February SGBA meeting

On Tuesday, February 28, The St. George Business Alliance sponsored “Pulling on the Same Line: The Impact of Commercial Fisheries and Marine Activities on St. George.” Panelists were Josh Miller of the Tenants Harbor Fisherman’s Coop, Glen Libby of Port Clyde Fresh Catch, and Ben Martens of Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association. For more information about the meeting, the new visitors/newcomer’s guide and the 2017 Business Expo/Job Fair, visit www.stgeorgebusinessalliance.com.

PHOTO: Betsy Welch

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Dartmouth and Maine honor a lifetime commitment to social justice and the environment

On January 26, St. George resident Leonard Greenhalgh was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from Dartmouth College, one of the social justice awards associated with the school’s annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration. Specifically, the award honors Greenhalgh’s pioneering work in developing executive education programs for minority, women and Native American business owners.

Greenhalgh is better known in St. George for his work transforming the old John Meehan Quarry (later the Alfred Hocking Quarry) on the Clark Island Road into a wildlife refuge that he eventually named the Wheeler Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. Coincidentally, Greenhalgh was also notified last month that he has been awarded a 2016 Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award for that 30-year environmental restoration effort, which he financed almost entirely at his own expense.

Greenhalgh readily admits that in neither case did he set out to make a lifetime commitment to the work for which he is now being honored. Speaking of the Dartmouth award, he says, “That is how my career has been. It hasn’t been carefully planned but my heart has always gone out to women and minorities and poor people.” And, as he notes on the Sanctuary’s website, “I didn’t start out looking for an environmental restoration and preservation project.” In fact, he says, a chance—and at that time rare—encounter with an osprey carrying a fish in the summer of 1986 led him to a nest in the middle of a flooded quarry on the Clark Island Road. “As I was leaving I saw a small For Sale sign by the old quarry office. My only thought was that this unique nesting site had to be protected.”

Greenhalgh was born and spent his early years in a working-class neighborhood of Manchester, England. His parents had an opportunity to emigrate to the United States for work in 1959. “And then the whole world opened up to me,” Greenhalgh recalls. “In England they decided I had a future as a scientist so I was way ahead in science when I got to America. But I had no idea about colleges.”

On the advice of an adult mentor he applied to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with a vague idea of pursuing a degree in chemical engineering. But almost as soon as he got there he realized that field wasn’t for him. “I went to a Jacques Cousteau movie that was showing on campus. There was this guy swimming around a coral reef with this woman in a bikini. So I said I wanted to become a marine biologist—anything would be better than being a chemical engineer! A distant relative said that the University of Rhode Island (URI) was a good school for oceanography so that is where I went.”

Greenhalgh’s time at URI went well academically, but the civil rights movement was also front-and-center during those years. “So it’s the 1960s and college campuses were caught up in the civil rights movement. I spent some time in the deep South with a roommate and I realized how bad people were being treated—whites-only drinking fountains and all the rest. I just thought this was wrong.” But at this point that conviction implied no particular vocational path. Then a car accident just before graduation from URI left him temporarily confined to a wheelchair, so he took a desk job with a corporation.

He did well in the corporate world and was rapidly promoted. One of his old URI professors suggested he should capitalize on this success and return to URI for a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) degree, which he did, using his business experience and the MBA to launch a career as a business consultant. “That’s when I first realized just how much the system was rigged against women and minorities.”

Eventually Greenhalgh burned out on business consulting. “I was good at it, but it began to be boring.” A friend who was a senior professor at Cornell University invited him to come there to get a PhD in business, with a focus on labor relations. “Basically I worked on civil rights projects,” Greenhalgh notes.

One such project was aimed at helping disabled people become integrated into mainstream workplace environments. Then the school’s dean gave him a job working with people who were going to lose their jobs as the State of New York closed its mental hospitals. “Nobody had ever studied job insecurity. In my travels interviewing people around the state I found that the people who were having the hardest time were blacks, hispanics and women. These were the people most recently hired and so were the first to be forced to leave in a layoff. Discrimination made it difficult for these people to find re-employment. So I got heavily involved with the employment risks for women and minorities.”

