Falmouth's blog

Losing Falmouth's Mentor

The term mentor originates from Homer’s great epic “The Odyssey,” where Odysseus enlisted the support of his old friend Mentor to look after, counsel, and teach his son Telemachus. Wikipedia tells me that the definition evolved from that point to mean “someone who imparts wisdom to and shares knowledge with a less experienced colleague.”

This week, Falmouth lost a mentor. Someone who, like the mythological friend of Odysseus, looked after, counseled, and taught countless Falmouthites on good government, good relationships, and just being good, then imparted that wisdom to everyone he met. Eddie Marks was Falmouth’s mentor. He was my mentor. He was my friend. Today, there is a hole in the soul of our community at the news of that enormous loss, but we are a better, richer, and, yes, more wise community because of the life, the service, and the generous personal gifts of Edward L. Marks Jr.

I was most certainly a less experienced colleague when I was elected to the board of selectmen in 1993. Eddie had already logged decades of service by then—at the fire department, the finance committee, and the board of selectmen. He called me “kid” and “young man.” I, in turn, called him “old man.” Truth is, we were both like a couple of little kids, exploring government and good times together, making mischief while making a difference. We served with a unity of purpose, making policy and making memories—and working to make Falmouth a little better, one meeting, one issue, one smile at a time. Along our journey together over the next decade, he told and then showed me the keys to effective public service—listening and laughter. He told and then showed me the value of relationships. He told and then showed me that a drink after a meeting could accomplish as much—probably more— than any policy manual or regulation every could. We listened and laughed. We forged long-lasting relationships—with each other and with others. And we had fun.

A couple of years ago, I penned some thoughts in a column that capture what I then called “The Marksian View.” Here is that homage to Falmouth’s mentor:

“There is indeed no substitute for experience. Experience coupled with a sharp and accurate memory is an even greater and more powerful tool in the public policy arena. I’m a firm believer that anecdotal evidence and storytelling are just as useful in the policy-making continuum as empirical evidence and hard data. Last Saturday was a case in point. As I enjoyed a sun-drenched walk down Main Street, old friend and perennial good-natured gadfly Andy Dufresne zipped past me with the top down on his convertible, and upon grabbing a fleeting glance, pulled over and beckoned me over. Andy frequently captures me mid-stream during my weekend treks, and we always enjoy an affable if robust discussion of local issues. This week was different, though, and wound up being one of the more enjoyable Saturday mornings I’ve spent in some time. Our conversation turned to our mutual friend, former colleague, and all-around good guy, former selectman Eddie Marks. I jumped in the convertible, and Andy and I sped over to Perch Pond Circle, where we enjoyed a couple of cups of Rosie’s homemade brew (coffee, that is), and chatted with one of Falmouth’s legendary public servants on everything from former Police Chief Gene Kulander to the old cupola at the former Mullen-Hall School, which Eddie labored to save and restore.

“The guest list on our visit to the Falmouth of yesteryear included such local government stalwarts as former Finance Committee Chair Bill Smith, former Moderator and financial watchdog himself Bob Marshall, parliamentarian and respected Town Meeting Member Elizabeth Buckbee Lindtner, former Selectmen George DeMello and John Elliot, and former Enterprise newsguy Hugh McCartney. We reminisced about a bygone era, when opinions were expressed, sometimes vehemently, but participants in a debate always parted as friends—likely after a few drinks. We lamented the lack of camaraderie in politics today—in Falmouth and beyond. We chatted about projects on which we worked, from the Church Street bridge in Woods Hole to saving Highfield Hall, to the sidewalk on Acapesket Road. No history book, or, with all due respect to scribes like myself, newspaper account, can produce the detail, emotion and perspective of a steadfast and passionate veteran of local government like Eddie.

“Eddie’s capacity to retain and recount the specifics of the development of plans, budgets and projects—on the details of the sausage making that is public policy, even these many years later—is uncanny. He remembers specific debates and discussions from 20 or so years ago that have long since vacated my much younger and supposedly more spry and agile noggin. Andy and I left Eddie’s after having our fill of hot coffee and cool conversation—he in the convertible and I to finish my walk—but I once again learned that some of life’s best lessons, and some of the richest sources of information, lie far outside the classroom and are nowhere in print. That’s the Marksian View.”

I shared some of these same memories with Eddie when I visited him Sunday at Falmouth Hospital, hours before the end of his earthly journey. I believe he heard me. I believe I passed along the love and affection of a grateful community. I held his hand and told him how much he was adored—by me and by Falmouth. And I believe he knew. He taught us all those Marksian lessons far outside—but far more important—than those in the classroom. I will always believe he knew.

