Conversations with Maine

Several members of the Island Falls team that has worked on reviving the town's economy stands on the back deck of the new River Cafe. From left are Libby Moulton, Skip Lewin, Pete Connelly, Cheryl Connelly and Tabby York.

Island Falls, reimagined

By Robin Clifford Wood on Oct. 22, 2013, at 4:35 p.m.
There are a lot of stories of Mainers leaving the state to find opportunity. This is a story of a Mainer returning to create opportunity back home. Pete Connelly and his wife, Cheryl, are the owners of a rambling commercial building on the banks of the West Branch of the …
One of only 142 identified Revere bells still in existence in the United States hangs in the tower of Hampden's historic Harmony Hall.

Hampden Garden Club mixes history, hard work and flowers

By Robin Clifford Wood on Oct. 08, 2013, at 2:53 p.m.
I recently took a walk up Kennebec Road in Hampden to meet some people in a freshly restored 1828 church building. The story they had to tell was an uplifting combination of history, hard work, community collaboration and flowers. Like many old church buildings around New England, Harmony Hall has …

Love of Maine, love of medicine both shine in new book

By Robin Clifford Wood on Sept. 10, 2013, at 2:36 p.m.
A fluffy white dog with a wiggly tail yapped his hello for me at the door of Joan MacCracken’s log home in Brooksville. “It’s OK, Quig,” said Joan, reaching down to scoop him up. “Quigley? Like the dog in your book?” I asked. “Yup,” said Joan, giving Quigley a scratch. …
Tessa Wood with her Dad (who is about to tackle a crab dish called "Godzilla") at "Jacques-Imo's" Restaurant in New Orleans.

Road trip to the Deep South

By Robin Clifford Wood on Aug. 27, 2013, at 1:42 p.m.
This week’s column covers about 2,700 miles and spans 15 states — from Hampden, Maine to New Orleans, La. and part way back. Last week, my youngest daughter, Tessa, and I packed up our Honda with her electric keyboard, accordion and a few large duffel bags. We set out on …
Angela Taylor, 98, reads from a journal in which she has recorded summer visits to Islesford, Maine since 1957.

Maine summer islander is 98 years young

By Robin Clifford Wood on Aug. 13, 2013, at 3:32 p.m.
Family lore has it that Angela Taylor weighed nearly 13 pounds at birth. Her subsequent breathing problems were so severe by the time she was 3 that a doctor told Angela’s parents she would die in six months. That was about 95 years ago. I met Angela last week in …
"The Stone House," home to the University of Southern Maine's Stonecoast MFA program in creative writing.

BDN columnist goes back to school

By Robin Clifford Wood on July 30, 2013, at 2:47 p.m.
On July 13, two days into a 10-day residency for the University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast Master of Fine Arts program, I scrawled a few lines in my journal before falling into bed in a stupor: “My head is spinning, I’m exhausted, and I am in bliss.” I assumed that …
John and Marisue Pickering of Orono recently self-published a charming book about great day trip destinations from central Maine. Each destination includes photos, an informative essay, and references for further exploration.

Couple turns Maine explorations into a guidebook

By Robin Clifford Wood on July 02, 2013, at 5:55 p.m.
I recently spent an afternoon with two people who have quietly and determinedly forged paths of their own choosing. Between them, this highly inquisitive couple has completed multiple academic degrees, published professional articles and books, raised two sons and taught countless students of all ages. They also have traveled all …
Aqsa Munir, an exchange student from Pakistan who attended high school in Hampden this year, spent her final weekend in the U.S. out on the Cranberry Islands.

Saying goodbye to our Pakistani daughter

By Robin Clifford Wood on June 18, 2013, at 11:58 a.m.
Last week, we had a going away party for Aqsa, our daughter-for-a-year who came from Pakistan to live with an American family, attend high school, and exchange cultural perspectives. Our party guests came from Hampden, Bangor, Pakistan, Thailand, Germany, Egypt, Lebanon, Denmark, France, Spain, Japan, and Israel. An extraordinary gathering, …
Cristi Hegranes (right) works with Tara Bhattarai, the Global Press Institute's country editor in Nepal.

Woman’s vision trains, empowers truth-tellers worldwide

By Robin Clifford Wood on June 11, 2013, at 4:02 p.m.
On May 8, I spent an evening with a woman who is changing the world. I don’t usually employ dramatic statements, but some people demand hyperbole. Seven years ago, Cristi Hegranes founded the Global Press Institute, an award-winning organization that educates, empowers and employs women around the world to publish …
Don Gallupe, 89, shared life stories and war stories with Robin Clifford Wood at Dysart's earlier this month.

Bangor veteran of World War II exemplifies the way life should be

By Robin Clifford Wood on May 21, 2013, at 9:09 p.m.
Eighty-nine years ago, Don Gallupe was born in a little hospital in Brewer, Maine. He grew up near the intersection of 14th and Union streets in Bangor, when the area was surrounded by farmland and places to fish and hunt. Today, he and Patricia, his wife of 63 years, still …
Heidi LaForge has been the owner of Maine Animal Keeper in Hermon for more than 14 years.

