BANGOR, Maine — Don Winslow, a former Bangor police chief, halted his chemotherapy treatments several weeks ago, and he and his wife have picked out a plot at Mt. Pleasant Cemetery. But on Tuesday night, as Dora Winslow took her husband out for a quiet stroll along the Bangor Waterfront, the couple would be in for a pleasant surprise.
The two ambled up to a park bench and sat down. The Bangor Waterfront was busier than normal on Tuesday, but the Bangor Band was preparing for a show in the evening.
About as soon as Dora and Don Winslow sat, music kicked on in nearby speakers.
About 100 friends, supporters and former colleagues jumped out from hiding behind trees and the inflatable Bangor Band amphitheater to put on a performance — a show of appreciation, respect and love.
They danced to a choreographed routine that had been planned during a few rehearsals organized through a secret Facebook group. The song lineup included “Love Train” by The O’Jays, “Can’t Touch This” by M.C. Hammer, “We are Family” by Sister Sledge and “Thank You for Being a Friend” by Andrew Gold.
Dora and Don Winslow dabbed tears from their eyes and smiled big. Dora Winslow held tight to her husband’s arm.
A group of police and firefighters from Bangor, Brewer and Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office, along with a few other friends, walked out from behind the amphitheater, each holding signs with letters that spelled out “Thank You Don” and “We [heart] You.”
When the music ended and choreography stopped, the crowd took turns hugging Winslow and his wife and wished them well.
Both Winslows previously battled cancer in 2010 — Dora Winslow’s in her ovaries, and Don Winslow’s in his face and neck — but by 2012, both were deemed disease free.
Winslow, a nine-year police chief in Bangor who retired in 2007 after 28 years with the department, had announced his candidacy for Penobscot County Sheriff in early February. He pulled out of that race just a few days later after doctors told him cancer had resurfaced in his lungs.
After the flash mob winded down and the crowd dwindled, Winslow explained that he decided to stop chemotherapy treatments so he could enjoy what time he has left as much as possible.
“I’d rather feel better and live two months than feel terrible and live four,” he said.
Since stopping chemotherapy, Winslow’s cancer has grown. He has entered hospice care with a focus on treating the symptoms, rather than the cancer itself. He says he isn’t bedridden, and he plans on enjoying time at home and at camp for as long as he’s able.
In a message shared with his friends through social media, Winslow said his family purchased plots at Mt. Pleasant Cemetery on Ohio Street in Bangor. As Winslow has throughout his battles with cancer, he found some humor.
“They are among people we know, I think we will like the neighborhood,” he said in the message.
Winslow thanked everyone who took part in Tuesday’s flash mob.
He said it was “fantastic to have such a circle of friends. Everybody should be so lucky.”
An earlier version of this story stated that the dance routine was choreographed in the hour before Winslow’s arrival. The dance was actually prepared and rehearsed a few times in advance, planned in secret through a Facebook group.