Tip O’Neill said that “all politics is local.” Eddie personified that phrase. He was the consummate public servant—constantly working on projects to make the town a better place by honoring its past. From that Mullen-Hall cupola to the water fountain on the library lawn that honored a long-since passed town counsel, to his dedication to his beloved Teaticket, Eddie taught me—and us—that local government works because of local people; and he was one of the best local people I ever knew.

In the online guestbook containing Eddie’s obituary and service information, another respected local, Daniel “Pup” Gould, captured the sentiment of a sad but thankful community with his words: “Eddie, You were an old-fashioned leader; the type we need more than ever. You were honest, reliable and responsive to your community. Perhaps the best characteristic was that you were humble and treated all citizens with respect. Fair winds.”

Well said, Pup. Yes, Eddie, my mentor and my friend, fair winds to you as you soar on eagle’s wings and shine like the sun on your journey to your next great community

A Praiseworthy Public Decision

I’m not sure if it was at the 7th-grade dance in the Lawrence School gym, where the light blue glittery eyeliner sparkled and caught my eye, or during band practice with Joe and LaVada Studley at Falmouth High School (we both played the sax), but early in my relationship with one of my favorite Falmouthites, Karen Karson, I knew we’d be friends forever. One of her specialties in junior high and high school was baking cookies—one of mine has always been eating them.

But our relationship goes way beyond cookies.

We share, and have always shared, the same values. Our shared commitment to family, hard work, public service, kindness toward and service to others, as well as our shared Italian-American heritage and love of all things gastronomic, have always bound us together. Of course, neither Karson nor Clarkson have an Italian ring to them. Karen’s maiden name is Antonucci, and my mom’s maiden name is Baroncelli; we are both proud of our heritage and the families who gave us our names and our values.

It is a continued commitment to those values that has kept our relationship strong for more than 30 years. One night many years ago, Karen came to the house for dinner. We also invited my old pal Doug Karson—with whom I had worked and forged a friendship during our time together working for Don Quenneville and Ernie Keating at Otis ANG Base. Doug and I wrote news releases and biographies together back then. Now, these years later, we continue to write the tale of our lives together. That fateful night, Doug and Karen came separately to dinner. They left as curious acquaintances (Doug thought she was a bit boisterous), became friends, blossomed into soulmates, and recently celebrated their 16th wedding anniversary. Their sons Jack and Anthony, who have grown from cute, giggling babies into fine young men, are great athletes and great citizens who possess those same values and commitment to family.

It is through that lens of a rich and mutual history that I viewed Karen’s recent courageous announcement that she was stepping down from her position as principal at North Falmouth Elementary School to take a teaching job at Morse Pond. Frequently, we admire and publicize public figures as they climb the ladder of prominence and offer kudos and esteem at their attainment of new titles and levels of distinction. Rarely do we offer similar regard and commendation when our trusted public servants make personal decisions in the most important interest—that of their family. Today, however, is just such an occasion.

Karen’s decision to leave an administrative position and return to the classroom to teach our young Falmouthites mathematics and help shape their future—a critically important skill in today’s technology-based society—is not simply noteworthy. It is praiseworthy. In an interview on her decision, Karen noted that, “Quite frankly, I need to spend more time with my family…I’m doing this basically because it’s best for my family.” That kind of sincere, honest, and humble step toward a stronger family and public statement explaining it to an entire community is rare in our public officials today. Let me be among the growing chorus of locals to openly thank Karen for reminding all of us what’s important—and having the courage to do it in such a public way. Jack and Anthony will become better parents, citizens, and men through the example set by their mom and my friend.

Too often, we judge others by our own sense of their status—by what it says on their business card and the value we place on that title. The real value of the people we meet on life’s journey, though, is in the significance of the names that others call them: mom, daughter, sister, and friend. Karen excels in all of those roles. For that, she has my love and admiration—and should have yours

Putting Needles to Good Use

“This is the most hopeful I’ve been in 30 years.” This would be an encouraging statement coming from anyone, on any subject—but it is profound and promising coming from Bill Dougherty, a seasoned and skilled veteran in the field of recovery in Falmouth and the longtime director of Recovery Without Walls (RWW).

Here’s the source of Bill’s hope and optimism: “I’m feeling free enough to feel okay.” And this: “Life is hopeful, but I don’t know why.” These quotes are from women who are part of Bill’s amazing team, women who have found a path to housing, employment and treatment through RWW. These women in particular found these paths to hope and help through a hellish journey through the ravages of heroin addiction, the killer disease that is devastating an alarming number of lives on our peninsula—and beyond. The source of their newfound hope is an experimental program, managed by Bill but supported by many in the recovery community that is having amazing—and encouraging—results. Six women, all previous heroin users, four of whom overdosed and were revived with the heroin antidote Narcan within the last two years, are involved with regular treatments of acupuncture. And it is working.

