Newburgh reports success on cancer benefit

Posted June 22, 2010, at 8:23 p.m.

Good Morning, Newburgh!

It’s time for some good news about your town for a change.

That’s the word three local women are spreading today, during what has been a difficult period for residents of that small Penobscot County community who are facing some alleged, unsettling disclosures regarding their town’s finances.

Last week, I met with three women who all love and care for 63-year-old Gerry Ross Somers of Newburgh, who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in November 2009 and just completed her final chemotherapy treatment on Flag Day.

Daughter Kendra Waiver of Orland, sister-in-law Regina Ross of Carmel, and friend Jan Rines of Newburgh stopped by, with file in hand, to report on the terrific success of a May 15 benefit at Newburgh Elementary School that raised several thousand dollars for Gerry and husband Jim Somers, Newburgh residents for 38 years.

“This is the good news of Newburgh,” the women agreed, pointing out that community members, neighbors, friends and family came together to help a couple everyone knows “would do the same for them.”

The event featured a spaghetti supper and an old-fashioned country jam session that turned out to be a fabulous experience, the women said.

From little ones to the elderly, the facility was so full that many people were playing their own private games of musical chairs so some could sit and rest a spell while others got up and moved about.

“It was fun,” Regina said. “It was so crowded we had to put chairs on the side of the hall.”

For the country music jam, the word was put out to folks who take part in these events, and the turnout was better than expected, with musicians coming from as far away as Lincoln.

Musical instruments played included guitars, a saw, a harmonica, and a tambourine, as well as a piccachello, which Kendra described as a homemade instrument. My research describes it as a small cello.

But, most importantly, the women want readers to know how wonderfully this small community pulled together to help Gerry and Jim, who is a prostate cancer survivor.

“We had just great support,” Regina said. “People were coming out of the woodwork.

“We’d ask someone to do something, talk to them later and say you’ve got that part handled, and we knew it would get done.”

The file contains the names of businesses and individuals who contributed everything from food to money, and the list is more than three pages long.

From Bangor to Eddington, anyone who was asked to help did.

“We had so much donated food that, near the end, we just bagged some of it up and sold it for a dollar,” Regina said. “We made money any way we could.”

And while Gerry, having just had a chemotherapy treatment, was not feeling well enough to attend, Jim was there and overwhelmed by the support, his daughter said.

As people continued to arrive and the school became more crowded, Kendra said her father just kept shaking his head and asking, “Can you believe this?”

Well, yes, Kendra said, because Newburgh-area residents were doing only “what Gerry and Jim would do for them.”

So, Newburgh, hold your head high today.

Gerry and Jim wrote me recently to express the “thankfulness and the gratitude we feel for all the warmth, love and support shown to us in these last few months.”

They especially thank everyone who contributed to and worked on the benefit, and want you to know “the total of all this combined not only raised us much-needed funds, it also showed us that a whole community, pulling together, with their prayers, caring, cards and generosity, benefited us and gave us an overwhelming sense of encouragement.

“For all this, we are truly thankful.”

Joni Averill, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor 04402; javerill@bangordailynews.com; 990-8288.

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