Thursday, December 24, 2020


We buried her Tuesday.

Mary Haggerty with two of her brothers 1925

She was called Mary. So was her mother. It was a common name for girls a hundred years ago when people venerated the Holy Family and named their children accordingly. Mary Elizabeth Haggerty, was born the youngest of four in September, 1924 with three older brothers, one named Joseph. They were protective of her. That’s what boys did in those days. They’ve all passed on and now so has Mary. Few have ever touched as many people as meaningfully, as profoundly, as she did over her ninety-six-year lifetime.

Mary Haggerty 1942

She became Mary McLaughlin in 1942. Her boyfriend, Mac, came back to Boston briefly on leave from the US Navy. She said later that she didn’t really want to elope with him but he was persistent and she gave in. Mac recognized what a gem Mary Haggerty was and he didn’t want to lose her. She was exceedingly pretty and he knew other men would do their best to win her.


 Elopements like Mary’s were common during World War II, and Mac sailed off a day later. As Mrs. McLaughlin, she moved several times to various port cities on the east and west coasts —wherever Mac’s ship was sent. She’d find a secretarial job and a room. When his ship was deployed to England she waited for him. After D-Day when his ship was deployed to the Pacific, she waited for him in San Francisco. She had her first child in 1946 and seven more after that until 1963. It was the baby boom.

Mary McLaughlin with her first child 1946

 Mary had been a single girl for eighteen years. She was a wife for thirty-five years before Mac died in 1977. She was a widow for forty-three years. She was a mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother for fifty-four years. Her eight children called her Ma. Her twenty-nine grandchildren called her Ma and so did all their spouses. Her forty-two great-grandchildren called her Ma, and eventually that’s how she thought of herself: as Ma.

Mary with some of her family 2014

 As matriarch for an extended family of more than eighty people, she endeavored to pass along the faith she had inherited, and did so by embodying it. Shortly after being widowed, she used Mac's life insurance to buy an old farmhouse in Lovell and fix it up. She recalled many happy summer days in the country with her own grandmother and wanted the same for her grandchildren. For thirty-two years, she provided those memories before finally going into assisted living five years ago at ninety-one.

In assisted living 2016

In the year 2000, Ma invited her children to accompany her on a trip to the Holy Land. All were deeply affected by the experience of walking the paths Jesus Himself walked two thousand years before. Whenever they heard gospel readings after that, they could remember being in each of the places where His preaching and His miracles actually took place.


With five of her children 2014

As Ma went into hospice at ninety-six, her extended family opened a forum on Whats App where her many offspring posted remembrances of what she left them: her love and her faith in God, both of which she lived out seamlessly. One said:


“Ma we owe everything we have to you, the way we conduct ourselves, treat other human beings and our belief in god is all owed to you. Through your pure kindness, hard work and patience you’ve made us all good human beings who will teach our kids and grandkids forever after you meet God.”

With a few family members

 Another said:


“It’s amazing to reflect on all you have taught me and our family about love. You taught us all with your whole life — by the way you lived, by the conversations you had, and in all of your relationships with us. You taught us in big and small ways. These have impacted my life in important ways at various times. I know they will continue to do so long after today.”

Mary Haggerty in the middle around 1930

 Another said:

“When we would visit, I remember Ma would let us kids into her bed early in the morning. With her eyes closed we would say prayers, then she would tell us stories. They always started with a blueberry patch. When my children wanted to read the same book for the thirty-fifth time, I closed my eyes and started into the same blueberry patch stories. Love you Ma.”

Ma's 90th 2014

 Another said:

“As a kid when I asked you why you moved to Maine, you spoke of making memories for your grandchildren similar to your own childhood — of a grandmother in the woods. I think you achieved that goal and more. You certainly made an imprint on all of us, Ma. While I wish those woods were a little closer to Massachusetts, I’ll never forget all the time spent with you up there! Though I’m on the tail end of the grandkid lineup (somewhere in the 30s I believe), I felt no less special. I think you made everyone feel that way. You have a unique gift to draw others in and make them feel genuinely loved. Your sincere love for others, simple joy, and obvious faith are what I’ll always admire most about you.”