Yes, acupuncture. The scientific name for the program is auricular acupuncture, or the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association (NADA) protocol. The simple name for it is success. Although acupuncture as a treatment for a variety of ailments has been around for centuries, our western-centric medicine and the behemoth, faceless insurance companies that fund it, eschew any non-traditional solutions. However, results, both nationally and here in Falmouth, say that they are wrong.

According to findings published by Dr. Michael O. Smith in the Huffington Post, the use of auricular acupuncture has been a successful treatment for addiction—as an adjunct to counseling and traditional 12-step programs—for more than 35 years, centered at Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx, New York.

Bill Dougherty is now bringing that success to Falmouth and to our local fight to save lives. His trial of six women, recently expanded to a dozen and soon to grow to 18, is producing amazing results. All of the women involved report not only a reduction in craving for opiates, but they describe a level of relaxation and relief some have never, ever felt in their previously troubled lives. In all cases, the change was felt in the first session. And even now, months later, no relapse or significant cravings have been reported.

One participant, whom we’ll name Carly to preserve her anonymity, noted in a post-acupunture report to Bill that, “my experience was more profound…I was in such a meditative almost sedative state. I’ve been dealing with addiction for a long time, also anxiety and depression. When I use, I’m seeking relief from my thoughts, emotions, and myself. When I’m in session (acupuncture) I feel that relief and it lasts and becomes more profound every time. I feel like I can think clearer and not turn to a substance.”

For a woman who almost died of an overdose, this development of a solution, this advent of an additional tool in the toolbox of recovery that provides tangible relief and a quantifiable respite from the sinister sidekicks to addiction—depression and self-doubt—is a breakthrough.

Many addicts begin to use simply to get outside of themselves, that is, to not feel their own feelings of inadequacy. Those feelings are then compounded by the guilt, shame, and remorse of addiction and its inevitably horrific impact on the lives of the addicted and their loved ones. One participant actually noted to Bill that had she found acupuncture earlier in life, she might never have begun to use. For addicts who have suffered and families who have suffered alongside them, those words are transcendent.

Bill Dougherty and RWW have been changing and saving lives in Falmouth for more than 30 years. Now, this program is putting needles to good use and will help change and save even more. Bill and his team are meeting with former Department of Public Health commissioner Cheryl Bartlett, now the Cape’s addiction guru, to see if this program can have wider success. They always need help and support. Visit www.recoverywithoutwalls.org, or reach out to Bill directly at recoveryww@aol.com, and see how you can join the effort and be part of the miracle of recovery.

Shanty Deserves A Local Chance

This week, I googled the “history of Falmouth Heights” and encountered a brief but engaging glimpse at the origins of this treasured section of our community. In it, the author, Nick McCavitt, noted the following:

“Before the year 1870, what is now the Falmouth Heights area was known simply as the Great Hill. The area surrounding the Great Hill was largely untouched, save for the salt works that were found by the shore of Deacon’s Pond. All that changed when a group of Worcester businessmen happened upon the land after a visit to Martha’s Vineyard. Their original plan for purchasing the land was to turn it into a A-list summer resort that would include cottages, hotels, stores and various means of transportation over the 100 acres of the Great Hill.”

 

If Nick is correct, and some additional research suggests that he is, the very origins of Falmouth Heights were as a summer hang-out, a place where families came to enjoy the natural beauty and agreeable environs. Although the A-list plan didn’t pan out, the resort portion did. A sign on Falmouth Heights Road, sponsored by the Falmouth Heights-Maravista Improvement Association, identifies this village as the area’s “First Planned Resort Community,” confirming for all who live and visit that this place has a special identity as a summer destination.

Given that rich history, the histrionics of a few locals in discouraging another couple of locals from pursuing continued success at their family-friendly restaurant in the village were not only disappointing, they were inconsistent with the village’s own raison d’etre.

As I watched the recent selectmen’s meeting where the locally owned Silver Shores Shanty sought to extend its afternoon entertainment license from weekends to daily during the summer season, the loud and sometimes offensive rebuke offered by a small number of neighbors rivaled the “acoustic trespassing” of which they accused the Shanty. Our democratic republic is built on dissent, and our open government encourages input, but the throw-down exhibited by these residents was simply a naked attempt at ridding Falmouth Heights of one of the few places left where a family can simply enjoy a post-beach ice cream, a plate of whole-bellied clams, a cold beverage, and some local musicians. That sounds like Americana to me; it was portrayed as a noise pollution-emitting nuisance by them.

