CHEERS to our friend and colleague Morley Piper of Essex, the longtime newspaper association executive who spoke at the launch for our “Salute to Veterans” book Friday at our office in North Andover. Piper, who wrote a chapter for the book, spoke about his experience landing on Omaha Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944, as a 19-year-old Army second lieutenant. It was an understated but unflinching account of the horrors of that day and of war in general and a tribute to the incredible bravery and sense of duty of the men who turned the tide against Nazi Germany. Piper said for years he and other combat veterans of World War II would not talk of what they saw and did and felt because they did not want to revive those memories. He believes the survivors now have an obligation to tell their stories because they are a part of our history. Piper said he can now admit without shame that he trembled and shook and, yes, wept as a young man fighting for his life as well as his country during the days after landing in France. May Piper’s example and “Salute to Veterans” encourage others to speak -- and the rest of us to honor them for their service.
CHEERS also to Dick Gerrish of Kingston, N.H., whose gesture of thanks to Piper capped the event in a way so touching that we could never have planned it. Years ago, a family member who had participated in the 50th anniversary observance of D-Day gave Gerrish a commemorative set of three bottles of French red wine. The donor made him promise to give them to three survivors of D-Day. He delivered two bottles but, failing to find a third survivor, put away the remaining bottle and almost forgot about it. Then he read that Piper would be at the Eagle-Tribune on Friday. “It’s my honor to present this to you, Mr. Piper. Thank you for your service,” he said. Piper said he was honored, too, and added that he was at the 50th anniversary observance in Normandy and plans to be at the 70th next year.
CHEERS to Methuen firefighters, for their professionalism and dedication when responding to a 2-alarm fire at 15 College Lane, in the Pelham Street neighborhood of Methuen, on a frigid Friday night. Firefighters were able to quickly knockdown the roaring blaze after receiving multiple 911 calls beginning about 5:15 p.m. “There were very heavy flames when we arrived, but the crews did a fantastic job. I’m proud of them,” Deputy Chief William Barry told reporter Mark Vogler.
The fire caused some heavy damage -- up to $40,000 worth -- to the rear of the house, basement and kitchen, but firefighters’ quick action saved the structure. “The majority of house is intact and saved,” Barry said.
Special kudos to Methuen Police Officer Michael Blanchette who rescued the family’s dog, Milo, from the burning home, and to Fire Capt. Tim Sheehy, who used an oxygen mask to help revive the German shepherd. Kudos, too, to the Red Cross volunteers who helped out at the scene and provided homeowners Paul and Tanya Dube and their two young boys, one an infant, with money for infant formula, food and winter clothing.
To top it off, Barry said firefighters planned to scout out some Christmas toys to replace the ones destroyed in the fire. How great is that?
CHEERS to the memory of Ellen F. Fraser, who grew up on a farm in West Andover near the Merrimack River and retained a lifelong love of nature. When she died at age 96 in 2011, she left a bequest of more than $60,000 to the Andover Village Improvement Society, the venerable land trust that has helped preserve open land in its natural state as the town grows. Announced last week, the gift was the largest ever received by AVIS. “This was totally unexpected,” said Mike Timko, president of the AVIS board of trustees.” Fraser and her late husband Robert loved the outdoors and often hiked AVIS’ more than 35 miles of trails and cross-country skied on its 1,100 acres held in trust for the public to use. AVIS was one of 16 local organizations to benefit from Fraser’s estate. AVIS will use the money to acquire more land, a fitting use.