Some of the photos on Ma's refrigerator

 All the grandchildren commented on the refrigerator in Ma’s kitchen which was completely covered on two sides with wallet-sized, school pictures of them and their many cousins. Several also mentioned the giant freezer in the basement. Mary and Mac had each grown up poor during the Great Depression and threw nothing away that wasn’t thoroughly worn out. Mac sometimes went hungry as a child so, after they married and children came, they purchased a huge chest freezer. Mac kept it full bygoing food-shopping every Saturday. He negotiated with bakery managers to buy day-old bread — fifty loaves at a time — for a nickel each. He made sure his children would never know hunger as he did. After Mac died, Ma brought that freezer with her up to Maine.

With brother Joe Haggerty in Galway, Ireland 2009

 One grandchild said: “I still think of you when I smell bacon, as that’s usually the smell that woke me up in the morning in the Blue Room. I remember drinking orange juice from your recycled juice glasses and making sandwiches to take to Kezar [Lake] made out of bread that was in your freezer (probably) longer than I’d been alive. I, too, remember crawling into your bed and praying along to the radio rosary. I’ll admit I thought the rosary was painfully boring, but I loved snuggling in close with you in your warm bed. And now, many of my daily rosaries are offered for you!”

Christmas dinner at my house

 All who loved Ma worried that, during Covid, she might have to die alone. Her daughters looked for a hospice that would allow loved ones to visit, and finally found one nine days before she passed. As the testimonies poured in on What’s App, they were read to her. She heard the above tributes and many others like them as she waited for Jesus to call her home. Two of her daughters were holding her hands and praying with her as she passed on to eternal life. For that, we’re all grateful.

With her brother Joe around 1940

 Few are as prepared for death as Ma was, and for the past few years she wondered aloud why she was living so long. During that time she told some of her children what was most important to her besides her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. First of those things was her church work, like serving on the building committee for the Elizabeth Ann Seton Church; serving as secretary for the Church Council; volunteering at the Dinner Bell (the local soup kitchen); working at the Lighthouse Pregnancy Crisis Center whose mission was to provide practical, life-affirming, alternatives to abortion; and serving as Eucharistic Minister and taking it to shut-ins. 

With one of her 42 great-grandchildren

 For decades she was very active with the Pro-Life Movement at many levels, believing strongly that: “We have to promote the dignity of the human person and the Sanctity of Human Life.” Born a Boston-Irish-Catholic-Democrat as so many of her generation in Massachusetts were, she had to leave the Democrat Party when it became the party of abortion. She became a Reagan Democrat, and eventually a Republican. The Party had changed, not her. For years she haunted pro-abortion Democrats like Congressman, then Senator, then Presidential candidate, Paul Tsongas. Then she haunted his counterparts in Maine. Ma never relented in her fight against abortion. 

Nearly all families are touched by alcoholism, but especially the Irish. All her ancestors came from there and do did Mac’s. She understood what damage alcoholism did to families and she became active in Al Anon, a program for anyone who loves an alcoholic. She sponsored many in both Massachusetts and Maine and started an Alateen program in Fryeburg. Through these organizations she touched hundreds of others in whatever community she lived.

Being as involved as she was in so many activities meant a lot of driving on rural roads in western Maine. Ma liked to get where she was going quickly and was often pulled over for speeding, even into her eighties. “I’d roll down the window and smile sweetly at them with my white, old lady hair and they’d let me go,” she said. More than one grandchild remembered being with her when she went too fast for the slippery conditions and she’d yell, “Hold on kids!” as she went into the ditch. She damaged her cars a few times but no one ever got hurt. It was like she had divine protection.

Two great-granddaughters were named for Ma and there are just too many moving grandchildren posts to list here, but one more:


“I was just thinking about all the special memories I have of you as I was holding Danny and putting him down for a nap. Many are of your house in Maine and all the great times we had there- I loved your fridge full of pictures! That’s what I thought of first. It was always fun to find yourself and see all your cousins (and there are a lot of them)! The best was climbing out the kitchen window to the sun porch- that was a pretty big deal to a kid. The fire wood chute was also exciting! Could I fit down it? I wished we had one in our house. I remember your aloe plant in the upstairs hall and how we would use it for sunburns. I remember crawling into bed with you in the early morning and I thought your mattress was soooo comfy! I enjoyed playing card games with you in the dining room. I remember all your braided rugs. The creaky stairs. It was fun picking carrots from your garden and finding glass bottles in the woods for your collection. Swimming, hiking, and being with cousins was the best! Watching tv with you as you crocheted on your chair. Lately, I’ve really enjoyed our phone conversations and I’m going to miss them a lot. You have such wisdom and faith and I’ve learned so much from you. “You sound so happy!” — that’s what you would always say when we spoke. It’s been so nice sharing stories about the kids with you. How did you ever remember all the grandkids’ names?  Probably because you prayed for them all every night. I told you last week Luke didn’t realize (because he’s so absent minded) that he put his clean underwear right over the dirty ones and you laughed and laughed! It was the best. I hadn’t heard you laugh like that in a while!”

A daughter who was with Ma near the end reported several things she said. Among them were:


I need Jesus.

I need the Eucharist.

I need to see my children.

I'm so happy.

I love seeing your face.

I feel the love.

Jesus I love you above all things.


And one of the prayers her daughter said with Ma during her last days included a quote from 17th century scientist and mathematician Blaise Pascal:

“Reflect on death in Jesus Christ, not without Him. Without Jesus Christ death would be dreadful, alarming, a terror of nature. In Jesus Christ it is fair and lovely, it is good and holy, it is the joy of the saints.”

Monday, December 14, 2020


There’s a movement in public schools across the country from Maine to California which purports to improve race relations. To this retired teacher, however, it’s more likely to make them worse.

A week ago the
Washington Free Beacon reported: “The San Diego Unified School District required teachers to attend a ‘white privilege’ training session in which they had to say they were racist and ‘confront' their privilege.” And it’s not just in California that teachers are being instructed like this. Similar things are happening right here in Maine. “Diversity Trainers” from several places across the country are becoming millionaires as they collect enormous fees for telling teachers they’re racists and “You [teachers] are upholding racist ideas, structures, and policies.”

The Free Beacon article didn’t say whether any teachers objected. Nowhere could I find reports that any San Diego teachers spoke up in opposition to this “training.” I certainly would have spoken up. When I was subjected to previous politically-correct “in-service training” regimens and the presenter asked: “Are there any comments or questions?” I always had some — and I was always the only one. Public school teachers are not what anyone would call courageous. Never was a I forced to say I was racist though, because the “training” hadn’t regressed to that point ten years ago. It has now.

A typical response to today’s inservice indoctrination would be this one from North Carolina teacher Laurie Calvert who said: “I was a racist teacher and I didn’t even know it.” I did multiple searches looking for “teachers object to anti-racist training,” and all I got were hits from teachers who endorsed the brainwashing and self-flagellated the way Laurie Calvert did in 2017.

Ever since the George Floyd video went viral, however, this brand of “diversity training” has become a big money-maker for “Diversity Trainers.” According to a November report in Realclearinvestigations:

“The nation's K-12 schools have been incrementally adopting multiculturalism and ethnic studies for decades, but such courses have been the exception rather than the rule. This summer’s Black Lives Matter protests have sparked new level of commitment, a newfound urgency, and a new trend: anti-racist pedagogy.”

Here in Maine, SAD 51 Superintendent Jeff Porter attended a diversity session run by Boston-based Community Change, Inc. which is another money-making “diversity training” institution where Maine resident Shay Stewart-Bouley works as executive director. Superintendent Porter had attended one of her workshops, was troubled by the rhetoric at first, but then thought it was wonderful and wanted all his teachers to take it He budgeted $30,000 to pay Steward-Bouley’s organization, until there was a community backlash last June.

The fallout began when the Cumberland/North Yarmouth district’s “Equity Committee” sent out a statement to the community last June. It read, in part:

“As a majority white school district, we stand in solidarity with Black Movement leaders… In a culture that continually reinforces white supremacy, justice can only be achieved when we confront and repair the anti-Blackness woven through every aspect of society—in our homes, schools, workplaces, communities, places of worship, and government… We cannot move forward until we reconcile the intentional barriers white people have built to harm black people… Black people experience violence every single day because of our white supremacist society….We will work to assess our curriculum, educate our community within and outside of our school campus, dismantle the anti-Blackness all of us have internalized by living in a society built on white supremacy, and provide tools to interrupt anti-Black racism.”