Now entering its third season of food and fun for Falmouthites and visitors alike, the Shanty is the Falmouth Heights version of the fabled “Cheers,” where everybody knows your name. Owners Bob Flynn and local standout Ted Murphy greet all comers with a wide smile and a welcome staff. They have created a fun-filled family atmosphere that hasn’t existed at that site since the renowned “Shrubs” served great food and even greater jokes there in my youth.

The objections to extending the license—for music during daylight hours—just didn’t add up. Our tourist economy depends on thriving businesses like this one, and the modest request was for tasteful, reasonable, and merited extension. The neighbors’ objections were unfair and unwarranted. Even Falmouth legend Andy Dufresne, whom I nominated for the “All-Falmouth Team” when I feted the occasion of his 80th birthday in a laudatory column, should be benched for his comments. His direct attack on selectman Sue Moran, scolding her and noting that he would “come at her” if she continued to disagree with him, was a low point in the discussion—and a low point of deportment for our usually beloved octogenarian gadfly.

Our stalwart selectman held her own, though. “Falmouth has to be aware of how much we depend on our economy—local folks employing local folks. We have to be careful on putting handcuffs on private businesses,” she opined, offering a voice of reason during an otherwise unreasonable debate.

And that’s really the only point made that bears repeating. The Shanty is a local place, owned by local folks, employing local youth, serving local food. They deserve a local chance —not local handcuffs.

Meals and Memories on Main Street

For nearly 70 years—since the World War II era-members of the Riley or Maguire families have made meals and memories at 273 Main Street.

Today, that tradition continues as this week marks the grand renaissance and re-opening of one of the mainstays of Main Street, Liam Maguire’s Irish Pub. A family labor of love for the Maguires since 1994, this re-opening also represents a window of opportunity through which a new generation of Main Street merchants is emerging. “This represents a dream come true,” explained Deb Maguire, half of the husband and wife duo (Liam, himself, is of course the other half) who have managed, loved, and shared their lives’ work with the Falmouth community for the last 21 years. Deb and Liam took over the restaurant on May 6, 1994—14 years after, to the day, they met. Now, their entire family contributes to the success of this local tradition.

Deb fondly remembers the day she met Phyllis Riley, matriarch of the family who managed, loved, and shared their family labor of love, the Town House Restaurant, on the same site for nearly 50 years before the Maguires took over: “She had a broom in one hand, and some Formula 409 in the other and had every aspect of the business inside her head.” Phyllis, who was in her 70s at the time, is still with us, sans broom and 409. Deb has followed in those footsteps in quarterbacking another community jewel at that locale, but has instead opted to pass the torch (or spoon) to the next generation of Maguires, sons Rory and Shea, to continue this family and Falmouth tradition. Both were heavily involved in the renovations, from sharing ideas to shedding sweat, and are poised to assume their rightful roles in leading the family business.

As I visited the nearly complete renovations at the pub this week, I was amazed at the transformation of this popular gathering spot. The “back room,” which for some was like the distant hinterlands of Siberia, has been transformed into a wide open space, a welcoming addition to the already substantial interior. The dining room is an expanse of mahogany and shiny wood floors, just begging for the thirsty throngs who will fill every inch next week for St. Patrick’s Day—and each day following. Even the bathrooms, long a source of consternation for otherwise satisfied guests, have been expanded and renovated with tile. Rory noted that as well-wishers, friends and other assorted Falmouthites have passed by with words of encouragement, most have inquired about the status of the facilities. The family heard—and acted. Now even the loo is warm and inviting.

Deb described the all-Falmouth team who helped create this renaissance. “We had a local contractor, a local bank—and even a father and son team along with us,” she noted. Local, indeed. Falmouth legend Mike Duffany and several members of his own family have completed the construction, which has included significant work throughout this downtown landmark. Even the floor in the kitchen and rear of the restaurant is completely new—dug down to the dirt with eight-inch chunks of concrete removed and replaced throughout with a new, modern surface. An addition in the back includes an office and a pizza, salad, and dessert station (pizza and dessert always work for me).

Deb Maguire noted to me, with a gleam in her eye and a wide smile, that running a restaurant is so much more than plunging toilets and washing dishes. She’s certainly correct—and has two decades of experience and success to prove it. Along with Liam, Rory, and Shea, she has worked tirelessly, not only creating a successful restaurant, but molding a lasting legacy and a local institution. The renovations unveiled to a loyal and excited fan base this week will set the stage for another generation of success and decades more meals and memories at 273 Main Street

Time For Deliberation in the Court of Public Opinion


For anyone who watches “Law & Order” or any crime and punishment TV show, the concept of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt is a well-known and widely held tenet of justice. However, in a civil case, that standard shifts to a preponderance of the evidence, which is “just enough evidence to make it more likely than not that the fact the claimant seeks to prove is true,” according to the online legal resource, The Free Dictionary.
I would submit that the same standard of a preponderance of evidence applies in the court of public opinion for infractions committed by public officials, but the analysis shifts from a jury of one’s peers to the public, ideally a subset of citizens who vote.

