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,” said
Simoneau, a member of American Legion Post No. 10 in Livermore Falls.

Berry,
a University of Maine at Farmington art student dressed in a pink gown
he crafted from plastic table cloths, is walking from Gorham to Presque
Isle to promote lifestyle tolerance and raise money for United Way
chapters along his route.

It takes a lot of courage to walk the
length of Maine in a dress during the winter, Simoneau said. “There are
plenty of reasons to admire (Berry), both the act and what comes from
it.”

Berry 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 Valentine’s Day pancake breakfast.

“I’m pretty sure
it’s the first time, in the life of that building, there’s ever been a
drag queen at the Legion Hall,” said Berry who was taking a one-day
break from his march up the 300-mile length of Maine.

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
Valentine’s Day morning but didn’t get to speak with him. The post
commander said he was pleased that the other veterans treated Berry
kindly. “That’s what we try to do.”

So far, barring 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 on Thursday.

A
woman he met as he walked into Orono wanted to take his picture, he
said. “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 a 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. When the staff at Staples learned who they were for, they
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,
had been pretty good, Berry said. “I’ve been lucky,” he said. His
support crew follows him, filming the trek. Berry hopes to make a
documentary about the effort later this year, he said.

He
planned to set out again Friday morning and hoped to finish the second
half of his trip – about 150 miles – by next Friday. So far, he’s
raised about $650, he said.

On Thursday he was resting and repairing his outfit, which had so far held up and was keeping him warm.

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


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