Depths of dog dedication, personified

By Robin Clifford Wood on May 07, 2013, at 2:03 p.m.
For years, whenever I must leave my dear doggie friends behind, I entrust them to Heidi LaForge. Her devotion to animals is unsurpassed, and her thoroughness is a sure thing. The other sure thing about Heidi is that every encounter with her leaves one slightly shell-shocked. Between the playful sparkle …
Matt Dubel, director of the Fields Pond Nature Center in Holden, appears in an online video about this weekend's HOPE festival.  He hopes that festival goers will join together in making a commitment to a healthier world.

HOPE is on this weekend

By Robin Clifford Wood on April 23, 2013, at 5:09 p.m.
Outrage, frustration, despair. That was the emotional fallout after the devastating act of cowardice in Boston last week — “act of terror” suggests more grandeur than the perpetrators deserve. Like many people, I sit at my kitchen table reading the news and feeling useless, wondering what I can possibly do …
Patti Lewis (left) and Sandy Spiller met each other in Sandy's Glenburn shop.

Two women are knit together by more than yarn

By Robin Clifford Wood on April 09, 2013, at 1:57 p.m.
What does a Kansas farm girl who went into nursing have in common with a Maine island girl who went into lobster fishing? They may come from different worlds in some respects, but after meeting each other in a cozy yarn shop in Glenburn, Maine, Sandy Spiller and Patti Lewis …
Elizabeth Siegel, still fondly referred to by all who know her as Queen Elizabeth,at Boyd Place in Bangor.

After 100 stories, some favorite updates

By Robin Clifford Wood on March 27, 2013, at 11:38 a.m.
After well over a hundred “Conversations With Maine” stories, readers and I have made the acquaintance of people all over Maine, young and old, from all walks of life. What has gone on with these interesting people since their stories went to print? I checked in with a few to …
Joan Fenrow, a retired artist living in Hampden, has a studio adjacent to her home where she works, teaches and displays many of her paintings.

Joan Fenrow: Artist with ‘a cram-packed life’ makes the most of remaining time

By Robin Clifford Wood on March 12, 2013, at 5:16 p.m.
I sat at a kitchen table in Hampden last week and traveled to New York City, Germany, the North Sea and India. I heard about brushes with celebrities, working in the bone room at the morgue, a career in theater and dance, and service in the Israeli army. With all …
Aqsa Munir, an exchange student from Pakistan spending the year in Hampden, Maine poses with her first-ever snowman.

More tales of a Pakistani teenager in Maine

By Robin Clifford Wood on March 05, 2013, at 4:36 p.m.
Our year as host parents to a Pakistani teenager is halfway through. Readers may recall my November story about Aqsa Munir, a Muslim exchange student who is sharing our home for the school year in order to cultivate greater cross-cultural understanding. Since early November, Aqsa has experienced a slew of …
The 95-year-old fingers of Harry Weiss tickle the ivories of a an electronic keyboard at Boyd Place in Bangor on Thursday. Weiss, a former silent movie musician, now plays piano for the pure love of it.

96-year-old piano prodigy still wowing crowds

By Robin Clifford Wood on Feb. 26, 2013, at 3:13 p.m.
As soon as he began to play the piano, I understood how 96-year-old Harry Weiss had garnered such local renown after only six years in Maine. In no time flat, Harry makes a lasting impression. Harry is what some people might call a prodigy on the piano. He was three …
Molly Pitcher sings jazz with the new band, Interplay" at Nocturnem Draft Haus in Bangor last month.

Front porch performer finds her voice, fulfills dream

By Robin Clifford Wood on Feb. 12, 2013, at 6:09 p.m.
When she was a little girl, Molly Pitcher and her friends used to “perform” on the front steps of a neighbor’s home. It was an unused front entrance that had the feel of a stage, and Molly remembers the excitement in her childish heart when she stood on those steps, …
Donna and George sit with their dog, Captain, in their "rolling home," a fifth wheel RV that hitches to the bed of their pickup truck.

Retired couple explores RV life on the road

By Robin Clifford Wood on Jan. 31, 2013, at 2:03 p.m.
I ran into my friend Donna Thomas in a Hannaford supermarket parking lot last September. She and her husband, George, were about to begin an eight-month expedition accompanied by Captain, their golden retriever, for their first winter of recreational vehicle life. I asked her if I could check in with …
The Gateway Arch represents the role that the city of St. Louis played as the threshold of westward expansion for the United States during the 19th century. Its shape and symbolism, however, inspire dreams that move beyond our history — into a future of progressive discovery, growth, and progress.

Visit to inner city school illuminates ongoing challenges of racial inequity

By Robin Clifford Wood on Jan. 24, 2013, at 3:31 p.m.
Last week, my husband and I visited with some inner-city seventh grade students in St. Louis, Mo. We were invited into their classroom by their teacher — our eldest daughter, Anna — who is working in St. Louis through the Teach For America program. Although I often appreciated how my …
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