Given that paradigm for the consideration and evaluation of public opinion and public official’s culpability, I hereby submit for consideration of the court, the charges of violation of Section I (D) of the Falmouth Public Schools Bullying Prevention and Intervention Plan against school superintendent Bonny Gifford. That section of this vital and imperative community document states the following: “The Falmouth Public Schools expect that all members of the school community will treat each other in a civil manner and with respect for differences. No one in the school community should be a target of bullying in any form.”


For the court’s consideration, here is the evidence related to the charges:


To establish a foundation for our charges, bullying is, “unwanted, aggressive behavior…that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time,” according to the United States government, as documented on its bullying website, www.stopbullying.gov.


Unwanted aggressive behavior related to a perceived power imbalance is central to the story and saga of longtime school employee and beloved community volunteer Johnnie Netto. The very definition of bullying relies on the state of mind and perception of the recipient of the bad behavior and not the aggressor. Given this dynamic, I submit that the very circumstances that have unfolded in public as reported by Mr. Netto and partially denied by the superintendent are prima facie (sufficient and apparent on its face) evidence of bullying, but there is additional supporting evidence.


When Mr. Netto was informed by school facilities director R. Patrick Murphy that changes would be made in staffing and a public outcry and social media backlash caused at least a backpedal, if not a full retreat, Mr. Netto was then called back in a second time to clarify that he was simply being asked to “check with the retirement board,” a practice that is strictly prohibited.


This certainly qualifies for the criteria of behavior that is being repeated over time. If these were kids on a playground and the aggressor noted that he didn’t mean to kick the other kid, he meant to punch him, the bully would still be punished. “I find myself wondering how many more ways the superintendent can insult me,” noted this 67-year-old, 24-year veteran employee. I almost rest my case.


For supporting circumstantial evidence, the exodus of top administrators from the School Administration Building and its environs during the superintendent’s tenure demonstrates a troubling trend of departures of direct reports. The list of top administrators and principals who have left or are preparing to leave includes a roster of virtually the entire management team. Although this cannot be directly attributed to the behavior of the schools’ CEO, certainly the numbers of well-established and well-respected professionals walking away from a highly regarded school system points to both a disturbing trend and an unhealthy environment.


The superintendent’s willingness and inclination to pick a public fight on budgetary issues with former selectman chairman Kevin Murphy at a public meeting shortly after her arrival points to a difficulty in fostering collaborative relationships. The confrontation reported in last week’s Enterprise editorial, in which the sincerity and commitment of the publisher were called into question, certainly supports that conclusion.


The court of public opinion is not a court of law, and the consequence of guilt is less tangible, but we’ve got a crisis of confidence at the historic edifice next to the Teaticket Green, and I believe we have provided sufficient evidence as to why. It’s time for the jury to deliberate.
 

The Legacy of Uncle Bob


Elvis. Liberace. Gandhi. It takes someone truly noteworthy—and someone truly special—to be known by a one-word name. It is rarer still when someone of that magnitude devotes their life to the service of others. Bob Sylvia, known to the Cape Cod Boy Scouting community simply as “Uncle Bob” was just such a man. Uncle Bob passed recently, leaving a legacy of lives touched, lives changed, and lives improved. I had the honor to deliver the eulogy at his funeral last week. Even if you didn’t know Bob, his impact on humanity is worth noting. As both a tribute to the memory of Bob Sylvia and an example of how to live a meaningful life in today’s topsy-turvy world, here are excerpts from my remarks:
“Probably one of the best ways for me to encapsulate the legacy of Uncle Bob is to share excerpts from a column I wrote several years ago to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the BSA. The last time I saw Uncle Bob was in June of last year, when I stopped into the Bourne Manor to say hello and to give him a signed copy of my book, which included this tribute. He was sleeping when I arrived, and I was simply going to leave the book and be on my way. I’m sure God intervened and provided us a chance to chat one last time. He awoke with bright eyes and greeted me as if I had seen him the day before. ‘Hey, Troy, how are you?’ he said with a smile and a twinkle in his eye. I showed him the book, and his smile grew broader. That moment will remain one of the highlights of my life.
“Here is what I said in that column, “Bob Sylvia has an ‘Eagle Room’ in his East Falmouth home, filled with memorabilia of the eagles he has encountered in his life. ‘Uncle Bob,’ as he is widely known, is not a birder, though, he is a leader and the eagles he has encountered are young men he has guided and led to the highest rank in scouting, that of Eagle Scout. In that Eagle Room, there is a picture of Jesus carrying an injured lamb on his shoulders, given to Bob by a young man whom he carried through a difficult time in his life.