On her Facebook page called: “Black Girl In Maine,” Steward-Bouley declares: “Racism is not just about personal feelings; it is woven into the fabric of this nation,” and “White women benefit from the status quo… Change would require burning down that system and building a new one — one where [white women] and their children might lose the shared superiority and protection they get by being attached to powerful White men.” Steward Bouley claims her movement is world wide and “Wherever there are Black people, there is a fight.”

She capitalizes White and Black and that’s clearly how she sees the human race: Whites are racists and Blacks are victims. That’s quite different from Martin Luther King’s dream of not judging people by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. It’s also pretty clear why some SAD 51 taxpayers objected to paying Steward-Bouley tens of thousands to “train” their teachers. They don’t want students trained to believe themselves racist if they were born white.

According to a November 23rd Portland Press Herald article, the SAD 51 School Board has decided to drop Steward-Bouley’s organization, Community Change, Inc. and will instead hire the University of Southern Maine for its “equity work.” To that, Steward-Bouley said: “I am entitled to my own opinions that I can share on my personal social media.”

True enough, Ms. Steward-Bouley, but you shouldn’t be “training” teachers.

Monday, December 07, 2020


Constant drone from my gasoline generator is annoying this dark morning but I’m glad to have it. I’m warm. I’m drinking hot coffee, and I was able to take a hot shower this morning. I wish now, however, that I’d invested in one of those propane ones that goes on automatically when power goes out — and one of those big, submarine-shaped tanks to go with it. They’re much quieter and propane is relatively cheap when purchased in bulk for a tank you own. It’s day two of the latest power outage and I’m thankful again for electricity as I always am when I lose it and have to make my own.

My wife and I went to bed earlier than usual last night. There was no news to watch, no streaming video, no internet. We sipped wine and talked for a while by candlelight, but the drone from the generator disturbed the silence we both enjoy so much. I shut it down and we brought flashlights up to our bedroom thinking we would read before nodding off, but sleep came easily to both of us as we lay there savoring the stillness. However, my eyes opened at 3:00 am and wouldn’t close again. I had hoped the power would return in the night but it didn’t, and I’ll have to go out for more gasoline today to keep things running.

Fryeburg Harbor Cemetery

Only a year ago our economy was surging, prosperity was spreading, and Donald Trump looked like a shoe-in for reelection. No one went about wearing masks outside of an operating room. Now we’re having a second wave of “The Covid,” and it’s yet another issue spotlighting the widening political divide in our country. Reading the police blotter in last week’s Bridgton News I saw more than one item of neighbors reporting neighbors for not quarantining after returning from out of state, or having more house guests than Maine Governor Janet Mills allows under the emergency powers she was granted by the legislature.

Sunrise at Old Orchard Beach last winter

People in rural New England depend on small businesses for their livelihood and a number of them have closed down after the first shutdown. Others are barely hanging on after cutting staff, cutting hours, and looking in vain for more to trim in order to make it through another extended closure. Tolerance for shut downs out in rural New England is very thin.

Fryeburg Cemetery

Just about everyone in the country cooperated late last winter with what they were told would be a two-week economic shutdown to “flatten the curve” and avoid overwhelming our hospitals. Then it was extended “another few weeks” and then “another few weeks” and then “until June 1st,” and then until still another arbitrary date. Our economy was in free fall and never fully recovered even though spread eased over the summer.

Misty Morning Lovell, Maine

People began defying government restrictions and questioning the efficacy of shutdowns. Opposing opinions followed party lines. As the economy sank, so did President Trump’s political fortunes and Democrats nominated Joe Biden. Anti-Trumpism surged and continues unabated while he insists the election was fraudulent. Biden promises to unite the country but many wonder if that’s possible at this point. As we near the winter solstice with its shorter days and longer nights, optimism is harder to summon. Sunshine is scarce, literally and figuratively.

My mother at her 95th birthday last year

And then there’s this: last night five of my siblings and I had a group phone conversation about how to handle our 96-year-old mother’s rapidly declining health. She went into assisted living five years ago, then into long-term care for several weeks but none of us have been able to go inside for visits because of “The Covid.” During warmer weather she could occasionally be wheeled out to a patio wearing a mask, and staying six feet away for not more than an hour. Some nurses allowed one hug at the end. Some didn’t. It’s been tough.

