Life Disrupted, Lives at Risk

Alumni share their experiences

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(Photo Val Mitchell ’09)


Tara Kierstead ‘08

As a school counselor with 450 students on my caseload, the first two weeks of the pandemic, in which we were not in school, were incredibly stressful. I was worried about my students and had no way of seeing all 450 of them. I worked to set up a food program so my students with food insecurities were still able to get school food, so I felt better about that. I was able to reach out to many students, and with the help of my staff, as a school, we were able to at least hear from every single student, so I felt better after that. I even am pen-palling with some students.


Nadine Nicke Bos ‘14

I work in a small city in rural Virginia, where I am a resident physician in internal medicine at a medium-sized hospital. Based on the symptoms I was experiencing (fever, myalgias, chills, fatigue, nasal congestion) I was not surprised when my result came back positive but I remember feeling worried. How bad would my symptoms be? How many others who had come in contact with me would get sick? I first told my husband and my work, as I would need to trace all of my contacts. Besides the physical toll it takes on your body, the mental toll was just as difficult. This is a lonely disease. You can’t be with others and they can’t be with you. As a healthcare provider, all you want is to be able to help and comfort your patients and this is extremely challenging to do with this disease.


Betsy Flynn Drake ‘61

Jack and I were very aware that the virus was creeping into South Carolina, however, not near us! We started to think we should change our plans, which would normally be to return home the first week in May. When the first two cases of the virus landed in the local major hospital complex, only six blocks from us, we decided to come home and quickly! Unfortunately, when I went to local drugstores, none had masks or gloves and said none would be available! This was alarming but fortunately we both had our winter gloves so they were put into use!


Judy Ohr ‘61

My youngest, Gingee, is an Army Colonel sta–tioned at the Pentagon. I didn’t worry about her. She already had her ticket punched with tours in Baghdad and Afghanistan as well as 20 jumps from airplanes. So I wasn’t ready for her phone call that she was not feeling well and going to Walter Reed for a test. We had to wait five days for confirmation. Positive. I called Lore [her sister] and in tears and across the telephone wires we clung to each other fearful that the “little kid” was going to have a tough road of healing if we were lucky.


Paul ’55 and Janet Bishop Butler ‘55

We were quarantined, and one of our daughters said she was going to bring us lunch. When they got to our house, they started taking out a card table, three chairs, food, and even a tablecloth from their car. They proceeded not to the front door, which they were not supposed to use or come inside, but they walked around to the other side of the house, set up their table right outside of our kitchen windows. They were smart enough to wear scarves, hats, gloves, and boots, as in March the snow was still on the ground but the sun was out. The three of them ate outside, and we opened the kitchen window (over nine feet away from us) so that we could at least chat with them.


Marilyn Lacombe Snipe ‘63

I wrote 13 letters, four to my sons, and nine to my grandchildren — just in case! There are no guarantees in this world. I learned that last year when I found out I had cancer and needed surgery and radiation treatments. Social distancing? Bah! Those of us with any sense do it, even though most of us hate it. I can tell you for sure that social distancing is not for ticks: I got bit twice during the past week. Some things never change.


Steve and Susan Knight Gavett ’77

As we drove out of the state of Florida headed back to Maine, we saw there was a road block for cars, not for trucks. We think they were checking for out-of-staters. When entering Georgia and every subsequent state we were greeted with a digital message regarding the 14-day quarantine. It was kind of eerie driving 1,500 miles with practically no one else on the road. Traffic sped 10 to 15 mph over the speed limit all the way back. On our return to Maine we quarantined for 14 days. We then went to see the grandkids while standing on the sidewalk as they sat on the front stairs. Air hugs and kisses had to suffice, for now!


Dan Gerges ’12

I’m not directly caring for patients infected with the virus but the pandemic has dramatically impacted our day-to-day activities in otolaryngology (the study of the ear, nose, and throat). One of the major reasons for this is that there are high viral loads in the upper aerodigestive tract, which is the main location of the body in which we operate. As such, we take extra precautions when doing things as basic as performing a head and neck exam and as invasive as performing aerosol-generating procedures.