After earning his PhD in 1978 he was offered a faculty position at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business. The next year the federal government’s Small Business Administration began talking to Tuck about the increasing proportion of minorities in the United States who needed to have jobs and needed to be incorporated into the country’s business system. “Minorities were starting up businesses but they were failing—they didn’t have the background because they had always been kept out of business ownership. So, given my experience at Cornell, I was asked to teach in the program.”

It wasn’t until Greenhalgh was faced with a decision about whether to take a job at another business school that he came to Tuck’s dean with a proposal to make Tuck’s small, once-a-year minority business program into a year-round part of the curriculum. He officially became director of Programs for Minority- and Women-Owned Business Enterprises in 2002 and Director of Native American Business Programs in 2003. This year there are at least 11 short courses scheduled. “I’ve also been working with veterans and other communities—if anybody has faced historical discrimination I’m there to help. My portfolio has become more national over the years.”

Unlike with business consulting, Greenhalgh has never been bored by his civil rights work. “Every time I run a program, I learn like crazy.” His work with people in Indian country is a case in point. “Their language is different, their culture is different, every reservation is different and it starts with mistrust because there have been 550 treaties that the United States has signed with Indian tribes and the United States government has broken every one of them, all 550.”

Greenhalgh’s civil rights work and his environmental interests—even while at Cornell he was deeply involved with rehabilitating endangered species through the Peregrine Fund—have run a parallel course for more than 40 years. His environmental restoration work at the old quarry on Clark Island Road took up his summers and weekends, and eventually led him to sell his home in Hanover and make St. George his primary residence. “Most of the civil rights stuff I do is intellectual and somewhat intangible,” he says. “So physically building a new pond gives me a tangible sense of accomplishment. And I don’t have to go to a gym to keep physically fit.” On a more serious note he adds, “Here, the animals are my community. And my other community is the handicapped, the women, the minorities, the native people who I try to serve.”—JW

PHOTOS: Top, Julie Wortman, bottom, Jocelyn Paquette

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A tale of ‘some serious mid-life rehab’

By Kevin Curtin
 Recently I found myself on the lower level of the Jackson Memorial Library practicing Chi Gong (Qi Gong) with 10 others, led by our instructor Tim English. I immediately felt the good energy and camaraderie of this circle. Why hadn’t I discovered these sessions sooner? To answer that, let’s recap the previous winter of 2015-2016. I had been teaching college English, and building stone walls all spring, summer, fall, and on towards Christmas time. The cold and the long season were starting to tell on my body and energy reserves. Home one evening, I felt a strange knot sticking out of my back that shouldn’t have been there. I thought, “I don’t want to finish every season stove up like a hunchback–another ex-waller forced to retire because their body’s given out.”

“Self,” I said, “You’re 58 years old and its time for some serious mid-life rehab.” So I went to that shelf of my library with all the yoga, accupuncture, Feldenkrais, Feng Shui, and meditation books—my wife calls it the “Weirdness Section.” I started with “cat stretches” each morning, 10 short Feldenkrais exercises that reconnect you with better movement and alignment. A lot of these exercises open up the back, hips, legs, feet, neck, etc. It was a start on the way back.

My next step towards curing the ogreish back and finding a younger me was crucial:  joining a weekly indoor tennis group. Over the years I had gotten away from tennis as walling jobs increased, laying on the couch weekends instead of getting aerobic exercise. With tennis, you cannot show up as a stiff hunchback and play with any pleasure—you have to be quick of foot, loose, and limber.  Indoor tennis also requires speed of hand and eye. I found I still could run better than my hitting partners, but once I got to the ball, it could get ugly. Timing and technique were way off. Enter Seth Meyer, hit-group and tennis guru. He gave me some lessons  to re-shape and shorten my forehand swing, and kept up constant encouragement and whispered tips as I struggled against better hitters. One day I was surprised that we were picking up the balls to end the hour—I hadn’t been watching the big clock over the courts at all. I was beginning to move like an athlete again, not some gasping gargoyle.

That inner voice inside me started clamoring, “I want to get better, I have to get better.” I wanted my old youthful energy back for good. Slowly, that knot sticking out of my back slipped back into its proper place. I began walling again, keeping my one weekly tennis session. Then,  I discovered a book about the health benefits of five Shaolin Chi Gong stances. I began practicing the stances and other Chi Gong swings each morning and night, which I credit for keeping me injury-free this past year—my busiest walling season to date.

From the Chi Gong tradition I also learned about “setting a gong,” 100 days when you vow to practice or discipline yourself with small things. It’s like New Year’s resolutions, but with lasting results. My gong was pretty simple: Practice Chi Gong in the morning and before bed; forego alcohol and caffeine. I picked these things to work on because my two-beer-a-night habit was slowing me down; and caffeine often made my hyper nature too jittery.

Starting in September, that was it. I got through the 100 days pretty easily. I substituted herbal teas for Starbucks, and “near beer” for I.P.A.s.  I started seeing the ball better in tennis, and I had more and more energy at work and play.  At the end of the gong, I realized that I didn’t miss the alcohol or caffeine, that my body and nerves performed much better without them—though now I am a wicked fan of non alcoholic beer spiked with fresh lime.

So it was many things that got me to Tim England’s Chi Gong class at the Jackson Memorial Library this winter. Sometimes it just takes a huge knot sticking out of your back to give you resolve. After class, all the people leaving have light in their eyes, many smiles, and the bubbling energy of an hour well spent raising the Chi with our guide.  I sense we are all glimpsing a way back to our birthright—good energy in abundance to share with the world.

Curtin, who lives on Hart’s Neck Road, builds stone walls and teaches college English for a living. A feature on his walling work, “When a love of language is the driving force behind a Waller’s art,” appeared in the November 3, 2016 issue of The St. George Dragon.

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On Saturday, January 21, a word-of-mouth gathering of about 60 adults and young people marched from the St. George Town Office to the Post Office and back as part of the Women’s Marches occurring that day throughout the United States and world in support of women, the environment, civil liberties and justice for all.

PHOTO: John McConochie

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Girls middle school team crowned Busline League champs

Both championship girls and boys teams

By Sophia Vigue

Friday, January 20, both St. George 8th grade boys and girls teams went to the Busline League middle school small school division title championships. The boys played against Lincolnville, and the girls against Hope.

The girls’ 8th grade players were: Seanna Montgomery, Grace Cody, Leah Cushman, Jordan Beal, Grace Young, Ruby Long, Kaylee Soto. The team’s three 7th grade players were: Cassi Evans, Sophia Vigue, and Noelle Delano. The coach was Chris Mills.

Earlier that week, both teams had claimed southern division championships. The girls played at home against Nobleboro, taking the lead with a final score of 42-32. The boys had an exciting southern division championship game at their hardest competition, Woolwich. The game was close for a long time, but St George took the lead. At the end of the game, they won 70-67.

After both teams were crowned as southern division champions, they went to the Busline League Championships at Wiscasset Middle/High School, where they played against the northern division Champions (Lincolnville boys and Hope girls).  The crowds from St. George were big and loud and very supportive. Lots of community members, parents and classmates were there.

At the end of the day, both teams had hard games, but were now Busline League champs, and got a police escort home by Pat Polky and Jeremy Joslyn. When they crossed the St George town line, they were joined by firetrucks and ambulances driven by R.J. Polky, Chris Leavitt, Ben Caron, Candy Davis, and others. Our school’s head of maintenance, Mr. Randy Elwell, arranged all of this for us. So if you heard some sirens late that Friday night, it wasn’t a fire… it was two victories for St George!

