Chris Brown and I go way back. No, not the ill-behaved, misguided hip hop artist, Falmouth's own Chris Brown, who retired last month from the Falmouth Fire/Rescue Department due to an injury sustained while searching for survivors in a burning building in May of 2008. I wasn't surprised when Chris made headlines back then for his heroic efforts in a deadly fire in North Falmouth, as I've known him to be a resilient man of character since we were pals in class at East Falmouth School. We come from the same neighborhood and played "Star Trek" on the jungle gym under the watchful eye of Mr. Cowan in the early 70's. Back then, Chris was dealing with a condition that required a patch over one of his eyes, and was the recipient of a pretty good dose of mean-spirited teasing from callous fourth graders, if there was such a thing. Anyway, rather than let that temporary disability define him, Chris focused on the goodness in himself (and others) and became a amiable and productive member of our graduating class and our Falmouth community years later (he also played a mean trombone), leaving past unpleasantries behind him.
So it was with a heartful of East Falmouth pride that I read of his later efforts to join the local public safety team, and even more hometown happiness when I read of his successes in the department as a "Firefighter of the Year" as recognized by Governor Patrick and receipt of the Meritorious Service Medal by fellow Davisviller Chief Paul Brodeur. Although I felt a tinge of sadness when learning that Chris' attempts to save the life of a stranger, which led to this recognition also led to his permanent disability and his inability to return to work, I harkened back to those days on the playground on Davisville Road and realized that the same resilience will lead him to many more happy and productive years as a husband, Dad, and Falmouthite. Thanks, Chris, for making Falmouth a better place.
Speaking of the superlative nature of our hometown, what a poignant and fitting tribute to a local life cut short last week, as hundreds of Falmouthites braved both the cold and the sadness to share memories and sympathy with two dedicated public servants, Roger and Marianne Gonsalves, on the passing of their son, Arthur Roger Gonsavles, Jr. As police officers, Roger and Marianne have given more than half a century to their communities; Falmouth came out in force to give back. The line in and outside of Chapman's in West Falmouth was filled with young people sharing thoughtful memories of young Roger and two generations more of people sharing how they were touched in some way by his parents. The police honor guard outside and inside the funeral home was a moving tribute as well. I cannot begin to imagine the pain of losing a child, but the love and support shown by the people of Falmouth to the entire Gonsalves family was yet another touching example of how this community, our community, rallies around and supports its own.
Sometimes, we also rally to support others well beyond our Cape Cod borders. This weekend, a team of Falmouthites, led by Rotary Club President Steve Clay and fellow Rotarian Jack Rosenbaum, will set up camp at Peg Noonan Park to raise money for relief efforts for those struggling to survive the horrific impacts of the Haiti Earthquake. These two are spearheading the Falmouth portion of a larger Rotarian effort to purchase "Shelter Boxes," a package that includes a three-room tent and lifesaving equipment for displaced families to have some semblance of a home during the ongoing crisis in Haiti.
Efforts are underway to have Steve, Jack, other Falmouth notables joined by Falmouth youth from the Police Athletic League and the Boy Scouts to raise both awareness and funds for shelter box efforts. Volunteer extraordinaire Kevin Lynch will be on hand to help with an FCTV effort to help spread the word. Stop by, say hello, and perhaps even offer a couple of dollars for yet another example of the power of community.
This column has been reprinted from the Falmouth Enterprise.