“The young man had recently lost his Dad and had quit scouting. In fact, he had lost faith in most things and was wandering through his young life with little faith or direction. Bob showed up unannounced at his front door one Saturday morning, took the young man for a walk, and convinced him to rejoin the Boy Scouts after nearly a year away. That young man returned to scouting with a newfound vigor and became a proud Eagle Scout from East Falmouth’s Troop 42. That Eagle Room is filled with other photos and symbols telling stories of Bob’s more than 50 years as a leader in scouting. He has helped countless young Falmouth men live the scout law—showing them the way to be good men, good citizens. The Eagles are among us here in Falmouth. We often hear about John Glenn and President Gerald Ford as having the honor of wearing the Eagle badge, but take a look around, and you’ll see some Falmouth-based Eagles in your everyday life. When you make a call for help from the Falmouth Fire/Rescue Department, you just might come in contact with Capt. Scott Thrasher, one of Troop 42’s Eagles. Maybe your call for help would come in our neighboring town of Mashpee, where Fire Chief George Baker may arrive and share some stories of his road to Eagle in Troop 42. Perhaps when your computer needs a fix-up: you head down to Cape Coastal on Locust Street where Eagle (and the dad of young scouts) Chris Alves nurses your electronics back to health, just as he did with fellow scouts while earning his first aid merit badge on the way to his ultimate rank.


“The ‘Eagle Charge,’ the motivating speech given to an ascending scout at his court of honor, where friends and family gather to celebrate, tells the newly minted honoree that, ‘Your position, as you well know, is one of honor and responsibility. You are a marked man. As an Eagle Scout you have assumed a solemn obligation to do your duty to God, to country, to your fellow Scouts and to mankind in general. This is a great undertaking.’ A marked man, indeed. Up on the stage at each Town Meeting, Eagle Scout David Vieira leads us from his position of honor and responsibility as moderator and state representative. Yes, there are Eagles among us.


“So, if you encounter an Eagle, or any member or supporter of the BSA in the next week, thank them for being part of 100 years of building better citizens, a better Falmouth and a better America. I’ll be saying thanks, too. I’ll be doing so as a proud Eagle from Troop 42, the one who was so fortunate to take a walk on a Saturday morning with Uncle Bob those many years ago and was guided back into East Falmouth’s Troop 42 of the BSA. Thanks, Uncle Bob.”


“Today, that column stands as one of the most cherished and poignant I have written.


“In 1979, another Falmouth legend, Kitty Baker, wrote a story—Uncle Bob’s story—in the Cape Cod Times. The article concluded with Kitty asking Uncle Bob what his rewards were for his tireless work with young scouts. “I walk into a store or down the street and hear ‘Hi, Uncle Bob.’ It makes you feel a little nice all over.” Fifty years, five decades of selfless, faithful work shaping young men to be today’s leaders, and all he asked was for a hello.


“Well, Uncle Bob, a big hug and hello to you as you journey to your eternal rest. I’m sure there’s an Eagle Room in Heaven, and I’m sure God has reserved a seat of honor for you.”


As many of you know, I write an original inspirational quote daily and publish it widely. It’s my way of sharing my gratitude. I’d like to leave you with one of those daily sayings that was inspired by Uncle Bob—to carry you through today and all of your days. Please share it widely as part of the legacy of Bob Sylvia. “Success is not measured by notes on a page, your status in life, your wealth or your age. Success is measured by the lives that you touch—not just by how many, but more by how much.” Thank you, Uncle Bob, for your success in touching the lives of us all
 

Falmouth Commodores - Warm Thoughts for Cold Nights


As I write this column, snow is falling gently outside my window. The gentle beauty of this silent sign of the ongoing drudgery of this winter ends when the flakes land on the four feet already packed on our corner of the Earth, each flake a further sign of Mother Nature’s omnipotence and indifference to our weary state of mind and being.
However, a faint beacon of hope began to shine last week, a bleak but nonetheless abiding sign of brighter, warmer, and certainly better days to come. The departure of the Red Sox equipment truck from a snowy Fenway to the balmy environs of Fort Myers signals the coming printemps for all of Red Sox Nation. It also signals the advent of a new baseball season for Falmouth’s hometown team, the Falmouth Commodores of the Cape Cod Baseball League.

I’m wearing my Boston Red Sox cufflinks—made from a ball that Dice-K tossed on April 5 of the 2007 World Series season to the Kansas City Royals—as a sign of both defiance and hope. Defiance toward the aforementioned Mother, who has us all beaten but not broken, and hope for another season of family-friendly memories at the Guv Fuller Field for Falmouth’s team.