“It was a great season with great teammates, and we were all happy we won the championship game,” said Jordan Beal. “We had some hard games, and easy games, but we made it through with a 15-0 season! GO DRAGONS!”

“This season was the best season ever!” Grace Young exclaimed. “We played great and I wish it never had ended!”

“Thanks to Chris and my teammates, we learned lots of skills and teamwork we used in the games (which is why we were undefeated, of course). We had so much fun!” Kaylee Soto told me.

“I’m very proud of our undefeated team. It’s been a great season with lots of improvement from everyone,” said Leah Cushman.

Next year, the 8th graders will go to their choice of high schools and we will split up, so winning the championship was a great way to end their middle-school basketball experience and most will never forget it.

(Vigue is a 7th-grade student at the St. George School.) 

PHOTO: Patricia Conrad

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St. George boys take Busline League championship

By Liam O’Neal

The boys St. George middle-level Dragons basketball team was made up of 7th and 8th graders, and we had a very satisfying, exciting season. We had 11 kids on the team, seven 8th graders—Sam Miller, Obie Miller, Kyle Arey, Hunter Rahkonen, Ethan Carballo, Zack Upham, and Logan Putansu—and four 7th graders: Gavin Young, Liam O’Neal, Parker Hilchey, and Matthew Tynan.  Our coach was Mr. Jeff Shaw. Our record was 12 – 2, only losing twice to the Woolwich Wildcats in our regular season. Every other game was a win.

In the playoffs, we beat Nobleboro in the first round for the southern division championship. Our next game was in Wiscasset against against the Lincolnville Lynx, the undefeated north division champions. Their record was 12-0. We knew we were going to have a competition. There were way more St. George fans than Lincolnville fans at the game. Sam Miller said, “It felt pretty wonderful. Having the support from the town was amazing, knowing that they were there cheering for us.”

In the first quarter, the Dragons realized that the Lynx were not the challenge that they thought they were going to be, but we still had to play hard. We took an early lead and kept it through the whole game. The Dragons won 48-31!

On the way home, the Dragons got a surprise police escort from Warren to the St. George School. The fire trucks met us at the town line by Beckett’s and joined the celebration. “It was awesome,” said Hunter Rahkonen, “because it might be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.” Zack Upham said, “We deserved it because we made history, being the first time both boys and girls won the championship.” We want to thank Randy Elwell for organizing this escort. Patrick Polky drove the police car. Others drivers were R.J. Polky, Candy Davis, Ben Caron, and others. We appreciated this show of support more than we can say.

(O’Neal is a 7th-grade student at the St. George School.)

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For 30 years leading a ‘team effort’ to give the people of St. George the services they have wanted


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen John Falla began his tenure as St. George’s town manager at the end of March in 1987, the office he occupied was in the old school building at the south side of today’s town parking lot. “It was one door in, one door out and one light switch when you entered and left,” Falla recalls. In the old days, he notes, before 1968 when the building was first staffed 40 hours a week, the selectmen came down on Monday nights to open the building. “If anyone had a problem that’s when they could come talk to them.”

Falla’s last day as town manager will be February 1, just shy of 30 years in the job. But in some ways he’s been part of St. George’s town government much longer than that.

Careful to note that he is not a true native of St. George—“One of the older natives once made the comment, when I said I was a native of St. George, that I was NOT a native because I was born in a hospital in Rockland,” he explains, adding with a grin, “My father’s response was, ‘Well, you were conceived in St. George!’”—Falla grew up in St. George in the 1950s, with parents who were always active in the community.

“My father was a selectman. I can remember as a very young kid coming down to the town office with him and playing with the clerk’s seal and stuff like that. I grew up being familiar with town government. My father served on the planning board, on the school board and on different ad hoc committees. He was one of the elders of the town.”

Falla attended elementary school in St. George and Georges Valley High School. He then attended Thomas College in Waterville, spending summers working on the line crew for Down East Airlines at the airport in Owls Head. After graduating from Thomas with a business administration degree and a major in accounting, he returned to St. George.

