BELFAST, Maine — Dr. Mary Black lives close to the Route 1 Jug Handle in Belfast, which has been the site of many car accidents over the years.
On Aug. 31, she and her husband, David, heard a very loud crash on the highway and went to see if they could help. Ultimately, and despite the efforts of dozens of rescue workers at the scene, they couldn’t. The accident left one woman dead — Camden teacher Jayashree Kalmath, 61, who evidently had turned left onto Route 1 into the path of a charter bus.
Kalmath, originally of India, had taught at the Ashwood Waldorf School in Rockport for five years, and had spent her last day getting ready for the start of the school year. She and her friend and school co-worker Laura Purdom had gone shopping for supplies and gifts, and Kalmath purchased a slice of colored agate for each of the seven sixth-grade students whom she had taught since they were first graders.
Purdom later told the Bangor Daily News that police had not found the agate at the crash scene, and she wondered if anyone could help locate the gifts. The stones would be a nice memory of Kalmath for her students if they hadn’t been lost in the accident, she said.
Black read in the newspaper about the missing agate chips and decided that here, at least, she might be able to help. She contacted the school, and staff told her that they thought it would be all right to look in the car, if she wanted to.
She did, and she even had a connection to the towing company.
“The lady who cuts my hair is the towing company’s daughter,” Black said.
She asked if Pooler’s Towing still had Kalmath’s wrecked Subaru, and if anyone had come to claim her things. No one had — relatives in India apparently have been having trouble getting a visa to come to this country. And when Black asked the school if officials would mind if she collected any remaining personal effects from the damaged car, they said it would be fine.
“I’ve already seen the car,” Black said. “If there’s no rules against it, why wouldn’t I do that?”
She found the keys still in the switch, Kalmath’s sweater, and a brown bag that looked promising. But it held only vegetables. In the trunk, though, a little white bag still contained the undamaged agate chips. After finishing her search, Black gave the salvaged gifts and personal possessions to school staff.
“When Mary brought them to us, we were all impressed by her common sense, courage and kindness,” Purdom said.
Black said that she was moved to do something in the memory of a woman she’d never met for a simple reason.
“If any of my relatives were in another country and had an accident, I would hope that they’d take care of my personal items,” she said.