As an important piece of fabric woven into the identity of our community, the Falmouth Commodores, led by a volunteer board of directors, provide affordable family entertainment and the highest quality baseball each summer to crowds sprinkled with fans from around the globe, right on our own Main Street. Each season, for 22 home games, our local nine suits up and takes the field at the Arnie Allen Diamond, offering a chance to see tomorrow’s major league stars up close. MLB standouts like Jacoby Ellsbury, Luke Scott, and David Aardsma all played in Falmouth for Falmouth’s hometown team.


The board members are also an important part of the fabric of our community. They have firm roots here and are engaged in their hometown. People like president Steve Kostas, who donates hundreds of hours each season, works closely with general manager and native Falmouthite Eric Zmuda to put a winning team on the field. They subscribe to the “whatever it takes” school of management; their volunteer hours are about far more than recruiting and retaining players and buying bats and balls. From cleaning out the locker room after each season to painting the dugouts, to picking up trash left on the field after a game, these committed board members, and devoted Falmouth residents, work alongside a volunteer crew of more than a dozen board members to bring a high quality product to the Falmouth community.


That commitment is increasing and broadening this summer. The Commodores, committed also to engaging the team’s young fans, is launching the first ever Commodores’ “Kids Club,” an outreach effort designed to “stimulate children’s interest in baseball at a young age and to build their relationship with the team and its players with the intent of establishing a long-term connection,” according to a Commodores’ press release. What a great opportunity to provide a positive, engaging, and healthy outlet for kids from ages 5 to 12, while playing next to tomorrow’s major league stars. The club, for a nominal donation of $10 for the entire summer, includes kid-friendly perks like a membership card and lanyard to wear to games, a hot dog reception with “Homer,” the team mascot, a chance to sing “Take me Out to the Ballgame” during home games, and their name displayed on the 2015 Kids Club board. The team is making an effort to expand its family fan base and fill the stands for each game. More information is available on the team’s website at www.falmouthcommodores.com.


Of course, running a successful franchise isn’t free. It costs more than $200,000 each year to put together a competitive team. Admission to games is free of charge—the ultimate family friendly gesture from a grateful group of board members—but donations are gladly accepted, as the team is self-supporting through fundraising and corporate sponsorships. As a result, the Commodores are launching their first-ever direct mail fundraising campaign to assist in needed capital improvements to the field and its environs.


For more than 90 years, Falmouth’s team has been providing cool fun on warm summer nights. The Commodores love their hometown. Here’s hoping Falmouth loves them back
 

Building Bridges By Building Bridges


Sometimes, government works the way it was intended. Sometimes, government is responsive, responsible, and gets things done.
During this week’s version of Snowmaggedon, I, and many in the community where I work, became concerned about the accessibility of fire hydrants. Normal winter weather does not obscure these lifesaving links to water, but 60 inches in less than two weeks can obscure just about anything. Our public works crews were busy plowing, plodding, and punching through our roads and sidewalks, so I reached out to Major General Scott Rice, Massachusetts’ top military officer and commander of the National Guard. I had the opportunity to interview Gen. Rice on my “Troy’s Take” show on FCTV recently and found him to be professional, personable, and responsive. His down-to-earth approach and inviting demeanor made me comfortable in reaching out, and I detected a sincerity and commitment to the people he serves. My instincts did not fail me. The good general, after some legal research and contemplation, worked with Governor Baker and activated the National Guard to coordinate with communities in making roads and hydrants accessible.
What a great example of good government at work. The adjutant general has set a tone of a fighting force that is also a community resource. Our communities are the beneficiary. Kudos to Gen. Rice for reinforcing that the citizen soldiers and airmen of the Massachusetts National Guard are indeed citizens at the ready.


Yes, sometimes, government works the way it was intended. Alas, sometimes it does not.


The prospect of building a third bridge for automobiles across the Cape Cod Canal, brought to you by the same Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) that brought you the Big Dig and other public works nightmares does not inspire the kind of confidence that seeing MA NG Humvees rolling through your community does. At a recent meeting held at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy in nearby Buzzards Bay, both MassDOT and the US Army Corps of Engineers, Uncle Sam’s construction and engineering outfit, noted that they would be looking into the prospect and conducting a study. Am I the only one who gets a little queasy when the state and federal government both announce they are conducting studies independently on the same issue?


The Corps noted that the bridges are old and “functionally obsolete.” That may be true from an engineering standpoint, but what value is placed on historical significance? On gauging the ability of the Cape communities’ roads to handle the additional traffic that a third bridge would bring? Or how about the role the Upper Cape communities should play in the design, permitting, and construction?


