Category Archives: September 13

An idea whose time has come: honoring first responders

Fighting a fire during a training exercise

For the past 15 to 20 years or so, the idea of erecting a monument to honor the service of the men and women belonging to the St. George Volunteer Firefighters and Ambulance Association has been, as Association member Steve Jarrett says, “floating around” within the Fire Department. Jarrett has been a member of the Association for 27 years, joining a year after the group was formally incorporated (see sidebar for a more detailed history). He is now the chair of a committee working hard to bring into reality what up until recently had just been a matter of wishful thinking.

“At first we were going to do a wall of honor with a big piece of polished granite with brass plaques with names and dates and then we realized that if we’ve been in this business [since the 1940s] it would be hard and we might even be leaving people out if we didn’t have good records, so we kept pondering the idea. I’ve kind of hung with it all the way through. We’ve had a lot of projects going so we’ve had to prioritize, but I didn’t want to see this fall through the cracks. So last year I went to an Association meeting and I said, ‘Do we or don’t we want to continue this and if we do, let’s form a committee, let’s get some ideas.’ And the Association said this is something we want to follow through on.”

The desire to recognize the service of the town’s emergency responders, most of whom are volunteers (only the round-the-clock paramedics are paid), Jarrett says, has to do with wanting to honor Association members’ willingness to shoulder the responsibility—and, frequently, to accept the risks entailed—for safeguarding St. George lives and property. And the time the members put into training alone, represents a significant commitment.

Steve Jarrett

“It used to be you could show up at a fire and help—now you have to be trained,” Jarrett points out. “The training can be intense but it isn’t overwhelming. You can get certified after a year. It’s all for our own good. Our new ‘burn building’ is going to let us do a lot better, a lot more intense, training. It will allow the young recruits to decide if it’s for them or not. It gives us all a chance to act in these scenarios and be safe and remember we’re a team—one comes out, we all come out. There are no heroes and no free-lancing, as one chief used to put it.”

Jarrett’s committee has settled on the idea of an outdoor monument made of granite with benches on either side. “After putting some ideas together we got with Brooks Monuments in Warren and we came to a design which is shaded granite with white granite for the bench tops. We had other ideas such as bronze items to be added, like a pair of boots and a helmet, but we decided, let’s start basic and through the years if we want to add to it we can do that. We wanted something that wouldn’t be reaching for the stars to finance.”

The committee has selected a site on the Town Office lawn in front of the flag pole, facing the parking lot. The estimated cost of the project is $20,000. “The ground has to be prepped so it can be anchored, and it’s got to be installed. The brass plaque at the top alone is $3,000. We thought that was a very fair and reasonable price. It’s got all kinds of flat space for later adding on things—there could be bronze medallions that families could use to commemorate a loved one, or we could put pavers around that could be inscribed.”

The financing for the monument, Jarrett says, will be entirely by donation and fund-raising efforts such as bottle drives. “This will not be in the town’s budget. This is something that comes from the heart.” Jarrett and the committee say they hope they meet their fundraising goal in a reasonable time because the longer the project is delayed the more expensive it will likely be. But they also recognize that the Association has other needs that require funding, so they plan to be careful not to compete with fundraisers for those.

But Jarrett says he and the monument committee are determined to bring this project to fruition. “This monument does mean a lot to us—the EMS and the Fire Department. There’s a lot of pride in our department. There are members of our department who came in when they were 15, 16 years old. I came in in my late 20s. My father used to be on it, my uncle used to be on it. If my three sons hadn’t run off and joined the navy they’d be on it. It is a thing amongst fire departments to put a monument out, a place to celebrate, honor, reflect. It’s a meeting ground with sentimental meaning to it—for all those who have served, for all those who want to come and say something or think something on our behalf, too. It was an idea, and we’re trying to make it a reality.”—JW
(Those wishing to make a contribution to the Fire and Rescue Monument can make their donation to St. George Firefighters and Ambulance Association and send it to the Town Office at PO Box 131, Tenants Harbor, ME 04860. Please specify that the donation is for the Fire and Rescue Monument.)

PHOTOS: Top, Courtesy of SGVFFAA, below, Julie Wortman


A brief history of the SGVFFAA

With the entry of the United States into World War II late in 1941 the Civil Defense Service was formed. A primary concern of Civil Defense was fire protection in case of incendiary bombing. On March 9, 1942 the selectmen of the Town of St. George voted to expend $6,500 for the purchase of fire equipment for the town. A group of fire commissioners was selected under the leadership of Alfred R. Fuller. H. Alvah Harris was appointed fire chief. Prior to this time St. George had no firefighting equipment and no organized firefighting force.

On February 3, 1943 the first apparatus (a 500-gallon 1943 Mack) arrived in town. In the meantime the chief and volunteers had been trained by the Rockland Fire Department.

On March 15, 1943 a complete set of regulations based on model standards recommended by the National Fire Protection Association was read and adopted at the town’s Annual Meeting. The objective of the town’s Fire Department was the “Prevention of fire and the protection of life and property within the limits of St. George.” The town further voted to pay volunteer firefighters at a rate of $.50 an hour while on active duty.

The St. George Volunteer Fireman’s Association was formed on November 15, 1953. The first officers elected were: John Kulju, President; Alison Wilson Jr., Vice President; Arthur L. Ingersoll, Secretary and Treasurer. The minutes record: “Although several meetings prior to this date were held … it was at this meeting that organization was actually completed with officers, rules and regulations.”

The first Annual Meeting was held on April 8, 1954 and subsequently on each second Thursday of April.

The Fireman’s Association was incorporated on June 13, 1990 and changed its name to the present form.

The first ambulance was purchased for $100 on March 6, 1956. It was a 1942 Cadillac Meteor ambulance/hearse which required some additional fitting-out before taking on its tasks (e.g.: a “wheeled cot”).

The ambulance service began as a fully volunteer service entirely funded by community donations. Our first ambulance was purchased with funds raised by a house-to-house canvas by the Fireman’s Association. A total of $308 was raised in that effort. At the time the ambulance was purchased there were approximately 35 volunteers.

That first ambulance was replaced with a 1950 Cadillac on October 31, 1959. That vehicle was replaced in 1963 with a 1956 vehicle. That vehicle remained in service until 1970 and was replaced by a 1967 Pontiac.

In 1970 it was noted that a new state law required the ambulance have licensed attendants. Sixteen volunteers took a nine-week course at Knox Hospital to earn the necessary licenses. An ambulance service in the Maine tradition of neighbors helping neighbors was well and truly underway.—from the St. George Volunteer Firefighters and Ambulance Association website (

Up close with invasive plants at Fort Point on September 15

The Georges River Land Trust and the St. George Conservation Commission will co-host a walk on the Fort Point Trail in St. George on Saturday, September 15, from 10 to 11:30 am to identify and discuss native and invasive plants found in the midcoast. The walk, which will help people improve their confidence in identifying the most common and emerging invasive plants and provide recommendations on how to remove and dispose of them, is free and open to the public.

Nancy Olmstead, Invasive Plant Biologist with the Maine Natural Areas Program in the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, will lead the walk. Nancy coordinates the iMapInvasives online mapping program, trains partners and volunteers, performs field identification and assessment of invasive plant infestations, and makes recommendations for infestation management. She holds a BA in biology from Cornell University and an MS in plant biology from the University of Vermont Field Naturalist Program.

Walkers should meet at 10 am at the Fort Point Trailhead at Wiley’s Corner spring in St. George on Route 131. Sturdy footwear is recommended for this one-mile round trip walk out to the St. George River.

This event is part of Georges River Land Trust’s “Walks and Talks” series, programs about local resources that are open and free to the public.

Community Cupboard is now open

The St. George Community Development Corporation has opened the St. George Community Cupboard at 47 Main Street in a room adjacent to the Corporation’s office. Run by local volunteers, this food pantry will be open on Thursdays from 2-7 pm. In addition to food, the Cupboard will carry some hygiene products.

Anyone wishing to volunteer or to donate non-perishable goods, please drop by the Town Office, the Corporation office or call 372-2193 for more information.

Monarchs reign!

Nature bummin’ with Kirk Gentalen

Let’s cut right to the chase—it’s been an epic summer for Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus). There’s a buzz in the air (not literally) and just about everyone you ask gets a little giddy (literally) telling stories of recent Monarch encounters. We’ve been hearing comments like “incredible banner year” and “what a resurgence” from Lubec to upstate New York­—and the spectacle undoubtedly extends further west! The excitement feels even more special since just a handful of years ago Monarch sightings were few and far between. A rebound has never felt so good, and that’s including my very historic basketball days.

Monarchs are a marvel on many levels, of course, and their natural history basics can be mind-blowing (not literally I hope). As adults, Monarchs have a 4-inch wingspan, with males slightly larger than females, and their average weight is about half a gram (or a fifth of a penny’s weight). Largish for a butterfly, but relatively small when compared to most long-distance migrants in the animal kingdom. The Monarchs of eastern North America (our Monarchs!) originate from overwintering high in the Mariposa Monarca Biological Reserve in the Sierra Madre Mountains of Mexico, roughly 3,000 miles away. Studies have shown Monarchs at average speeds of about 5.5 miles per hour, weather and wind conditions taken into consideration, of course. I’m no math major, but that’s about 545.5 hours of travel one way, or 3.25 weeks of travel if they flew non-stop, 24 hours a day.

