Small Town Love

Our family is like a little solar system.  At our center is our sun, my sister Sue, radiating warmth and love that sustains her six siblings, who, like planets, revolve around her.  Although she never had children of her own, she is a second mom (and now grand-mom) to satellite nieces, nephews, cousins’ and friends’ children.

Although four of the seven “kids”  have moved away, Sue, our sister Sandy and brother Tom have all  lived in the same area their entire lives, accumulating a glorious galaxy of friends.  (See how you think after being married to an astronomer for four decades?)

Recently, Tom’s daughter gave birth to premature twins.  Sadly, one died shortly after birth, but thanks to the wonderful medical team in Providence, his twin has grown from 1 pound 6 ounces to just under 4 pounds.

Modern medicine is truly amazing; it is also really, really expensive.  Even with insurance, the high deductible, coinsurance, and uncovered expenses all equate to huge bills, as any parent with a sick child can attest.  So, Sue decided to gather the troops to create a benefit dinner– “Pasta with a Purpose”.

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Fortunately, Sue has a talent for choosing loyal and giving friends, that are just like her.  Sheila, an elementary school buddy, has worked in the restaurant business for years, and like our brother Tom, is an amazing chef.  Who expects benefit food to be good?  It was at THIS benefit, thanks to a team of cooks.

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But the real stroke of genius was making friends with Debbie, who like other elementary school teachers, is a force to be reckoned with.   Teachers know how to create something out of nothing, how to get the unruly to behave and how to keep calm in the midst of chaos, and how to make great displays.   Let’s hear it for the teachers!

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Within three weeks, family and friends had secured the Knights of Columbus hall,

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The “elves” worked hard to get this all set up and orgnized

gotten food and raffle donations,

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As the evening progressed, donations kept coming in– we were running out of space!

found a DJ,

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sold hundreds of tickets, enlisted student volunteers to serve food,

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These kids were “on it”, serving, clearing, and setting up for the next round of diners

and taken care of the hundreds of tiny details necessary to make the event a success.

And what a success it was!  All to help this little guy and his loving parents.

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With so much negativity and violence these days, it is heartening to see how people can come together to support each other in time of need.

Our family includes the normal mix of in-laws, out-laws, and sheep of all colors.  If you were to chart us — along economic, political, and religious lines, you’d find someone on just about any point in the spectrum.  But when it comes to things that really matter, that all gets put aside.  It is family and friends,  all the way.

So in addition to paying tribute to my amazing sister, Sue, this is a huge thank you to all you small town inhabitants with big hearts, who came out on November 5th to show the love for Haylie, Greg and Baby Spencer.  Forgive me for not mentioning or photographing all of you who did so much to make the day so special.   You know who you are, and so do we.

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Could this be the start of another lifelong friendship?  

 

 

Home Town Hero

Every town should have its very own super hero. Henry Huttleston Rogers was Fairhaven’s.  If you’ve never heard of him, that’s an indication that you don’t live in Fairhaven  and you probably took I-195 from Providence to Cape Cod, instead of the more scenic Route 6. Sure, I-195 will get you to the beach faster, but what you miss is a chance to see the impact one of Standard Oil’s “robber barons” can have on a sweet little town.

Henry Huttleston Rogers Memorial on Huttleston Avenue

Henry Huttleston Rogers Memorial on Huttleston Avenue

After you clear the bridge from New Bedford, the highway’s name changes to Huttleston Avenue, and if you look to your left, you’ll see one of the many reasons the town has chosen to honor its home town hero.

Fairhaven High School

Fairhaven High School

The gorgeous Elizabethan stone structure, completed in 1906, is actually Fairhaven High School, Henry Huttleston Rogers’ last gift to the town before his death in 1909. I have never been inside–I attended a regional high school–but my sister Sue (the source of all my inside information) tells me the school has marble floors, wood paneling, and carved gargoyles in the auditorium.  The adolescent version of me probably wouldn’t have noticed these grand architectural features anyway.  I would have been too busy hoping one of the other auditorium “creatures” would ask me out after the assembly ended.

I DID pass many afternoons during my teen years as a volunteer at Our Lady’s Haven.

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Completed in 1905, the building was originally known as the Tabitha Inn.  Designed to resemble a Shakespearian era Inn, it was described as the grandest hotel outside of New York and Boston.  Samuel Clements, better known as Mark Twain, was one of its frequent guests. It became a home for “the elderly and infirm” after it was purchased by the Catholic Diocese in 1944.

I stopped in to say hello and to take a look around the lobby.  Back in my day, it was run by the Carmelite nuns, but today only one nun remains.  Lovely Sr. Eileen from Ireland is now running the show, making sure Fairhaven’s senior citizens receive tender loving care.

Next to the Tabitha Inn is  a red brick schoolhouse, another gift from Rogers.  The school’s last class graduated this year, and the building is now closed, so all future students will be studying in a more modern building.

Rogers Elementary School, closed in 2013

Rogers Elementary School, closed in 2013

From June through September, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, the Fairhaven office of tourism offers 90 minute guided tours, starting at 10 AM  from the town hall — and yes, Rogers donated that too.  Click on this link for more information about the tour and the town.

Fairhaven Town Hall

Fairhaven Town Hall

I wasn’t crass enough to photograph the interior of Our Lady’s Haven, (not everyone enjoys getting their image blasted into cyberspace) but the interior architecture of the town hall is very similar…so you get the idea of how lovely both places are.

Town Hall Interior--grand staircase, with arches and carved wooden railings

Town Hall Interior–grand staircase, with arches and carved wooden railings

My very special childhood place is across the street from the town hall.  The Millicent Library was built in 1890 as a memorial to one of Rogers’ daughter’s, who was 17 when she died.

Millicent Library

Millicent Library

I don’t think this is a statue of Millicent.  Pretty racy for a small town in the 1900’s, wouldn’t you say?

Statue in the library reading room

Statue in the library reading room

My summer days were spent in the children’s reading room, where  I discovered that “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” was only the first in an entire series L Frank Baum wrote about the magical land of Oz.  Those books kept the 9 year old me entertained for an entire summer!

As I was leaving the library, one of the friendly residents (did I mention that Fairhaven people are VERY friendly?) asked whether I had noticed Dante atop the library.  I never had before–but here he is, for your viewing pleasure.

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So, who was Henry Huttleston Rogers–and how did he amass such a huge fortune? Rogers got his start in Pennsylvania, where, in 1861, he and a partner started a small business refining oil. By 1885, he had joined with John D Rockefeller, eventually becoming one of the three key men of Standard Oil. Known as “the Brains of Standard Oil Trust” and “Hell Hound Rogers”, he was a captain of industry.

He was also a generous man who befriended Booker T Washington and paid for Helen Keller’s Radcliffe education.

The “giving” tradition continued with Rogers’ granddaughter, (official name when she died: Mary Millicent Abigail Rogers von Salm-Hoogstraeten de Peralta-Ramos Balcom, but she went by Millicent Rogers–and who can blame her?) who founded the Millicent Rogers museum in Taos, New Mexico to house native American art.  The daughter of Rogers’ only son, she was quite a fascinating character–but that’s a subject for another time.

Visitors to Fairhaven should stop at Margaret’s or Elizabeth’s for a great meal. The restaurants are side by side, near the waterfront.  If you are lucky, you might get lovely Kristen for your server, and Kevin may be your chef!