2015-09-18 / Community

Arundel Historical Society nets $1,200 gift

By Duke Harrington Staff Writer


Old Orchard Beach residents Diane Dion, left, and her husband Kennedy Meepradit, give a $1,200 donation to Arundel Selectman Velma Jones Hayes, serving in her capacity as a board member of the Arundel Historical Society. The check, given in memory of Dion’s father, Maurice Dion, was handed over Saturday, Sept. 12 in front of the Burnham House at the historical society’s North Chapel Commons complex amid preparations for the town’s centennial celebration Sept. 19. According to Dion, it represents $100 from each member of her immediate family, all longtime Arundel residents, in hopes of aiding the historical society’s plans to turn the Burnham House into a museum. (Duke Harrington photo) Old Orchard Beach residents Diane Dion, left, and her husband Kennedy Meepradit, give a $1,200 donation to Arundel Selectman Velma Jones Hayes, serving in her capacity as a board member of the Arundel Historical Society. The check, given in memory of Dion’s father, Maurice Dion, was handed over Saturday, Sept. 12 in front of the Burnham House at the historical society’s North Chapel Commons complex amid preparations for the town’s centennial celebration Sept. 19. According to Dion, it represents $100 from each member of her immediate family, all longtime Arundel residents, in hopes of aiding the historical society’s plans to turn the Burnham House into a museum. (Duke Harrington photo) ARUNDEL — Just in time for the town’s big centennial celebration Sept. 19, the Arundel Historical Society has received a $1,200 gift – equal to $100 from each member of the Dion family.

Diane Dion, who grew up in Arundel but now lives in Old Orchard Beach, said the donation was made in memory of her father, Maurice Dion, who died July 26 at age 87.

“I’m just hopeful this might inspire others to make memorial donations to the historical society, or to leave gifts in their wills,” Dion said when handing over the check to society board member Velma Jones Hayes Saturday, Sept. 12.

A Springvale native, Maurice Dion was a paratrooper with the 81st Airborne from 1950-1952. After the service, Dion began his working career at the Portsmouth Navel Shipyard, where he spent 17 years, from 1952 to 1969, building life-sized templates for nuclear submarines.

He and his wife Cecile raised 10 children at Lamppost Cabins and Campground on Route 1 in Arundel, which the couple created in 1964 after buying the former Siliker’s Restaurant and eight associated log cabins. Later, they established a mobile home park on the site, before moving across town to Clearview Estates in 1977 as Dion transitioned into real estate development during his later years.

“We just had lots of fun growing up on that property,” Diane Dion said. “When I think of Arundel, I remember working alongside my father at the campground. We moved here when I was 4 or 5, and I remember from an early age clearing brush. My father taught all of us to always work in a loving and happy way, and to enjoy your work.”

“I remember Maurice as a Boy Scout leader, always, always involved with the kids,” Jones Hayes said, noting that when she moved to town on Log Cabin Road, her children became fast friends with the Dion brood.

“I don’t care how much work there was to do at home with 10 kids of his own, he was involved with all the kids of the area,” she said.

The Dion donation will go toward construction of the historical society’s North Chapel Common property, a 3-acre lot at the corner of Route 111 and Limerick Road.

Soon after acquiring the property, the society secured the donation of two 18th century farmhouses on Route 111 slated for demolition. One, now called the Lunt House, was home to one of the town’s first families, while the other, called the Burnham House, also housed a post office through much of the 19th century.

Both homes were moved to new foundations at the society property at a cost of nearly $70,000. But the society has not stopped there; a capital campaign is in full swing, designed to restore both farmhouses and turn one (Lunt) into society offices, and the other (Burnham) into a museum. Meanwhile, the society also has high hopes of rebuilding the old North Chapel Church that once stood near the property. Once complete, it will be offered up as a meetinghouse for groups of all sizes. All told, the three buildings are expected to cost $500,000 or more to complete. That’s money the society raises from donations of money, supplies and labor, as well as the sale of baked goods and, starting Sept. 19, a commemorative book chronicling the town’s first 100 years.

“With the society, we make every penny count,” Jones Hayes said. “We raise a little bit of money, do a project, raise some money, do a project. So, every donation counts.”

“I’m just happy to give money to an organization that really believes in preserving the history of a place, and its people,” Dion said, “especially given that my father was such a part of the fabric of this community for so many years. Being able to help this project means a lot.”

Although she now lives in OOB, Dion is a lifetime member of the Arundel Historical Society and looks forward to Heritage Day, which falls on Saturday, Sept. 19 this year. A tradition now in its third year, the event will mark 100 years since Arundel’s separation from Kennebunkport and its incorporation as an independent town.

The event will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the North Chapel Common property.

A free, family-friendly event, Heritage Day celebrates Arundel’s rural history and traditions with hayrides, blacksmithing, wool spinning demonstrations and quill writing exercises, in addition to the crafts, old engine exhibitions and farm animals on display. Youngsters will be given tokens for participation in various demonstrations, that can be redeemed for toys and prizes.

The popular Reminisce Tent with historical pictures and writings will return, while this year will feature the debut of a book on Arundel history prepared by the historical society. However, far from a dry account of events and dates, the book features family histories, as well as personal accounts authored by nine different residents of what it was like living in Arundel over the past century.

“There is no author of this book, really,” society board member Donna der Kinderen said. “In many ways, the entire town wrote this book.”

“To me, that’s what’s so important, that history of the families here,” Jones Hayes said. “Even though Diane says she and her siblings weren’t born here, they were brought up here, and that makes them a very important part of the town. It’s the feelings that you have in your heart that make you a part of Arundel, not the length of time you lived here.”

According to der Kinderen, the Dion gift is the second recent memorial donation to the Arundel Historical Society. When Wilda Thurlow died in January at age 92, her family requested donations to the historical society be made in lieu of flowers. That money, nearly $1,000, has been set aside and will be spent on flowers to landscape the Commons property once the building projects are complete, der Kinderen said.

Return to top