While many butterfly species migrate north each year never to return south (Painted Ladies are a fine example), Monarchs are the only butterfly species known to migrate in both north and south directions. The twist with Monarch migration is that the northward migration is made over the course of several generations. In other words, the butterflies that reach St. George are actually somewhere in the great to great-great-great grandkid range of the “original” migrants that left Mexico sometime in March. Through all that travelling there is no helicopter parenting, no one to tell them where to go, what to do, or when to move. It’s 100 percent instinct with each generation, which is an alternative lifestyle in its own right. Monarchs leaving our St. George, however, make the entire 2,979 mile trip south as adults, taking as much as 2 months to get back to the land where their great-great grandparents overwintered just a year prior. Google maps say for humans it’s a 47- hour drive, custom issues withstanding.

All butterflies go through a four-stage, “complete” metamorphosis. Local Monarch encounters have been focused mostly on three of those stages—caterpillar (larvae), chrysalis (pupae), and adults (eggs are somewhat hard to find)—with representatives of all three stages often found in the same area. Monarchs lay their eggs on milkweed plants (several species) and hatch after three to eight days. The yellow, white and black striped Monarch larva then feast on the milkweed plant, creating fat reserves while ingesting toxins from the plant that are “used” later on to make adults “distasteful” to predators. The larvae “grow larger” through five major molts over the course of about nine to fourteen days. The larvae then find a (hopefully) solid substrate to hang upside down from, shed their striped exoskeleton one final time and molt into an opaque, blue-green chrysalis with small gold dots.

A Monarch caterpillar

Early stage chrysalis

Metamorphosis nearly complete

“Chrysalis” is a term used for the hard shelled pupa that butterflies form rather than a “cocoon,” which is largely a silk casing that moths use in their pupa stage. “Pupa” is often referred to as the “inactive” stage of insects between larvae and adult, but there is actually a lot going on in that hard shell. Enzymes are released that digest most of the caterpillar’s tissues, creating a sort of caterpillar soup. What is not digested are organized cells called “imaginal discs.” These discs were formed while the Monarch was still in its egg, and each was created for an adult body part—eyes, legs, wings etc. Within the chrysalis the imaginal discs use the protein rich “soup” to power intense cell division to rapidly grow the adult body parts. After a couple of weeks the chrysalis turns black/clear and soon an adult Monarch emerges–three body parts, six legs (forelegs are vestigial), wings and all. The wings are droopy at first and have to be pumped full of liquid to harden and stiffen before they can take flight. I have yet to find a word that fully captures just how staggering this change from larva to adult is. And from there the Monarchs head south—always active, always on the move!

Daily sightings of Monarchs have made this summer special and one to remember. It’s been a refreshing resurgence that could not have been predicted just a few years ago. There are many ways to help Monarchs, from protecting milkweed patches to creating habitats in our yards that support Monarchs and butterflies in all stages of development. A simple internet search can be enlightening as to ways to help Monarchs. It’s worth the search!

May this be a trend for the future and may Monarchs be part of the St George summer/fall scene for years to come. They are a special part of summer, and what a summer it has been!

PHOTOS: Kirk Gentalen

A curator and artist interested in ‘the confluence of science and art’

“I’m an observer,” reveals St. George resident Jane Bianco,” who has always been interested in the confluence of science and art.” In fact, Blanco’s professional experiences in graphic design, science illustration, electron microscopy and art history have uniquely prepared her for her present position as curator at The Farnsworth Art Museum and as an accomplished artist in her own right.

Like many artists, Bianco traces the roots of her curiosity and creativity to her childhood. Born in Cambridge, England to an American soldier and his British war bride, Bianco traveled the world as her father transferred from military base to military base. Her mother, an avid reader, encouraged the young girl to learn everything possible about where they lived. Frequenting local libraries, reading fueled her curiosity and led her to thoroughly research a wide variety of topics­­—a skill important to her future role as an art curator. Bianco’s father was a resourceful and creative man who engaged in photography and a myriad of other creative endeavors aside from his career in the military and, later, as a lab administrator at a hospital. From her parents, Bianco learned observation, creativity and how to use her inner resources. She began drawing at the age of two and painting in oils by the age of ten.

