January

The VFW and American Legion of South Paris wrapped up its first Christmas drive in support of active military serving away from home during the holidays.

Stephens Memorial Hospital welcomes Oliver, its first baby born in the new decade. Oliver joined his parents Anthony and Nicole Vladyka and older brothers Anthony and Jack, all of West Paris, on Friday, January 3 at 7:12 pm. Submitted photo

The first baby born at Stephens Memorial Hospital arrived on Jan. 3. Parents Anthony and Nicole Vladyka of West Paris welcomed their third son Oliver at 7:12 pm.

Norway’s Board of Selectmen unanimously approved the appointment of Officer Christina Sugars as its new School Resource Officer and changed Officer Holli Pullen’s status from part-time to full-time.

Longtime civic Leader Bruce Cook passed away on Jan. 13. Cook’s many years of community service included Norway’s Board of Selectmen, the Norway Maine Opera House, Norway Downtown, Responsible Pet Care of Oxford Hills and the Lakes Association.

February

University of Maine – Augusta announced that it would close its South Paris offices by July 1 and transition student services in Oxford Hills to a distance learning platform.

Maine Department of Education Commissioner Pender Makin attended SAD 17’s Feb. 3 school board meeting. She updated directors about agency changes underfoot regarding statewide vision and policies.

Members of Paris’ Fire Department presented a letter of complaint to the Select Board at its Feb. 10 meeting; selectmen passed the envelope on to Town Manager Dawn Noyes unopened. The same letter had previously been given to Noyes by fire department members in September and she had taken no action on it. The event brought to light a change made to town personnel policies without the authorization of the Select Board. Eighteen fire fighters would resign over the issue and be reinstated in early March.

Oxford’s Planning Board approved solar power applications for two businesses, Borrego Solar Systems and VHB.

Oxford Hills women’s basketball team claimed their second straight Maine AA championship, defeating South Portland 49-39 on Feb. 29.

Oxford Hills celebrates with the Gold Ball after beating South Portland 49-38 in the Class AA girls basketball state championship game on Feb. 29, 2020, at Cross Insurance Arena in Portland. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer Buy this Photo

March

“Mr. Waterford,” that town’s longtime Code Enforcement Officer passed away unexpectedly on Mar. 8. Bill Hayes held a number of public service roles in Waterford and also worked for several Maine newspapers, including the Advertiser Democrat.

Along with districts throughout the state, SAD 17 moved to close all of its schools as cases of COVID-19 began to appear in Maine, shifting to remote learning until June. Municipal offices and non-essential businesses would immediately follow suit.

With schools closed, administrators began twice-weekly bus deliveries of breakfast and lunch so students would continue to have supplied meals Monday through Friday.

Stephens Memorial Hospital reported treating its first case of the coronavirus. The patient did not require inpatient care and was able to recuperate at home.

April

Although most of Maine’s economy was shuttered, manufactured housing dealers in Oxford Hills reported a boom in business with no slowdown in sight. Some were in the process of hiring new employees.

Harrison Elementary School students Aiden Baker and Ronan Brown were invited to participate in Maine’s National History Day competition finals, held remotely. Their “breaking barriers” exhibit featuring Abraham Lincoln and the end of slavery during the Civil War went on to be included in the U.S. final round, also held remotely, in Washington DC.

“Mask-making” became both a business and a past time in Oxford Hills. New Balance finalized prototypes for surgical masks that it began manufacturing in its factories; local residents like Karen Hand of Buckfield and Elaine Gammon of Oxford joined the ranks of volunteers who hand-sewed and donated them to any groups or individuals that requested them.

May

After being forced to close in March due to COVID-19 restrictions, Maine hair salons were allowed to reopen for business on May 1. Stylists at Hair & Company and the Mane Room of Norway and Roxy’s Cuts Plus Family Haircare in Oxford were prepared to work long days for weeks to take care of their frustrated customers.

Stuck with distance learning, SAD 17 invited students to submit their quarantine education projects to a digital time capsule, a mixed media initiative to engage and connect students and families learning at home.

As the state mandated shut down began phasing out, area town offices announced plans and protocols for reopening municipal services to the public. Tape on the floor, separate entrance and exit doors, Plexiglas, limited entry and drop boxes became part of daily business.

June

Oxford’s Town Manager Butch Asselin announced plans to retire at the end of 2020, a little more than three years after accepting the position.

The SAD 17 School Board approved a $42.9 million budget for the 2020-21 school year. Kathy Laplante of Harrison and Scott Buffington of Paris were the only two directors who voted in opposition of the budget.

Determined to give its senior class a proper send-off, Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School held an evening social-distanced graduation at the Bridgton Twin Drive-In, followed by a late-night fireworks display at Oxford Plains Speedway.

Oxford Hills Middle School’s eighth grade graduation was held at the speedway, also drive-in style.

July

Western Maine Foot Hills Land Trust, Mahoosic Pathways and Rangeley Lakes Heritage Trust received separate grants totaling $87K to improve public trails access. WMFHLT used their $21K portion of the funds to link the Roberts Farm Preserve’s Nordic trail system with downtown Norway.

Norway’s Board of Selectmen approved sidewalk dining for Café Nomad to last through Nov. 15, allowing the business and its customers to participate in table service while indoor public gathering was restricted due to the pandemic. Many restaurants adopted or expanded sidewalk seating in 2020.

Pallbearers carry the coffin of Bob Bahre from the hearse on the track at Oxford Plains Speedway in Oxford at his funeral. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Oxford Hills Speedway icon Bob Bahre passed away on Jul. 24 in Paris at the age of 93. Originally from Suffield, Conn., Bahre purchased the racetrack in 1964. In addition to revitalizing auto racing in Western Maine the Bahre family lent its support to many organizations throughout Oxford Hills.

