By Tom Dalton
SALEM — There is a special bond among the group that works out early every morning at the Salem YMCA — the real Salem Y, the downtown Y.
They are glued together by the dawn, the cold, the friendships.
The late Samuel Zoll, the chief justice and former mayor who died last year, was one of the "early birds." When Zoll was sick and dying, the gang that gathers early at the Y videotaped a singing tribute and sent it to Zoll, who was famous for crooning, often off-key, in the locker room.
This month, Neil "Chop" Brennan, who works at the Y and is the heart and soul of the dawn patrol, will honor Zoll in his own way.
Brennan plans to "power hike" Mount Washington in New Hampshire to raise funds for autism research. He will climb using one of Zoll's walking sticks.
Zoll, it turns out, had a collection of sticks.
"Sam started whittling down sticks he found in the woods," said his widow, Marjorie Zoll. "It was something different for him. He never showed an inclination for it, but he had such a good time doing it."
When Brennan asked if he could borrow one of Sam's walking sticks, Mrs. Zoll quickly assented. She rummaged through her husband's prized collection and chose one with the inscription "S. Zoll."
Brennan was touched by Mrs. Zoll's kindness and is proud to hike the mountain in honor of his dear friend. He plans to walk a few days after next weekend's Mount Washington Road Race.
Maybe on June 20.
"That was Sam's birthday," Mrs. Zoll said.
The Rev. Michael Doyle began serving this week as pastor of St. Mary of the Annunciation Church in Danvers.
"Finally, I'm home," said Doyle, a Salem native.
Doyle, 52, is the son of retired Judge David Doyle and his wife, Antoinette.
He was a neighbor of Ward 7 Councilor Joe O'Keefe, who served on the council when Doyle's father was a city councilor.
Ordained in 1985, Doyle has served in South Boston, Sudbury, Scituate, Canton and North Andover. He did three years of active duty in the U.S. Navy as division chaplain for the 4th Marine Division, based in New Orleans, and is still in the Navy Reserves.
As pastor of a Danvers church, he returns to the town where he went to school. Doyle is a 1977 graduate of St. John's Prep, where he ran on the track team.
"It doesn't seem like that long ago I ran track," he said. "We used to run a route around Locust Street, which is almost out the back door of the rectory."
A special visit
The doors at Witchcraft Heights School swung wide open last Friday afternoon for a special visitor: 8-year-old Jamaal Goodwin.
It was the first time back for the little boy who, on March 18, was abandoned in a burning apartment building after his throat had been slashed. His mother has been charged with the crime.
Jamaal has made an incredible recovery, according to family and friends. He is living with a relative in Boston who hopes to gain custody. His 3-year-old sister, Erica, is also doing well, the family said.
Jamaal was at the school for about an hour to see his first-grade classmates and teacher. The children handed him cards and presents.
"He was great," Principal Mark Higgins said. "He was in great spirits. ... He was happy."
Word spread quickly, and many staff members went down to hug the little boy and wish him well.
"It brought a lot of smiles and quite a few tears — tears of happiness," Higgins said.
You have driven past it, stared out the window, scratched your head, wondered what the heck it was and then forgotten completely about it.
Until the next time you were driving on the Sgt. James Ayube Bypass Road.
So what is that large object on stilts out in the North River?
Is it a houseboat in dry dock? A shorebird sanctuary? Maybe it's a fast-food stand for passing boaters.
"It's a shallow draft jack-up barge," said Gary Twombly of New Hampshire Boring, which owns the odd-looking contraption.
It's used for doing test borings and bridge inspections.
The company just finished taking borings for the new city docks in Beverly. With the bad weather coming in this week, it was looking for a safe haven before heading to jobs in Newburyport and Portland, Maine.
"We'll be out of there no later than Monday," Twombly said.
This was a big week for Iceland.
On Monday night, Jaana Thorarensen made a presentation to the School Committee. She is the director of the English Language Learner Department in the public schools.
She is not from Iceland, but she's close enough. Her parents are Finnish, and she grew up in Sweden.
And she married a guy from Iceland.
Or maybe we have that backward because it was hard to hear at the meeting. Maybe she grew up in Finland, is the daughter of Icelanders and married a Swede.
If this is wrong, we'll correct it next week, but you get the idea.
On Tuesday, the Nordic theme continued as Bates School greeted a group of teachers from Iceland who are touring American schools.
What are the odds of that? — two mentions of Iceland in two days.
Point of pride
On Tuesday, the Salem Waterfront Hotel is the site of a celebration of the new mural in the Peabody Street Park.
It was done by kids from the Salem Boys & Girls Club in collaboration with the Peabody Essex Museum and the North Shore Community Development Corp.
It you haven't seen it, take a look. It really is good.
Leader of the band
Last night, Cynthia Napierkowski got the surprise of her life.
The Salem Music Boosters celebrated Napierkowski's 25 years as band director by establishing a scholarship in her name. It was announced at Salem High's annual music banquet.
It will be awarded each year to a marching band member who best exemplifies her level of commitment and dedication.
Of course, if you know Napierkowski, that's virtually impossible. She is dedication personified.
When Napierkowski arrived here in 1987 from UMass, the school band consisted of 20 students who could not play the school song or the national anthem.
Today, SHS has an award-winning band that is more than 100 strong. Napierkowski also directs a jazz ensemble that has played at competitions and music festivals and a concert band that performed at Carnegie Hall.
It is an honor well-deserved.
Annie and Kim
Speaking of honors, Mayor Kim Driscoll received Salem State University's Distinguished Alumni Award last weekend.
And Annie Harris was presented with the Massachusetts Historical Commission's 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award.
What a career she has had.
She was executive director of The Salem Partnership when the Salem Visitor Center was developed and the tall ship Friendship built. She led the effort to create the Essex National Heritage Area, made up of 34 area communities, and was founding executive director of the Essex National Heritage Commission, her current post.
She has held national leadership positions in the heritage movement and locally has served on the Historical Commission and other boards.
She's also no slouch academically, with a master's in architecture from MIT and an MBA from Harvard.
Did we mention that she used to ride around town on a foot scooter and is good at limericks?