2015-08-07 / Community

Senior superlatives

Three named to inaugural list of ‘Models of Positive Living’
By Duke Harrington Staff Writer


The inaugural winners of “Model of Positive Living” awards at The Center in Kennebunk, including, from left, Tom Bradbury, Eva Barnfather, and Harvey Flashen, pose outside the Center in Kennebunk’s Lower Village. (Duke Harrington photo) The inaugural winners of “Model of Positive Living” awards at The Center in Kennebunk, including, from left, Tom Bradbury, Eva Barnfather, and Harvey Flashen, pose outside the Center in Kennebunk’s Lower Village. (Duke Harrington photo) KENNEBUNK — The Center, which recently cast off the “Senior” part of its name, toasted its 25th year last Thursday by naming three people to whom the term “senior citizen” does not imply the slow lane of life.

The inaugural slate of honorees will be officially recognized at a Gala Celebration to be held Thursday, Aug. 20 at The Colony Hotel, with festivities to include dinner, dancing and a silent auction. However, the names were released July 30 during intermission of a free Portland Symphony Concert staged by The Center at the Waterhouse Center on Main Street.

The list of winners, chosen by a 10-member selection committee from a list of 29 nominees, included Eva Barnfather, 93, of Arundel, along with Tom Bradbury, 64, and Harvey Flashen, 62, both of Kennebunkport.

The Center at Lower Village opened in December 1990 with a humble goal in mind. Founder Annie Spaulding, now 83, simply wanted a place for her mother-inlaw to socialize with others her age. Seeing no other alternative in town, Spaulding closed down her gift shop and converted it into clubhouse.

Over the years, The Center has evolved along with its increasingly vital membership scroll.

“It’s a place to come for sorts of activities,” said Susan Pettit, executive director of The Center since 2005.

“The world and demographic of the senior and what interests them has changed so much,” Pettit said. “They are much more active than they were even when I first came here.”

For that reason, the Center’s board of directors voted to drop the word “senior” from its name on the occasion of its silver anniversary. At the same time, in order to highlight the active and proactive lifestyle led by today’s senior, The Center launched a “Model of Positive Living” award.

The award, which Petit says is modeled on the Post’s annual “Great Person” award, was designed to recognize those who inspire others.

“Anyone could nominate anyone who they thought of as a positive model of senior living,” Pettit said. “The only requirement was that the nominee be at least 55 years old.”

“I was very surprised,” said Barnfather, on Monday. “When I got to the symphony on Thursday and opened up the program, and saw the names, I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, I haven’t got a chance.”

But perhaps Barnfather needn’t have worried.

“She’s an amazing lady. When I grow up, I want to be just like her,” said Deb Nelson, who nominated Barnfather.

Nelson has volunteered with Barnfather for the past five years at Community Harvest, a local nonprofit that meets the needs of the less fortunate in the Kennebunks with “food sharing, fellowship, and financial assistance.”

In addition to her other volunteer activities, such as making lunches for local children in need, Barnfather spearheads the monthly supper at Community Harvest, held at Holy Cross Lutheran Church. Founded in 2003, the free dinner feeds 80 or more at each four-course outing, but Barnfather makes sure it’s not a pity party.

“I thought it was needed,” she said. “I went to a meeting and the next thing I knew I was in charge. But I said I will not run it like soup kitchen. That is not me. I will only run this as if I was inviting people to a meal at my home. Now, they really are like family, really.”

A Massachusetts native and public school teacher — later a high school vice principal — Barnfather and her husband vacationed summers in the Kennebunks, deciding to make it their permanent home after retirement in 1995.

“When my husband died, people said, well, you’re going to come back to West Springfield aren’t you,” Barnfather recalled. “But I said no, everything is beautiful here — the scenery, the houses, the land, and the people. There’s not a lot of places you can say that about.

“I’m humbled beyond belief,” she said.

“I think that’s it, it’s very humbling,” Flashen agreed. “It’s like, why me? I just do my work and do what I do, and I don’t really think about it that much.”

“He’s a person who leads by example,” said Kennebunk resident Tom Foley, who nominated Flashen. “He is, in my opinion, an unsung hero.”

Besides raising funds tirelessly for the Kennebunkport Health Department, the police department, various Rotary projects and the local food pantry, Flashen can often be seen at the recycling bins in town, sorting out trash and out-of-state bottles.

“(I) can’t think of anyone more deserving,” said Foley. “I’m so, so happy he was selected.”

Like Barnfather, Flashen also is a former “summer complaint” who took up year-round residence.

“I’ve never felt so much a part of a community, where everyone is so friendly,” said Flashen. “I guess, if anything, that’s why I volunteer as much as I do. Why wouldn’t I want to give back?”

Meanwhile, Bradbury is a Kennebunkport native with roots in the community going back to 1735. He was the third generation of his family to own and operate the Bradbury Brothers General Store in Cape Porpoise, founded in 1943, eventually selling to a cousin.

Bradbury has been either president or executive director of the Kennebunkport Conservation Trust since 1979, becoming along the away practically synonymous with the organization.

“I got into it because an island came up for sale that was dear to all of us,” he said. “We decided to raise the money to try and protect it. Then one thing led to another and that one project has led to over 100 now and there’s always ongoing work to maintain and preserve what we’ve protected, and to get young people interested in using that land.”

“I was not the only one who nominated him, there were many, many others,” said Kennebunk resident Ann Spaulding. “It’s so obvious why — he has done so much to conserve land in this area for people’s pleasure.”

Still, despite his long history of public work, Bradbury says he’s surprised by the public recognition.

“Obviously, you always strive to do right, and you always strive to do good, but I could give you a list of people more deserving,” Bradbury said. “A good list would be the other nominees, for one thing.”

In addition to Barnfather, Bradbury and Flashen, the full list of 29 nominees for The Center’s Model of Positive Living Award included Kennebunk residents Bob Armbrust, Dick Bibber, Helen Bisbee, Donna Chick, Florence Damon, June Ficker, Barbara Hennessy, Louise Hurlbutt, Linda Johnson, Beth Jones, Rita Lemieux, Bob McCartney, Val McGann, Dorothy Mohr, Joyce Otis, Judy Perry, Laura Phinney, Ginny Reid, Ruth Salonen, Virginia Sharpe, Min Shields, Margaret Shively, and Sarafin Sutton; along with Linda and Steve Hanna (nominated as a couple) and Bill Leffler, all of Kennebunkport; and Ruth Harper of Biddeford.

The Center also inducted three members posthumously into its charter roll of positive living examples — George Cushman, Rick Griffin and Hank Spaulding.

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