By the time Bianco was 16 years old, the family had moved to Massachusetts, where she worked part-time in a fabric store. Her acquaintance with a professional graphic designer encouraged her to create a fabric collage that became the cover of the Doubleday Christmas catalogue. It also inspired her to continue in the visual arts, so she enrolled in Massachusetts College of Art to study graphic design.

Eventually, Bianco met and married a medical researcher from Venezuela, and moved to Caracas for a time where she created scientific illustrations and graphs for his published papers, but also provided statistical analyses for his work. “The technical part was kind of exciting to me,” she remarks. Maintaining her individual creativity, Bianco also found time daily to engage in still-life painting. Eventually, the couple moved back to the U.S., where her twin sons were born.

A little over 18 years ago, after she and her husband divorced, Bianco earned a graduate degree in art history from the University of Wisconsin. She also met and married Jason Engelhardt, a skilled printmaker. Engelhardt encouraged Bianco to pursue fellowships and grants to further her career and eventually Bianco was awarded a fellowship that led to a museum position at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, Wis., where she researched so-called “outsider” artists and art environments. “Outsider artists,” she explains, “are self-taught, outside the mainstream of art school, galleries and the business world. Often poor, they create their own environment and want to beautify their surroundings. Their art cannot be contained—it spills from inside their homes to the outside.”

Bianco’s graduate thesis, based upon her research of outsider artist Mary Nohl (1914-2001), gave Bianco the rare opportunity to conduct intense research while she lived in the artist’s home and transcribed her diaries. This allowed Bianco to chart the sequence of Nohl’s artmaking and her thesis eventually became part of the documentation that placed Nohl’s home on the National Register of Historic Places.

By 2008, Bianco had made the leap to the Farnsworth Art Museum as an associate curator, and now as curator. She loves the work because she enjoys being in the background to create scenes that feature the works of noted artists. In particular, Bianco likes conceptualizing the space for an exhibition, working with a collaborative team and interviewing living artists. In particular, she gravitates toward artists of bygone eras. “The past is alluring,” she says. “The ability to transport yourself elsewhere is a gift from my mother.” Over the past decade, Bianco has curated two notable exhibitions, one featuring the works of Jonathan Fisher and a new exhibition which will open this October 5th entitled “Maine and the Index of American Design.” She was also part of the collaborative team that brought the Marguerite Zorach exhibition to the Farnsworth last year, and wrote the catalogue for that exhibition. “We map out exhibitions five years in advance,” she explains, “and the process is very democratic. Everyone on the team has a voice.”

As an artist, Bianco is inspired to draw with pencil and ink, and also paint with watercolor. She explores color and makes detailed observations that help her understand “the way things are made.” Once a member of the Guild of Natural Science Illustration, her work demonstrates her expertise in that area. But she is also open to non-objective experimentation, which allows her intuition to take over. She says she finds that the St. George community of artists encourages this freedom of expression. “It’s inspiring to be surrounded by such creative people who are supportive,” she explains. “This community is conducive to making things. It gives people the freedom to express themselves, and they are supported.” —Katherine Cartwright

[Cartwright adds this personal note: Bianco’s final statement is a perfect summary of the arts community in St. George. Because this is my final article of the summer season, I would like to reflect her sentiments in my own words. It is because of the generous support of artists and patrons alike in this community that I have thrived as an artist over the past 15 years. Thank you all!]

Want to know what’s going on in Town government?

The Town of St. George Select Board has been taking steps to improve communications with the residents of St. George, partly in response to some controversial issues that have arisen recently, particularly with 10 Cold Storage Road. To that end, the Board is encouraging residents to subscribe to the St. George Newsletter, which can be done by contacting the Town Office (372-6363) or by signing up on the Town website ( The newsletter is published every two months and subscribers can opt to receive it either by mail or email. Regardless, the decision has been made to send a copy of the newsletter to every resident at least once a year—this year the mailing went out at the end of August.

In addition, making the Town website ( easier to navigate has been another goal. The Board is pleased to announce that new version is now up and running. It has asked that, beginning this month, the various boards, committees and commissions put updates on their activities on the website so that residents wanting to track more closely the work of these groups can find the information they are seeking in a quick, easy-to-read format as well as through the usual notifications of meetings and agendas and the publication of meeting minutes.

The St. George Select Board is open to other ideas on how to improve Town communications. It also encourages anyone with a question about any activities of the Town administration or any of the Town boards or committees to feel free to contact the Town Manager, the appropriate department head or any member of the Select Board:

Richard Bates   372-6904
Jerry Hall    701-1263
Wayne Sawyer    372-6489
Tammy Willey    372-8904
Randy Elwell    372-0602