Local veterans share Christmas stories

By Sharon Bouchard

Feature Writer / Photographer

PARIS – The holidays can be a lonely time when you live in a residential care facility, but good memories help make the season bright.

At the Maine Veterans’ Home in South Paris, several residents were willing to share some of their best Christmas memories.

Roger Poliquin remembers many happy Christmas times with his family in Lewiston and in Hawaii, too.

“As long as we were all together nothing else mattered, we were happy,” said Poliquin. “Some Christmases were better than others, but as long as the family was together they were all good.”

For Althea McClutcheon the best Christmas memory was a trip to Florida eight years ago to see her great-great granddaughter.

“I’ll never forget it,” said McClutcheon. “She was three years old and when I walked into the house she came running to me with her little arms held out saying ‘Great-Grandma.’ It was the only time I’ve ever seen her, but I visited for three weeks and it was wonderful!”

Arthur Westgate, Sr. recalled special Christmases when his children were young.

“I had three boys and a girl and they sure could get pretty rowdy,” said Westgate. “Christmas cost me an arm and a leg, but they were worth it.”

Jack Davis spent most of his holiday seasons on the ski slopes where he was a ski instructor.

“I worked at Pleasant Mountain in Bridgton for about 25 years and Mount Abram in Locke Mills for seven or eight years,” said Davis. “A lot of people got new ski equipment for Christmas and they would come to me to make sure everything was okay before they tried stuff out. That was kind of fun. My son took up skiing, but my daughter never had an interest. I miss it a lot, but I can’t walk and I can’t ski anymore.”

Norman Poulin used to work for the city of Lewiston and spent many holidays plowing snow on all the in-town streets.

“My best Christmas memory didn’t take place at Christmas,” said Poulin. “My brother, Roger, was a prisoner of war in Germany during World War II and when he came home we had a great Christmas dinner for him. Everybody came to see him.”

Christmas in Vietnam, not once, but twice is what sticks out in Charles Benge’s memory.

“Armed Forces Radio played Christmas tunes during the season,” remembered Benge. “They did a turkey dinner with all the fixings and brought it to us out in the field and it was really good. I think I used almost a full loaf of bread sopping up the gravy. The turkey was nice and moist, too. It was pretty hard to think about Christmas when it was 100 to 110 degrees every day. One thing for sure, I never had time to be lonely.”

With all the hustle and bustle of Christmas it is easy to forget about the people in residential care facilities. A nice long visit with a friend or loved one over the holidays, or if you can bring a loved one home for one special day, you will help make new memories that these people will never forget.

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