“After I graduated I was thinking I wanted to come home and didn’t want to go off to any big corporate area. It wasn’t long after that that the owner of Down East Airlines called and asked, ‘Are you coming back to work?” I said, ‘Well I’ve graduated and I’m looking for a job in accounting,’ and he said that that was what he had in mind, that he wanted me to come back. So from 1976 until 1980 I worked there as an accountant.”

Falla then started his own financial business doing accounting, taxes and bookkeeping for a variety of clients. He first began serving as a town official in September of 1983, when he was elected to fill an unexpired term as a selectman. He was elected to another term in 1984. “But after a year I said I couldn’t run a business and be a good father and husband so I decided to resign. So they put me on the finance committee.”

In the fall of 1986 the select board appointed him as interim town manager while they pursued a hiring process to get someone for the position full time. But when it came to making a decision on a candidate the four-member select board came to a draw and reopened their search.

“When the town manager position was reopened for hiring, that was the discussion my wife and I had,” Falla says. “Working for myself, I would get a call in the morning, like at 5:30am, when the taxi company opened up and was looking at the books and then I’d get a call from other business owners who, once they closed at the end of the day and had gone home to have a bite to eat, would begin looking at things and I’d get calls until 9pm at night. So what was the difference between that and working for the town? So what was the benefit? Working for yourself you don’t have any paid vacations and you don’t have and you don’t have. Granted, you can be your own boss working for yourself, but with a young family and everything else it seemed worth giving it a shot and seeing what would happen. As a selectman I had an idea what I was getting into, but I never realized that 30 years later I’d still be here.”

The old schoolhouse where Falla's office was located 30 years ago.

The old schoolhouse where Falla’s office was located 30 years ago.

Being a lifelong resident of St. George and having had an unusually long run as town manager, Falla has seen many changes in the town. “I grew up here in the 1950s—that was the smallest the town had been since it had been incorporated in the early 1800s. The granite industry had left and there was no shipping industry. A couple of years after I started in 1987 we spent time gathering information for a comprehensive plan. We talked about how the industries had changed and I remember being a little flip about it, but I said apparently the industry we’re in now is retirement. The Rackliff Island subdivision had been created in the 1970s and more subdivisions began to be developed throughout town in the years that followed. Before that, someone might buy a small piece of land and put a cottage on it and then summer here and maybe winterize it and move up or maybe retire to the area or something like that. But with subdivisions it became more so, with all these finger roads going off Route 131 to the shore.”

If he had to describe St. George to a stranger, Falla says, he would call it a small coastal Maine community. “At this point the town has become more of a bedroom community—there is no industry. Yes, lobstering and fishing are still significant to the town, but I have never thought of them as ‘industries.’  Industries such as shipbuilding and quarries are organized and formal, where lobstering and fishing are independently operated. I feel this independence is what draws people to work in this field, as well as what adds to the mystique for the outsiders looking in. And this independence affects the businesses related to them. The beauty of the area brings people here and the choices we’ve made about local government, the roads, the tax rate have also been a factor. People who have been living here a long time say the taxes keep going up, and the people who move in say the taxes are so cheap.”

Reflecting on whether the “taxes-are-so-cheap” newcomers have changed the town in any significant way, Falla says he believes that, while they have helped make the town more affluent, they haven’t really changed the character of the town. “I was interviewed by someone from a study group eight or 10 years ago who asked if it was difficult working with all the retired middle-level and higher-level executives here who are used to getting what they want. I was a little puzzled because I’ve always treated everyone the same.”

After a pause, he elaborates. “People who move into town and acclimate themselves to the community, who blend in, those are the ones who are successful in becoming part of the community. Those who don’t become part of the community end up moving. If you move here because you like the place, don’t try to create something else, become part of it. A strong part of the attitude of the local community is, ‘I don’t care who you are or where you came from, you put your pants on the same way I do.’ The Wyeth family has always liked the area for that reason. And the other names who are in town are treated the same as anyone else.”

Falla’s love of history, especially local history, goes a long way in explaining his openness to the ever-changing demographics of St. George. “The feeling of them-and-us isn’t really real, it’s more of a perceived thing. Most of the people working in the town office are from away in background. Yes, there is a history and we may identify some properties by their previous owners—such as referring to Hall’s Market when we mean the Tenants Harbor General Store. But it’s always amazed me the melting pot that is St. George and the reasons for it. Often it’s the economic reasons that bring people here.”

By way of example Falla notes that his grandfather came to St. George from the island of Guernsey. He worked in quarries in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, where Falla’s father was born, before coming to work as a quarryman in St. George. Falla’s mother was a “summer girl” who was born and raised in Waltham, Massachusetts. Her parents, who eventually bought a place and then retired here, spent their honeymoon in Martinsville in 1912, being drawn to this area because of people they had known in Waltham who were from St. George and had migrated to Waltham for work in the Waltham watch factory.

The town office Falla will be leaving on February 1 is a far cry from the old school building where he began his career as town manager. It stands on the site of the old high school that was demolished to make way for a new town office he moved into in July of 1987. The fire station and meeting room expansion was completed in 2003 in time for the town’s bicentennial. To Falla, these are simply outward and visible signs of 30 years of hard effort to provide the basic services that the people of the town have wanted. “Yes, there have been quite a few changes. But these are not my doing alone. This is a team effort that we’ve always had here. It’s the people who support you, the co-workers, the select board and town committee members. Everyone has always been supportive, it’s been a group effort.”—JW

(There will be a reception to honor Falla for his 30 years of service as Town Manager on Saturday, January 28 from 6-8pm at the Odd Fellows Hall on Watts Avenue in Tenants Harbor.)

PHOTOS: Julie Wortman

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Sending hope to refugee children

group-cBy Laura Olds, Sophia Vigue and Allison Gill

This past December, just in time for Christmas, students at the St. George School packed boxes full of items for children in a refugee camp in Greece. The items we packed seemed like simple things to us—bandaids, little games, toothbrushes, protein bars, etc.—but are very valuable and useful to a child refugee who is away from home. We sent the boxes through a small organization called Operation Refugee Child.

1-st grader Miles Bartke

1st-grader Miles Bartke

Ms. Bartke, the Grade 6-8 math teacher, introduced us to Operation Refugee Child, which sends out boxes of supplies that refugee children need in their camps. The boxes are called Hope Boxes. Ms. Bartke’s son, Miles (who is a 1st-grader at our school), started the project off by requesting to pack his own box after learning about the refugee crisis. He brought the idea to his teacher, Ms. Thompson, and the rest of the faculty quickly jumped on board. Teachers sent home lists of needed supplies to everyone in the school from elementary grades to middle-level. We each chose an age and gender and brought in supplies to match. There were a few different categories of stuff to get for teens, girls, mother/baby, and children. We collected things like hats, mittens, soap, sanitary supplies, flashlights and little toys, and then we filled plastic bags up. We made a lot of Hope Boxes (31 in one day). Our bundles are going to California, then on to Greece, where many refugees are. The stuff we sent gets put into backpacks and given directly to children living in refugee camps.

In Ms. Bartke’s math class, we have been finding data and statistics about the refugee crisis happening in Syria and other places around the world. We are tracking how many refugees are in different countries and where they are going. The 7th-grade students made a map showing how many refugees are in a country compared to the country’s wealth and total population. We have learned that over the years, the refugee crisis has gotten worse and worse. Now there are over 65 billion refugees and displaced people worldwide. There are refugee camps all over the world that are supporting refugees until they can find a home.  We certainly hope that our 31 Hope Boxes will arrive in Greece soon and help out a few of these people.

(Olds, Vigue and Gill are 7th-grade students at the St. George School.)

PHOTOS: Ashby Bartke

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