, or was perhaps a heartless interior decorating guerilla, looking to intentionally recommend clashing colors for our living room to feed her own sadistic sense of humor. Nancy August was neither of those. She is actually an accomplished and successful interior designer who not only took time to chat with us about appropriate colors, she actually came to our place on Palmer Ave., walked around and visited, and gave us some great ideas and suggestions. For the record, we chose sailcloth and super white.
Our encounter with Nancy, who summered in Falmouth her whole life, and now enjoys weekends here with her family when she’s not helping to beautify interiors in New York, reminded me of the random acts of kindness that still abound within our borders.
After that enjoyable encounter, we headed over to Ideal Floor Covering next to Nedo Puliti’s Slice of Italy in the old “Hearth & Kettle” plaza, looking for some tile for the bathroom. The possibilities were as endless as the paint. Luckily, another kind soul appeared to help us out. Owner Mark Woods took time to provide personal service, guiding us to our eventual choice (white). This encounter was not notable because the store owner took time to help a customer, it was noteworthy because this successful entrepreneur, who has launched prosperous stores in Manhattan and the Hamptons, still takes time to interact, converse, and engage with people in his hometown of Falmouth. We chatted about his years of service on the Finance Committee, and his hopes for better days ahead for the behavior at Town Hall Square. Like Nancy just a few minutes before, Mark reminded me of what’s right with Falmouth. Mark has built a flourishing floor business on the notion – the ideal – that Falmouth is first. I left with a smile – and some new tile, my mood makeover now complete.
Mom’s “helping hand” effort from East Falmouth in the 70’s may have faded away, but our community still has many people willing to lend one. My faith in our town – in our community – endures.
 

So Much More than A Haircut at Highfield Theater

Phil Stone. Andy Dufresne. Harry Kamataris. Danny Pacheco. Dick Stone.
If there were a Falmouth Barber’s Hall of Fame, these guys would headline the first induction ceremony. Each of them represents a slice of Falmouth history, having stood behind thousands of Falmouthites, hearing thousands of stories, preparing for hundreds of weddings, and serving generations of local families.
The local barber shop is the local institution where you go where you are always greeted with a warm and sincere smile, and everyone truly knows your name. It’s the place (in addition to the pages of the Enterprise and this column) to find out what’s happening in town. Local pols seeking a vote, salesmen seeking a lead, and citizens looking for an update on the latest gossip have stopped into our local barber shops for decades. They are and always have been part of our local fabric. Candidates for local office know that Andy’s Barber Shop is an obligatory stop on the road to electoral success. Patriots and Sox fans know that Stone’s is a font of statistical information and prognostication for our favorite local teams. Yes, you get so much more than a haircut at these local institutions.
Sweeney Todd’s Barber Shop is similar. And different. In addition to the traditional haircut, shave, and chatter, customers also get so much more, but they don’t leave with the smile and contentment of a Falmouth clipping locale. They’re dying to get inside, as this second-floor commercial hub is the newest rage in all of London. Some then die to get out. Literally. Skilled with a razor far beyond the sometimes mundane practice of shaving stubble, Sweeney Todd has worked hard to refine and perfect the art of cleanly and swiftly slicing throats. Yes, throats. With the precision of a surgeon, Sweeney services and then eliminates customers – one bloody soul at a time.
Lucky for him, his downstairs neighbor Nellie Lovett is equally committed to commercial success, and equally deranged and wickedly driven. She takes Sweeney’s former – and dead – customers and endeavors on her daily grind (pun intended), making London’s most delicious and popular meat pies from her neighbor’s soils and toils. Their commercial collaboration is a marriage made in, well, hell.
Of course, this gruesome departure from the tranquility and community character of Andy’s and Stone’s is not real. It is a hilariously fictional account brought to vivid and entertaining life through the Falmouth Theater Guild’s (FTG) latest smashing success, “Sweeny Todd – the Demon Barber of Fleet Street.” Our local thespians and melodic masters continue to dazzle crowds with this energetic and hysterical offering, demonstrating once again the immense talent that exists within our borders.
Peter Cook is devilishly superb as the demonic Sweeney Todd. His comedic timing is impeccable, and he plays the role of the tortured and troubled barber with sincerity and passion. The chemistry between him and stage veteran Bonnie Fairbanks, who brings equal enthusiasm and aplomb to her portrayal of the wickedly cracked pie maven Nellie Lovett, is tangible and intense. Fairbanks forges a connection with the audience through her immense talent and stage presence, enabling her to bring the entire cast to a greater level of comedic and musical success.
With those two powerhouse performances, it would be understandable if other cast members were outshined. Not so with this able and brilliant bunch. Brian Buczkowski excelled as the loveable yet equally deranged Tobias, and the team of Todd Fruth and Laura Cervinsky intertwined a believable and touching love story into the evening as Anthony and Johanna. Their marvelous vocal talents were a true treat, highlighting a solid choral performance by the entire cast. Alex Valentine, whose apt portrayal of the ambitious and wretched Beadle was also a highlight with his top-notch vocals.
Sondheim music can be a chore, with its nuances and complexities. This daunting fact did not intimidate the pit, whose musical accompaniment was outstanding, led by Muscial Director Roy Campbell. His FTG debut was a phenomenal start, and hopefully the first of many.
Director Joan Baird brought together her ‘merry band of Todders’ with Broadway-esque expertise and had them ensnaring the audience as a unit, brining all in attendance on a magical and mystical trip straight to Fleet Street in London. The energy was soaring from curtain to curtain.
Phil Stone and Andy Dufresne may have the day off, but the barber’s chair is open at Highfield Theater. I dare you to take a seat.
 

Pages