As a writer who has traveled South County, meeting people who love the area as much as I do. I have been fortunate enough to meet them and over the past year they have shared with me how they love and live in this area.
Everyone has reminded me of how special it is to just be in South County. These are not the people you find on the 6 and 11 o’clock television reports or frequent travelers on the front pages of newspapers.
They are humble people who just live their lives and are grateful for such a beautiful slice of Rhode Island that they call their home.
Some enjoy special sports in our coastal region, others have marked their careers doing extraordinary things and still others have helped make South County a better place to live – like it really is necessary.
Here is a sample of some of those stories that tell about the people, projects, and purpose that make South County the envy of the Tri-State region.
Enjoy the beauties of the South County
In Tommy Thumb’s Pretty Song Book, published almost 300 years ago, Miss Mary was asked in a now famous nursery rhyme, “How does your garden grow?”
Centuries later, the fascination and interest in gardens continues. The local Indian Run Garden Club of Narragansett is proof of that as it celebrated its 100th anniversary this year.
“There is just something in the human interest of coming together with others around a certain area of interest,” Artie Ramaker, 93 and a member for over 50 years, told me of the longevity of the club and its involvement.
Then there’s Peter Panagiotis, 71, and David Levy, 70, Tony Sciolto, 73, and Kristen Fraza, 52, who make their dream of surfing come true – older surfers often displaced by a much younger group. going up and down on their boards alongside the older crowd.
Like the two Young Turks who chase the holy grail of a perfect wave in the movie ‘A Summer Without End’, these older surfers live in the hopes of coming back for more paddle thrusts in an alignment offshore for deliverance. of their quest.
“I love the beach and the ocean,” said Sciolto, also known as “Tombstone Tony,” as he owns a monument and gravestone business in Cranston and has resided in South County for decades. .
The reason they keep surfing is pretty straightforward, said Fraza, Sciolto, Levy and Pan. They love the rush of the race, the thrill of being “helmed” – inside the wave and beneath the frothy white ridge – and the community of surfers they grew up with.
I had no idea that such a pleasure existed and I’m still not sure if I will ever do it with their enthusiasm!
To help poor people
There is also the indefatigable Joe “Tiger” Patrick, commanding officer of VFW Post 916 in South Kingstown.
One day in early March last year, he took me out hunting in the woods to find veterans and others living in the freezing cold in tents all over South County. We found several in South Kingstown and Narragansett only.
I was amazed to see them living there in the woods, bundled up in blankets and sleeping bags, makeshift stoves for cooking.
“If these people need anything I would like to help them,” said Patrick, whose VFW Post at 155 High Street has a roadside pantry for people.
South Kingstown, for example, has a small off-grid community within the community. You could call it a “tent community,” where the homeless live alone or in small groups in the woods all year round.
Those who have spoken with these homeless tent residents say most are refusing help. They prefer their life on the South County border to the popular belief that the homeless need help. The tents, in fact, are the homes of these squatters despite being on borrowed property.
“I do it according to my own choice. I don’t have to do this. If I really, really wanted to, I could rent a room somewhere. I just don’t want to, ”said John, who preferred to keep his last name and location in public view.
“I wouldn’t mind having my name in the newspaper and the photo, but it’s just living here in town all my life. My family is big in this area, ”he told me.
The Patrick’s VFW Post has a “Mickey Box”, as the roadside food box is called, on the High Street is for the homeless, like a man I met and told me it was was his grocery store because every day is a day of need.
The man, who also asked to remain unidentified in a recent interview, said: “I appreciate that they have it and it makes me feel good. It makes me feel good as well as other people. have it too.
He burst into tears when talking about the others and said he was reflected in their plight as well.
Other struggling people in South County who touched my heart were the ones who needed Santa to help with Christmas for their children.
For Erika Castaneda, a local preschool teacher, life hasn’t been easy over the years, especially when she gave presents to her only child for Christmas.
Finances have been tight, something a single mom like herself is familiar with. Yet there’s always the tug of wanting to give your son the same kind of joy of receiving gifts that other children – those from more affluent families – feel.
For Sherry Hawkins, who is homeless and lives in summer campgrounds and a borrowed mobile home for the winter, the challenge is also heightened to give Christmas presents to her children.
There are also other families who experience the same turmoil during the holidays. Parents whose self-esteem takes a hit because what they want to give their children and what they can give is so different.
“Christmas is so much harder for low-income people because the pressure is so much higher this time of year when their kids are expecting to get what they want on Christmas,” said Kate Brewster, Principal executive of the Jonnycake Center for Hope in Peace Dale told me.
Despite struggles that continue from year to year, many light stories have come my way, inspiring and even unique.
A victorious journey of a wandering bottle, which drifted aimlessly in waves for thousands of miles – in total nearly 3,000. It began the journey at Narragansett in and ended two and a half years later near the shores of an archipelago in the central Atlantic.
The idea came from a bold idea at a Thanksgiving dinner in 2018 when the bottle was launched.
Sean Smith, 13 at the time, wrote the note that was found.
“It’s Thanksgiving. I’m 13 and visiting family in Rhode Island. I am from Vermont. It was a simple note with an orange marker on a card. But 3,000 miles across the watery ocean, no stains, smears or dilution ruined this inscription in its floating plastic time capsule.
A Facebook post from Molly Santos, living on this central Atlantic archipelago thousands of miles away, read: “Hey guys !!! So my son was diving here in the Azores and he found a floating bottle, he grabbed it and there was a note in it !!! ”
Another glimpse into life and how endurance can make a difference came with the story of retired Rotary Supreme Court Judge Gilbert V. Indeglia.
In an interview filled with grace, humility and insight, he told me how his practice of law as a campaign lawyer had brought him to the lives of people with difficult challenges and this understanding. ‘is perpetuated during his years at the High Court.
Recently recognized for her compassion, judicial demeanor and impartial approach, Indeglia, 79, of South Kingstown, simply said that being a judge for 31 years has fulfilled a dream and life calling.
“For a lot of lawyers, becoming a judge is the pinnacle of your career,” he told me. Addressing the highest court in the state was an exceptional privilege, he added.
The conversation about business, people, events and the law revealed the commitment of a lawyer determined to give meaning and understanding to the laws of the state, case after case.
This conversation alone convinced me of why he won the respect of lawyers and others appearing in cases before him and why he received this year’s prestigious Joseph R. Weisberger Judicial Excellence Award from the RI Bar Association.
And a few words of thanks
I would be terribly remiss if I didn’t say thank you to my editor-in-chief, Seth Bromley, my editor-in-chief, Paul Spetrini, and photographer Mike Derr for their work in making stories shine.
In addition, a mention goes to the South County Writers Group, a collection of writing enthusiasts who have laid bare our souls – and our talents – review after review of each other’s unpublished works.
Each person has a unique voice and insightful perspective that reveals to others the colorful threads of South County tapestry and life in general.
I had a career that started in journalism and then went into government for three decades. Today at 65, I had the chance to return “home” to journalism and writing – always my first love.
I came across this group through a magazine story I did in March on self-publishing and the Ebook Bakery was leading my Michael Grossman from South Kingstown and a member of the group.
The group has become an oasis. It nourished me, nourished my need for collaborative criticism and supported me in new approaches to writing. Through each of their experiences recounted in their writings, I lived another life which made mine richer.
Thank you all – Yvette Baeu, Enid Flaherty, Michael Grossman, Camilla Lee, Gene McKee, Jane McCarthy, Terry Schimmel, Eugene Kincaid – for giving me a gift I never expected and will treasure for the rest of my life.