JAY, Maine — Melting snow plopped loudly to the ground late Sunday morning as town officials surprised Randy Easter during a dedication ceremony to him at the end of Lavoie Street Extension.
Easter is a beloved longtime running, race-walking and skiing coach and educator for Jay schools. He was diagnosed with esophageal cancer this spring and underwent chemotherapy and surgery in September.
On the town-owned Jay Recreation Area Trail System lot, volunteers, including town officials, built a 14- by 28-foot hemlock-and-pine building to house snowmobile, cross-country running and Nordic trail-grooming equipment.
At the ceremony just after noon, Easter stood beside Board of Selectmen Chairman Steve McCourt. Selectman Tom Goding, a building contractor, stood midway up a step ladder waiting to unveil the equipment building’s sign.
“This has been quite a little process, but it’s pretty much done thanks to Tom,” McCourt said.
“And you,” said Easter, who didn’t know about the sign that selectmen bought with money from their contingency fund and had lettered by SignWorks.
“We want to show Randy our appreciation for all he does for the people in the town of Jay, especially the young people,” McCourt said. “Go ahead, Tom.”
Goding then removed a cardboard cover from the sign, and Easter and McCourt took a step backward.
The sign reads: “This building dedicated to Randy Easter for outstanding service to the children and residents of the town of Jay, Nov. 10, 2013.”
“Thank you,” an awed Easter said to applause from a small crowd and family members gathered nearby. “I appreciate it.”
“This was an incredible surprise,” he said. “Not at all expected. I can’t describe what this means. This is just unbelievable. I’m very, very grateful to the community for supporting this effort, and, hopefully, the communities will use [the trails] in both winter and summer.”
Prior to the ceremony, McCourt said the building project started last winter when logger Ron Ridley was cutting timber from the 180-acre Recreation Lot property. It has roughly six or seven miles of multi-use trails.
Easter went before selectmen last year and asked about getting a used grooming and track-setting machine and drag for the trails.
This spring, Ridley finished two years of selective cutting on the lot. McCourt said he told him to take some logs over to his house, and he’d saw them out.
“So all the lumber that went into this building come off the Rec Lot,” McCourt said. “The only thing we had to buy was the doors, the steel roofing and nails and the cement pads under it.”
The new building is less than a mile from RSU 73’s Spruce Mountain middle and high schools.
Rob Taylor, the gifted and talented coordinator for the middle school and the high school honors physics teacher, said the early morning snowstorm was an unexpected bonus.
“I got out of bed this morning and saw the snow and said, ‘This is perfect for a guy whose motto is ‘Think Snow,’” Taylor said.
“It couldn’t have been more appropriate to have this snow, so this is great,” Easter said.
He said his health continues to improve in his fight against the cancer.
“I’m getting much better,” Easter said. “The doctors, every time I go just keep telling me, ‘You know, you’re way ahead of schedule from where you should be,’ so I’ve been kind of surprised. You know, I feel good.”
He said that through the chemo and radiation treatments he walked about 2 to 2.5 miles a day and is now back to walking that distance daily again.
“The day after I was operated on I was walking in the halls of the hospital, and the nurses said ‘nobody does this until after a week,’” Easter said. “But I said ‘I’ve laid in bed long enough.’”
After the ceremony, Easter went to the community’s fundraiser, “Running for Randy,” behind the high school that was emceed by Craig Zurhorst of Andover.
There, Easter met many of the 576 people of all ages who registered for a 5k (just over 3 mile) cross-country trail run and a 1-mile family fun run/walk on the paved high school track.
John Simoneau of Durham, one runner who brought his children to participate, said he grew up in Fayette and had Easter as a teacher and running and skiing coach in middle school and high school.
“Randy was a great coach, very supportive and really encouraging and a very great role model for us kids,” Simoneau said.
That’s why he said it was great that he could “give back” to Easter by participating in the fundraiser for him.
“I’m just trying to take care of a community member who did so much for so many other people,” Simoneau said. “Scary thing, cancer, and what we can do to help people and to help a friend of the family, it’s why we’re here.”