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We’ve Seen it All: lessons from the Brunswick community

May 3, 2024

For the last year and a half, Bowdoin students have submitted anonymous questions via a QR code, and older community members from People Plus—a community recreation center for older adults—have replied with their advice. In the last iteration of the advice column, with a twist, Lillian Frank ’25 and I interviewed five older adults from Brunswick to learn more about who is in our community. This is just a snippet of what we learned.


Dick, 83

I started building locally sourced boats during the wooden boat renaissance. Dick Morgan, a Bowdoin Government and Legal Studies professor, lived in South Harpswell. His house had been a boat shop. When we started building, he asked us to come down. We used everything in his house, from wonderful chisels to cutting devices. Devices like this are just heaven, because they’ve been used by people for 100 years or more. I’ve passed all that stuff to John Lentz now, because it shouldn’t go to an antique shop. They need to be part of an ongoing shop. I learned a great deal by asking other people who had done it. You’re not just gathering their tools. You’re gathering the flow of their energy.

Paul, 75

Because I was undercover with the CIA, only few knew of my true status. You’re interviewed and assessed at depth before you go out, but the stress of surveillance and assuming [your] living quarters were bugged takes a mental toll. It’s not for everyone; some returned home early in their assignment. On the other hand, as colleagues, we helped each other. Our ambassador in the Balkans had parties at his house. We’d have sing-alongs, and we could bring our dogs. The community made a difference, because it gave us a chance to let our hair down and just relax. Everyone was in the same boat.

Julie, 77

Growing up on a farm in northern Maine was very isolating. It was a small community, and we worked hard. My mother had to quit school at [the age of] 12 to stay home and cook for her siblings after her own mother died. My dad lost his mother to tuberculosis when he was nine. They had a rough life. But never regret that kind of upbringing because you learn a lot. You learn respect and hard work. That’s probably why I’m doing something all the time. My age is just a number. You’ve got to keep moving. That’s the key to survival. I walk two miles every morning, and I’m a very busy person. It’s fun, and I enjoy being with people.

Beth, 87

Growing up in the post-Depression era, my parents worked hard. I was in the first grade when we moved into the projects. My sister, Marcia, was only three and stayed with my grandmother because Mother was working. That was part of life. I took care of myself in many ways, but I never thought about it. There was a lot that I never knew about. Our parents didn’t mention things in front of us. My grandmother was strict with Marcia, while I had an easier life because I had a lot of freedom. We all had enough room to sleep. And there were so many children in that apartment that we had a great time together.

Mike, 81

As a lawyer, you basically deal with people your own age. But I was very fortunate because through soccer coaching, I met younger people and could form close relationships with them. In fact, one of the gentlemen that I go fishing with is a doctor here in Brunswick. He’s probably 65. I’m 81. His boys played soccer, and we found out one day that we both like fly fishing, so we went together. We’ve done a lot of traveling. We just came back from Cuba, and in July, we’re going to Labrador for Atlantic salmon fishing. I would have never gone on those trips without my friendship with him. He’s younger, you know—I can’t keep up with him anymore. But it’s just very nice.


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