HOLDEN, Maine — Rick Whitmore is battling nasal cancer and has not been strong enough to manage the construction side of the logging company for which he works, never mind cut up the large pile of wood he had collected for his longtime firewood customers.
“I’ve been stuck in the house the whole summer lookin’ at that pile [of wood] wondering, ‘What am I going to do with that?’” said the project manager for Gary Pomeroy Logging Inc. of Hermon.
Whitmore’s boss and co-workers took notice of his predicament and on Sunday swung into action. They even brought along some of their competition to help. More than 50 people from a dozen different logging, construction, building, equipment and other companies from the area showed up at Whitmore’s home on Timber Lane to cut, split and stack the wood for his customers.
“I had heard a rumor that a couple guys I work with were going to come over on Sunday [but] it was raining so I was pretty sure no one was coming,” Whitmore said Wednesday after returning home from his daily trip to CancerCare of Maine.
The group also cut and stacked four cords of firewood to help Whitmore heat his family’s home this winter.
“[They] basically put in a 12-hour day and did what it would have taken over six months for one person to do,” said Abby Woodhead, whose husband owns Woodhead & Son wood harvesters in Bangor.
Brandi Wicklow, office manager for Pomeroy Logging, said employees wanted to help but knew Whitmore wouldn’t like a handout.
“It really, really hit him hard and he’s taken all this time off without any pay,” she said. “And his wife also has had to take time off to take care of him. We know it’s difficult to accept help when you’re sick. We knew this would be a way to really help him. It really was amazing.”
Holly Whitmore said she and her husband have been overwhelmed by the generosity of his employer and other business owners who rolled up their sleeves to lend a hand.
“They could afford to just write a check and donate stuff but instead they spent a day — an entire day — getting dirty, cutting, splitting and stacking wood, getting covered in sawdust,” she said with obvious emotion in her voice. “And they all had a blast doing it, even though it was miserable weather.”
The group brought food, cooked a barbecue and cleaned up afterward, she said.
Wicklow said that when another Pomeroy employee’s home burned, Whitmore “was the first one on the scene with his heavy equipment removing debris.”
Whitmore’s nasopharyngeal cancer was discovered about a year ago.
“Essentially, it was a large tumor in my nasal cavity,” he said. “It was shrunk with radiation and now I’m in chemotherapy. I go almost every day to treatment, so it’s been a long, long summer.”
Whitmore has worried about how he was going to provide for his firewood customers and his family.
“They saved me,” he said of his fellow employees, his competition and his friends who turned out to help. “It’s pretty overwhelming to me. You don’t know who your friends are until something like that happens.”