SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

June 7, 2013

Heard Around Town: 1 million reasons to like Salem Rotary

BY TOM DALTON
STAFF WRITER

---- — SALEM — For any of you who despair about the future of America, you might want to attend the Salem Rotary Club’s annual scholarship luncheon.

It was held this past Tuesday at the Hawthorne Hotel.

One bright-faced, well-dressed teenager after another — 28 in all — rose from their chairs to accept scholarships from the service club ranging from $500 to $3,000. Students said a few words about where they’re headed to college and what their majors will be.

There were future psychologists, nurses and bio-medical engineers among them.

Some came from the Dominican Republic or other distant lands. Some of their stories were heart-warming and inspiring. The luncheon gave everyone in the room a good feeling about these terrific young people, the majority of whom graduate tonight from Salem High.

“It’s a great day to be a Rotarian,” gushed Rotary member Rob Lutts.

And, while we’re at it, let’s not forget Salem Rotary.

Do you realize that over the past two decades they have raised and awarded $1.2 million in scholarships to local students attending Salem High, Bishop Fenwick, St. John’s Prep and other schools?

The club also has stashed almost $500,000 in a separate scholarship fund, a growing endowment.

Rotary does so much good in this community that it almost makes you want to overlook all the goofy things they do — like the time the president of the club dressed as a chicken.

Shoe leather

There are a lot of stories in the Witch City that never get reported. And thank goodness for that.

Like the one this week about the police detective who showed up for work wearing one brown and one black shoe. It was all the talk at police headquarters.

Fellow flatfoots pondered how this poor sole could solve a crime when he couldn’t locate two matching shoes?

The poor guy — who will go unnamed because he is one of the nicest men in blue — took a merciless ribbing. Someone even took a photo of his black and brown shoes and threatened to submit it as Exhibit No. 1 at his early retirement hearing.

Spin doctors

An entire flock of elected officials turned out Sunday for the Salem YMCA’s annual Spin-a-Thon. Shows you the pull of Jason Silva, the mayor’s former top aide and the Y’s new executive director.

It was something to see all those politicians, led by state Rep. John “Spandex” Keenan, spinning on stationary bikes for a full hour. We haven’t seen our local politicians sweat this much since the last state ethics investigation.

Farewell

On a sad note, the Rev. John Sheridan buried his mother on Monday.

The funeral Mass was held at Mary Immaculate of Lourdes in Newton, Sheridan’s home parish, and about half the church was filled with mourners from Salem. It was a nice tribute to Father Sheridan, whose last official day as pastor at St. James was also on Monday.

Talk about an emotional day.

On Tuesday, he began a new assignment as pastor of two parishes in southeastern Massachusetts.

One man’s meat

Call Jim McAllister what you will, but he’s not boring.

On Saturday morning, our local historian will lead a tour of “Roast Meat Hill.” Yes, you heard that correctly.

We would never say this on the record, but McAllister has been leading tours of Salem for so long we think he’s run out of ideas and is making things up. What’s next? A tour of “Places Where Animal Control Officer Don Famico Pulled A Skunk’s Head Out Of A Picket Fence”?

That, by the way, actually happened.

If you want to learn about “Roast Meat Hill,” an actual neighborhood that was home to African-Americans in the 19th century and Italian-Americans more recently, show up at the Gedney House, 21 High St., at 10 a.m. on Saturday. The Historic New England tour costs $15 ($10 for HN members).

Collins cares

How about those kids at Collins Middle School?

They raised the money, bought the food, helped prepare the dinner and served the homeless at Lifebridge last week.

Feline’s friend

Take a bow, Michael Prosniewski.

The Atlantic Ambulance EMT saved a cat’s life — its 10th, undoubtedly — at Wednesday’s fire on Arthur Street. An alert photographer caught him applying oxygen to the kitty.

By the way, five cats were rescued from that apartment house blaze. Sadly, one African gray parrot died.

Train rescue

For anyone who was there Sunday, the simulated train rescue inside the tunnel was quite a scene.

More than 100 volunteers played the role of passengers, including a few in full Halloween costumes. One of the best was man-about-town Ben Arlander, who came as Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps, complete with swimsuit and 22 medals.

The “Craziest Commuter” award has to go to the unidentified person who wore a full beaver suit on a day when temperatures reached 90 degrees. He was last seen heading toward a beaver dam in the North River.

Dog day

Great event this Sunday from noon to 3 p.m. on Salem Common.

The Salem Lions Club is hosting its third annual fundraiser for Fidelco, the guide dog foundation. The fundraiser helps provide dogs for the blind and visually impaired, including returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The highlight of the afternoon will be a demonstration by the Salem Police Department’s new K-9 team, which, in its brief existence, has already helped find a missing person. Officers Ryan Davis, Tim Salvo and Jon Bedard will be leading Kruger, Turbo and Thor through their paces. (Or maybe it’ll be the other way around).

Anyone coming is encouraged to bring their dog and take part in a walk around Salem Common. To register as a walker ($10) or make a donation, go to http://tinyurl.com/pbzhbzs.

Last hurrah

On Monday, they will bury Jean Levesque, a kind and caring man who was the pride of the French community.

Nowhere was the former mayor more beloved than in The Point, the old French-Canadian neighborhood where he was born and raised and enjoyed his greatest triumph. That was quite a night In November 1973, when Levesque beat Hank O’Donnell for the first time. A cheering crowd, led by Maurice Martineau, hoisted Levesque onto their shoulders and carried him into the Klondike Club on Lafayette Street.

Although Levesque prided himself on his fairness, he had a special place in his heart for veterans and The Point.

“He knew all the kids,” said former police Chief Robert St. Pierre, who grew up on the corner of Park and Dow, across the street from Levesque. “He really helped a lot of us.”

Levesque appointed or promoted a number of neighborhood kids on the Civil Service list to the police department, many after they returned from the service — Pete Garrette, Paul Lemelin, Andre Ouellette, Roger Morin and, of course, St. Pierre.

A few years ago, as sick as he was, Levesque rode with dear friend Frannie Grace to the dedication of police headquarters in St. Pierre’s name. While others stood and watched the outdoor ceremony, Levesque stayed in the back, unseen in a car, glowing with pride.

“He never forgot his roots,” said St. Pierre.

Tom Dalton can be reached at tdalton@salemnews.com.