Carlton Sprague and Scott McElravy were both re-elected to Paris’ Select Board. In Norway Denise Whitley and Sarah Carter were elected to the Planning Board to replace two retiring members. And in Oxford Dana Dillingham won reelection to the Select Board seat he had held since a March interim election.

SAD 17 Superintendent Rick Colpitts presented the Board of Directors with plans for reopening schools in September, in compliance with Maine DOE safety guidelines.

August

The Oxford Fair announced that the September event would be cancelled due to COVID-19, one of the last agricultural fairs to throw in the towel on the 2020 season.

The Center Meeting House on Route 26 will be painted and a new roof installed. Submitted photo

After some officials questioned the costs of maintaining Oxford’s historic Central Meeting House, selectmen approved roofing and exterior painting projects and moved to establish a historic preservation committee to ensure the town’s historic buildings would continue to be protected.

Oxford Selectmen voted to suspend meetings of the Thompson Lake dam advisory committee, which included representatives from Otisfield, Poland and Casco, while the Board pursued its own plan for long term repair and maintenance for the dam.

September

The town of Oxford began lowering the water level of Thompson Lake early in anticipation of major repair work to be done to the Thompson Lake dam’s east gate.

An anti-mask demonstration held in South Paris outside of Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School fizzled with only three participants participating, organizer Karly Estes of Paris, Denise Baker of Harrison and Gail Geraghty of Norway.

Sumner resident Vernon Bradeen was honored with the Boston Post Cane as he turned 98. Bradeen continues to live in the same house where he was born and raised his own family.

The SAD 17 School Board approved a plan allowing students to participate in outdoor fall sports, under guidelines determined by the Maine Principals’ Association. But no sooner were athletes allowed to start practicing than Oxford County was designated with the Maine DOE’s caution yellow designation, moving schools to remote and hybrid learning and putting the brakes on extracurricular activities.

October

A spate of youth violence led to two teens being arrested, Oxford Hills high and middle schools temporarily closing and discussion of instituting juvenile curfews in Norway. Many blamed a justice system made lenient in part due to COVID-19 and lack of consequences for the ongoing conflicts.

The Bob & Sandy Bahre Health Center opened in Norway on Oct. 20. Supplied photo

Stephens Memorial Hospital dedicated its new medical services building on Main Street to longtime benefactors Sandy and the late Bob Bahre. The new facility houses the hospital’s physical therapy division and provides office space to specialty providers in oncology, cardiology, urology and audiology.

Seven months following arrival of the coronavirus, the Board of Directors for SAD 17 approved a measure requiring that all participants and attendees must wear face coverings to school board meetings.

COVID-19 continued to derail annual community events; the Oxford Hills Chamber of Commerce cancelled its popular Christmas Parade and Festival of Trees for 2020.

Norway’s Historical Society and First Universalist Church sponsored its first (socially distanced) graveyard tour of the Rustfield Cemetery to celebrate Halloween.

November

Oxford Hills schools had their first brushes with COVID-19. Two students of Otisfield Elementary School and Oxford Comprehensive High School were diagnosed with the virus, leading to several classmates and staff having to quarantine due to exposure. Additionally, OHCHS’ varsity field hockey team also had to quarantine after players were exposed to an athlete on an opposing team who later tested positive.

Also in November, an out-break traced to Rowe Elementary School in Norway led to that school going fully remote for two weeks. Several municipal and public safety offices in Oxford Hills communities also closed to the public after cases were detected to people entering the buildings with the virus.

Jared Golden talks about his successful race to represent Maine’s 2nd Congressional District for his second term in Lewiston. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Oxford County voted mostly for Republican candidates in the 2020 election, but U.S. Congressman Jared Golden bucked the trend by winning reelection to a second term representing Maine’s 2nd District. Former Vice President Joe Biden was eventually named winner of the presidential election. Susan Collins fended off the first serious challenge she faced during her U.S. Senate career, beating challenger and Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon.

OHCHS and Oxford Elementary School joined Rowe in closing to in person learning due to COVID-19 cases and teacher/substitute shortages. Paris Elementary School also went remote after positive cases were reported there.

The struggle against rising food insecurity continued in Western Maine. The Harrison Food Bank reported that it regularly provided provisions to 500 or more families each week and expected the need would increase with colder weather. In Oxford, first grade homeschooler Lilianna Tripp started a food drive as part of learning about community service and social studies. The youngster delivered close to 1,000 non-perishable food items and $360 in gift cards to Oxford’s Helping Hands Food Pantry before Thanksgiving.

December

Several years after an Otisfield citizen’s initiative stopped the installation of a U.S. Cellular communications tower on Scribner Hill, Verizon Wireless announced it was considering building one on a Bell Hill Road property. Only a reported 30% of the town’s residents have reliable cell and internet reception.

West Paris Town Manager Wade Rainey announced he was retiring after five years on the job. Over many years Rainey held a number of roles in town politics – selectman, tax assessor, planning board member as well as codes enforcement officer. This marked Rainey’s second attempt to retire from public life.

Liam Holland, a kindergarten student at Guy E. Rowe Elementary School in Norway earned special recognition from the Maine Center for Disease Control for the picture book he wrote and illustrated, The Book about the Coronavirus.

Due to the post-Thanksgiving surge of COVID-19, the Maine Principals’ Association announced that winter school athletic programs would be delayed until January, and in some cases into February.

Daddy-O’s co-owner Amanda Oullette agreed to donate a kidney to customer Jane Brown of Otisfield but was not a match. Nevertheless, she and Brown managed to participate in an eight-person donation procedure where four donors were matched to four recipients across several states.

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: