ORONO — Tim Berry’s photo may never land in the dictionary but as far as Livermore Falls Vietnam War veteran Michael Simoneau is concerned it should.

“Probably when you look up tough in the dictionary his picture ought to be there,” Simoneau, a member of the American Legion Post No. 10 in Livermore Falls said Thursday.

Berry, the University of Maine at Farmington art student dressed a pink gown he crafted from plastic table cloths, said he was pleasantly surprised when he dropped in on the vets at the hall on Reynolds Road last Saturday to take part in their annual Valentines Day pancake breakfast.

 “I’m pretty sure it’s the first time, in the life of that building, there’s every been a drag queen at the Legion Hall,” said Berry who was taking a one-day break from his march from Gorham to Presque Isle.

Legion Commander Bert Simoneau, Michael’s father and a World War II vet, confirmed that. “Not in all my 64 years at the Legion has there been one — never in my life,” Bert Simoneau said. He saw Berry briefly on Valentines Day morning but didn’t get to speak with him but was pleased the other veterans treated him kindly.

“That’s what we try to do,” the commander said.

Berry is trying to walk the 300 miles during winter in an attempt to raise awareness about tolerance and raise money for a collection of United Way chapters that serve people along his route.

So far, barring only five or six “negative comments” shouted by passing motorists, Mainers have been largely tolerant, if not downright supportive of his trek Berry said via cell phone from his parents home in Orono Thursday.

Michael Simoneau, also a Jay High School history teacher, said he thinks the effort is for a good cause and it takes a lot of courage to walk the length of Maine in the winter in a dress.

“There are plenty of reasons to admire him both the act and what comes from it,” Michael Simoneau said.

Another encounter Berry mentioned as a standout was a woman he met as he walked in to Orono.

“She wanted to take my picture, because she’s taking one picture a day of something positive and sending it to her friend who is fighting breast cancer,” Berry said. “I gave her hug and my card.”

The card, which tells people how to donate to the various United Way chapters, was in pretty rough shape.

The woman came back later with 200 professional-quality business cards and gave them to him, Berry said. The cards were cranked out at a local Staples and when the staff at Staples learned who they were for the donated the cards, Berry said.

He said the positive encounters and music on his iPod helps ward off the monotony of walking about 20 miles a day. His feet were holding up but he did have some blisters and his legs were tired but so far the weather beyond a few cold days has been pretty good, Berry said.

 “I’ve been lucky,” he said.

His support crew follows behind him filming the trek and Berry hopes to make a documentary about the effort later this year, he said.

Even with the cold and exercise Berry said he’s doing well maintaining his weight and has lost only a pound or two.

“I eat a lot — a lot,” he said.

During the day he snacks on Power Bars, bananas and drinks plenty of water. At night when he stops he loads up on food, he said.

Berry said he would set out again Friday morning and hopes to finish the second half of his trip about 150 miles by Friday. Thursday he was resting and repairing his outfit, which has so far held up and was keeping him warm.

“But it is a little bit sadder than when I started,” Berry said.


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