Happier 95th

Last week she suffered a shoulder fracture in a fall and was hospitalized. With pain medication and other medical issues, lucidity is intermittent. At this writing, we’re looking for a hospice facility. She has said often lately that she’s ready to die. My siblings are spread around New England and it looks like one sister has found a centrally-located hospice that would allow up to six visitors during the day and one overnight. If we can get her in there soon, she won’t die alone. No one should, virus or no virus.

So far, I haven’t seen any Central Maine Power repair trucks on my road. As I listen to the drone of my generator, I’m reminded of how much we all depend on each other to keep things running. I’ll hold out hope that we can unite in spite of all that’s going on. I don’t like to think otherwise.

Tuesday, December 01, 2020


Last week I took a load off my truck and off my mind. I delivered all the late Helen Leadbeater’s Indian artifacts and journals to the Maine State Museum in Augusta. The boxes I had packed up last summer filled my Toyota Tacoma. They comprised the result of thirty years of collecting and documenting Indian artifacts from the upper Saco River Valley. I was afraid my truck wasn’t big enough to fit it all in. I was also afraid all that stone weighed so much I might break a spring, but I made it.

There to greet me were Arthur Speiss, senior archaeologist at the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, and Paula Work of the Museum. When I asked Paula what was so valuable about Helen’s collection, she said there had been hardly any professional archaeological work done in my part of Maine and, though Helen wasn’t a professional, she was a very careful researcher who kept extensive records of what she found and where.

Though my tenure here in western Maine overlapped Helen’s, we never met. My sister-in-law collected with her in North Fryeburg’s fields after they were plowed and harrowed in springtime. My brother viewed the collection after being granted access by Helen’s son, Arizona Zipper, who inherited her property across from Fryeburg Academy. When I wrote about Helen’s collection in this column, AZ, as Arizona Zipper likes to be called, knocked on my door and invited me to see it as well.

That was ten years ago when I was still teaching US History in Fryeburg. Virtually every archaeologist in the northeast had made the pilgrimage to Helen’s house, and one of them, Mike Gramly, asked me to inventory the collection for him. Gramly used to head up the Maine State Museum and the IRS recognizes him as an appraiser of archaeological collections like Helen’s. So, when I retired that became my first project. AZ gave me access again and I spent three weeks that first winter of retirement photographing her artifacts the way Gramly asked me to.

A local woman named Diana Bell heard about what I was doing and offered her assistance. While I photographed the artifacts box by box (Helen used hundreds of nylon stocking boxes to store them in), Diana scanned Helen’s notebooks and journals, which were also extensive. Thus I learned much about early human settlement of Fryeburg, Lovell, and Conway, New Hampshire. Helen published one scholarly article on pottery in the Maine Archaeological Society Journal in 1978.

A former student of mine named Bill Rombola had surveyed Helen’s collection during his archaeological study at the University of Southern Maine and published another article about in the journal in 1998. In it, Rombola reported that some of Helen’s artifacts were as much as 8000-9000 years old and were made from lithic (stone) material from New York, Vermont, Maine, Quebec and even northern Labrador (Ramah Chert).

AZ had little interest in his mother’s passion but he respected her work and wished to preserve it for study. His house is huge, difficult to heat and maintain, so for years he’s been considering a sale and a move to a smaller home. At one point, I was working with Dan Lee, former headmaster at Fryeburg Academy, to mediate a purchase of the home and turn part of it into a museum for Helen’t collection. AZ couldn’t pull the trigger on that so I began trying to convince him to let the Maine State Museum have the collection.

Last spring, he agreed under one condition: that photographs of Helen’s artifacts and digital copies of her journals be made available online as well as at the museum. I hurried to get his signature on a formal agreement to that effect from the museum and began to box up the collection. That occupied me last summer through some very hot, humid weeks getting it all packed and moved to a friend’s garage in Lovell. I also retrieved several boxes of artifacts that had been on loan to the Conway Library for exhibit.

Helen Leadbeater

In Augusta last week, Art and Paula helped me unload, and Paula showed me around the museum warehouse. I was thoroughly fascinated as only a history geek could be. On its moveable shelves were every historical collection about which I had been reading for decades! At one point we passed a drawer labeled “Michaud” which I knew to be a paleoindian site in Auburn, Maine. She pulled it out and let me hold a paleo projectile point over 12 thousand years old. It was quite a thrill. I said I wished I didn’t live so far away because I could spend months there totally enthralled. She said I’d be welcome anytime.