RUMFORD — Hundreds of people lined up Friday
morning at the local Marden’s store to get an autographed photo of Birdie
Googins, who is featured in the discount retailer’s ads.

Googins was celebrating the store’s second birthday and helped raise more than $350 for the American Heart Association.

Ruth and Stan Sobocinski, recent
transplants from Connecticut to Hanover, were looking forward to
seeing Googins again, after attending a show she did in her hometown of
Norway. There, she was known as Martha Lello, living in the
parsonage of the Second Congregational Church and graduating from
Oxford Hills High School in 1969. For most of her life since, she’s
been working in the theater as an actress by the name of Karmo Sanders,
writing and doing comedy.

Barbara Morse of Peru was among those who
couldn’t wait to see the colorful character with the thick Maine accent. “We just had to see her,” Morse said.

Karen Gallant of Rumford stood in line
to meet Googins and to get an autograph for her 92-year-old mother,
Beatrice Deraspe. “Mom couldn’t be here, so I’m here
for her. She loves watching the Marden’s lady on TV,” Gallant said.

Fourteen women, young and not-so young,
competed in a Marden’s lady look-alike contest. Winnie Barker of Rumford Center was one. “I just like her so well. She is so
funny, and she makes me laugh,” Barker said.

Jeannette White of Dixfield also decided to give the contest a try. “My lady friends talked me into
this,” she said.

So did Jean Jeselskis of Rumford. “My friends have been after me. They
are constantly calling me the Marden’s lady,” she said.

Googins and two Marden’s employees
judged the contest, but in the end, Googins decided to place the names in a bag — straw of course. She drew out Jeselskis,’ who received a Marden’s gift certificate.

While people inside were chatting with
and getting autographs from Googins, others were outside listening to
rock music played by Smith Crossing, a four-man band from Rumford, and eating
from the offerings of several food vendors and trying to knock a
local official into a dunk tank.

Rumford Selectmen Brad Adley and Frank
DiConzo took their turns in the morning, along with several other
local and legislative officials.

Rumford Town Manager Carlo Puiia and
Mexico Town Manager John Madigan were scheduled for Friday afternoon. Madigan said prior to his turn that he
had done this once before, when he was a young town manager in Monson. “Now I’m wondering what I got myself
into,” he said. “But it’s for a good cause.”

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Birdie Googins, aka the Marden’s lady, pulls a name out of a straw bag to select the winner of a Marden’s gift certificate in the Marden’s lady look-alike contest at the retail store in Rumford on Friday. Jean Jeselskis of Rumford was the winner.

Fourteen contestants competed in the Marden’s lady look-alike contest Friday at the retail store in Rumford. The winner was Jean Jeselskis, far right, of Rumford, whose name was pulled from a straw bag by Birdie Googins, the Marden’s lady herself.

Dozens of people lined up Friday morning at Marden’s discount store in Rumford to get a signed photograph of the retailer’s popular ad personality, Birdie Googins, far left. The event was a fundraiser for the American Heart Association and the secondary anniversary of the store’s opening.

Barbara Morse of Peru was one of the hundreds of people who flocked to the Rumford Marden’s store Friday to see  Birdie Googins, the Marden’s lady. The store celebrated its second anniversary and raised more than $350 for the American Heart Association with Googins’ help.

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