My friend Dan would say that you can’t fit 10 pounds of dirt in a five-pound bucket. That simply but powerful axiom has to be the foundation of any examination of the construction of another bridge—or even a look at widening, changing, or somehow adjusting the two that exist. (The existing third bridge is for rail only.) Ideas range from a third bridge between the existing Bourne and Sagamore bridges to constructing new travel lanes adjacent to the existing structures. Lots of funding scenarios have been discussed as well, from state borrowing to a public-private partnership. Many, many questions. Not so many answers. I will say that, although public private partnerships are a great model for successful public works projects, creating a toll road and widening the divide between the haves and have-nots by creating a separate entrance to Cape Cod for those who can afford to pay is not a message I want to send.


State Representative David Vieira, who attended the meeting at Mass Maritime and shared his thoughts, had it right. At the meeting he noted that, “We need to preserve and we need to change…but we need to coordinate.” Indeed, Representative. Coordination on filling this five-pound bucket needs to be the starting—not the ending—point. Building bridges over the canal by building bridges with the community is the way to go. Perhaps MassDOT and Uncle Sam can take a page from Gen. Rice’s playbook.
 

Johnny B-Ball - Ambassador of Gratitude


As I basked once again this week in the allure of being able as a Patriots fan to include the phrase “World Champion” in my sports lexicon, I chuckled and contemplated how our American ethnocentricity leads us to declare our sports champions as world titleholders for sports that are uniquely American. To be clear, if the Patriots played the champions of the Canadian Football League, I’m sure we’d once again be victorious, but it is an interesting exercise to ponder the reach of American sports and our view on how the rest of the world looks at our pastimes.
Johnny Hatem knows all about that. Hatem, a Cape Cod Academy standout with strong roots in Falmouth—and beyond—is a rising star on the basketball court, a local luminary in a sport that was conceived right here in Massachusetts, but one that he learned in Lebanon. The name should be familiar. Johnny’s dad—also named Johnny—is a prominent local businessperson and philanthropist who has built and operated several successful gas and service stations in town and is, like basketball itself, a true American success story.


The elder Johnny (a bit of a misnomer since both dad and son have a youthful appearance) came to the US from his native Lebanon seeking higher education when he was 19. He attended University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and has remained here ever since, although his ties to Lebanon remain strong. He visits often, and his wife maintains a residence there. Young Johnny (we’ll call him Johnny B-Ball for ID purposes) shared his time growing up between the two countries. When he was 5 years old, he was signed up for a basketball clinic during a summer stay in Lebanon. He has been hooked ever since. Although not known as a hotbed for growing basketball prospects, this culturally and religiously diverse nation on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea certainly sprouted a winner in this case. Johnny B-Ball spent summers and even some of his academic time in Lebanon honing his skills. He attended the Sabis International School in Adma, Lebanon, before entering Cape Cod Academy. He is eyeing Stonehill College, Merrimack College, or Bentley University to continue his studies and, of course, play basketball. He plans to pursue studies in economics and political science and aspires to enter the diplomatic corps, with a goal to someday be the US ambassador to Lebanon. I’m sure he’ll outfit the embassy with a basketball court.


As we enjoyed the tasty vittles and terrific customer service together at Bill Zammer’s Coonamessett Inn recently, I learned that Johnny B-Ball has a wise and grateful view of life, likely influenced by his multinational life experiences and the hard work ethic and commitment to excellence instilled by his parents. “You miss shots, you make them,” said this young ambassador of gratitude, who spends time at the Barnstable recreation center teaching the fundamentals of basketball and coaching 5- and 6-year-olds when he’s not on the court himself as one of the Cape’s top point guards. This simple yet pithy rule of life encapsulates Johnny B-Ball’s joie de vie, his infectious smile and his positive outlook. He is quick to praise others. Nodding toward his dad at dinner and blowing him a kiss, an affectionate smile growing widely on his boyish visage, he proudly noted, “He’s my buddy.” He offered effusive praise for his basketball coach, Tom Ferreira, as well. “I love him. He pushes me further than I ever thought I could be pushed,” said the current and future ambassador. Johnny B-Ball is indeed being pushed further—there is no limit to where this kid can go.


Johnny B-Ball’s story is relevant today for a couple of reasons. For all of the negative publicity for today’s technology-obsessed generation with short attention spans and a lack of respect for just about everything, a young man in our midst who is unabashed in his affection for his schoolwork, his family, and his community is noteworthy. In addition, Johnny’s story of cultural and social integration, and his dad’s inspirational story of self-made success reinforces that the American Dream is alive and well—right here in Falmouth
 

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