, Salem, MA

November 8, 2012

Heard Around Town: Down for the count

By Alan Burke Staff writer
The Salem News

---- — PEABODY — Counting the votes has changed a lot in 50 years. But in some ways, it was the same at the city clerk’s office on election night.

Coming in to answer phones and help out Clerk Tim Spanos were retiree/volunteers Irene Zielski and Natalie Maga, the former clerk.

“Do you believe it’s been 50 years that we’ve been doing this?” Maga said to Zielski.

“I love Peabody,” replied Zielski, explaining why she’s still on the job.

One way it’s not the same is time. Thanks to machine counts, the votes were released just a few hours after the polls closed. Zielski recalled an election roughly 50 years ago when the staff worked through the night, went out for breakfast in the morning, and then came back to finish.

Through the cracks

Former Peabody resident Henry Jwanowski, 86, got a rude surprise courtesy of the city’s recent move to take employee health care to the state Group Insurance Commission.

For more than 20 years, Jwanowski has been covered on the city’s health plan as the survivor of his late wife, Olga, who was head nurse in the former J.B. Thomas Hospital operating room. Olga died in 1987. Henry remarried in 1990, and therein lies the problem.

“Under the GIC,” he explains, “if a survivor remarries, he will no longer be provided health insurance.” It’s a state regulation that wasn’t in effect 22 years ago.

“If I knew that, I would probably would never have remarried,” he said with a chuckle. “We would have probably just lived together. Except I’m not that kind of person.”

Jwanowski, who now lives in Florida, says he was told that about a dozen former Peabody employees are in the same boat. No one will give him the names, however, so it’s unclear how many people might be similarly impacted.

Jwanowski and his wife (who is also on survivor benefits) must now rely solely on Medicare or purchase their own supplemental insurance.

Flagged for

lack of patriotism

Leo Hunt, a veteran of both the Vietnam and Korean wars, could barely contain himself Monday morning after spotting two American flags blown off the Civil War monument and into the gutter near the square.

“They were covered with leaves,” he said, “and nobody had the decency to put them up.”

Hunt rescued them himself and stood for a moment at the side of the road displaying the two small, soiled flags. He took them home, cleaned them and put them on display at the front of his house. He recalled once dropping the flag accidently while in the service, “and I was punished severely.”

Military people are all too aware of those in past wars who died for the flag — not merely for the idea of Old Glory, but to rescue the physical standard from an attacking enemy, to keep it flying, to pick it up off the ground.

The fact that no one who passed by seemed to feel this way now had Hunt shaking his head.

“I can’t believe it,” he said. “It shows you this country is going to hell.”