‘Little’ people often played big ’08 roles

Posted Dec. 30, 2008, at 7:08 p.m.

Wow, just a few hours left. There have been many 2008 recaps; we certainly don’t need another one. It’s not that I don’t care about the year’s big moments — it’s just that I figure somebody else has got them covered.

And actually, I’m exhausted thinking about it all. I hope that 2009, ’10, ’11, etc., are a bit less earth-shattering, record-shattering and pocketbook-shattering.

So instead of looking back at the big unforgettable moments, let’s create a new year-end commemoration. We’ll take this last Wednesday of 2008 and write about some of the astonishing “little” people.

You can play along too. As 2009 progresses and you meet great people and doers of kind deeds, write to me and we’ll keep track for next year’s column.

But for now, here are a few people of my own choosing. These people didn’t just start doing great things but, like Michael Phelps or Barack Obama, they’ve been earning this year’s historic recognition for a long time.

Here — in no particular order — are some of my heroes of 2008.

Dean Hanson, or Hansen, I’m not sure which, because he’s not famous and I can’t do a Web search and check the spelling of his name. Dean’s a pretty wonderful guy though, so maybe he’ll forgive me. He gets to work with two of the honorable mentions of my list — Sister Mary Norberta of St. Joseph Hospital in Bangor and Dennis Marble of The Greater Bangor Area Homeless Shelter. They’re only honorable mentions because while they do great things, they are too well known to make my list.

Anyway, Dean washes the linen at St. Joe’s so that if you get ill or injured you have a clean place to rest while you recover. And while I imagine Dean’s seen enough bedsheets to last a lifetime, he also washes all the linen for the homeless shelter, assuring that those down on their luck get a clean bed, too.

Eva Grover comes next. I met her years ago when I interviewed her because she had founded a soup kitchen for hungry kids in Waterville. This year she started working with the elderly in Fairfield. She helps them apply for much needed assistance, she helps them get a decent meal and she helps them understand the federal programs that provide their medicines and other necessities. Eva will be 81 in April.

On now to Harry Wolfington.

Practically everyone from Kittery to Canada has gotten a direct mail piece from Harry’s business over the years. One day Harry showed up at a radio station I used to work at, wanting to help needy kids. Since then — even though he knows that when I call my hand is out — he stops what he’s doing to hear some kid’s story. I can’t tell you the number of presents he has bought or the number of refrigerators he has stocked or the number of home heating oil tanks he has filled. I’ve literally lost count.

I sure hope this record-breaking economic downturn doesn’t hurt Harry, because it’ll really hurt the needy children that Harry helps.

Next on my list: University of Maine at Augusta President Allyson Hughes Handley. President Handley sees the potential in every student, even ones who don’t believe they have many options left in life. I could do some research and see where the University of Maine System found her, but I don’t care. I’m just glad they did. She knows higher education equals hope — and that’s the most important quality a college president can have.

Lastly, there’s my sister Claire Welch, a gifted and devoted school nurse. Gone are the days when cuts and bruises were a school’s typical health care emergencies. Claire compassionately deals with pregnancies, chronic illness, terminal illness, the physically and mentally handicapped and victims of domestic violence — and she works in a public school, so we expect this of every other Maine school nurse as well.

I hate running out of space when I’m writing my column — but I especially hate it today. I’m leaving out too many people. I’m sure you know plenty. Let’s remember them tonight when we sing, “We will take a cup of kindness yet, For Auld Lang Syne.”

Pat LaMarche of Yarmouth is the author of “Left Out In America: The State of Homelessness in the United States.” She may be reached at PatLaMarche@hotmail.com

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