Loren Andrews ’98G

As a psychotherapist, I typically treat symptoms of anxiety and depression all of the time. However, both of those challenges have grown because of the pandemic and have become more challenging because of the pandemic. Because we are all going through this experience together, our enhanced empathy for other people may be one of the great gifts of dealing with such an enormous challenge.


Bonnie Joy Dewkett ’01

On a “normal” day, I had child care in the form of a Mary Poppins-esque nanny who came and played happily with my son all day. Now, my son wants me to be his patient at the Dr. Silas clinic, race him at Thunder Hollow, and build a marble run worthy of the Guinness Book of World Records, all while taking conference calls, answering emails, and basically doing my everyday job. Just when I thought I had it under control and locked my office door, I must have failed to close the door all the way, and my son walked into a conference call naked.


Andrea James ’14

My boyfriend and I began working from home two weeks prior to Maine’s stay-at-home order, so we were very surprised to contract the virus. We had only left home to go to the grocery store or to get exercise outside. We suspect that we contracted it at the grocery store. Our symptoms were very mild and ranged from a low-grade fever to body aches and little energy. We never had respiratory symptoms. We’re pretty healthy individuals; I think our history of regular exercise and a wholesome diet contributed to our mild symptoms and quick recovery.


Ben Bishop ’09

There’s no sense wasting every day hoping and wishing and guessing (about the resumption of the NHL season). So I am enjoying my time with the family.


Yolanda Sly Kozuha ’97

Many of our small business friends are hoping to survive. We’ve tried to pay it forward wherever and however we can … I didn’t account for dealing with customers’ stress, especially since we’ve gotten to know many really well. At times there are no words to comfort, so you just listen when you hear first-handabout the refrigeration trucks being used as makeshift morgues filled in the overnight before the media reports it or the Bronx building of DOAs found, most likely COVID-19 patients. … Many village residents went from “it’s all a hoax” to making almost 1,000 masks in a week for locals who lacked PPE at their frontline jobs. The “it’s not a problem here” folks became incensed at returning vacation homeowners and the renters seeking shelter.


Steve Hewins ‘77

I had been anticipating the impact it would have on Maine’s hospitality industry even before the virus hit the U.S. And when it did, it almost completely shut down our industry, which is the largest in Maine — about 5,500 businesses employing 110,000 people. My focus shifted to daily discussions with state officials and our members to find a way to safely maintain the industry, the people it employs, the customers it serves, and the economy it supports.


Val Mitchell ’09

COVID-19 has had a huge impact on supermarket employees. At the beginning, it was extremely stressful because we were scared of catching germs at work, with the general public shopping en masse and hoard purchasing multiples of items. Additionally, new sanitization policies and procedures were put in place that required more staffing. Probably the hardest adjustment for me personally has been the company requirement to wear a face covering while working. My job is sometimes quite physical, and it is very difficult to work hard and breathe well while wearing one. However, I am appreciative that my employer has provided us with face coverings, sanitizer, essential employee appreciation pay, and many days of free lunches, coffee, snacks, and recognition. Six months ago, if someone told me that I would be considered an “essential employee” I would have pondered that label, but now I fully understand.


Nancy Roberts Munson ‘59

Six months ago I moved to an independent senior living apartment. Two hundred apartments here, people close by. Still, the isolation can be overwhelming. We have been ordered to stay in our rooms. We are learning to slow life down, appreciate the simple things, and above all cherish friends and family more. Surprisingly, some days go quickly. There are many of our activities on Zoom: exercise classes, book clubs, lectures. Small things can be very important — a neighbor bringing me two homemade masks, little bags of candy hung on our door, watching the trees and flowers bloom, enjoying a walk in the sun. We are learning to slow life down, appreciate the simple things, and above all cherish friends and family more.


Richard Partridge ‘61

To limit the spread of infection, we volunteers with Maine General Medical Center have been ordered not to appear for usual duties, forcing nurses and the CNA workers to do the less critical/mundane chores.


Jennifer Morrill Bergeron ’86

Easter 2020 would have been a typical year for our family. [Because of COVID-19] we were instead left to celebrate Easter sitting in our living rooms, kitchens, basements, and porches in front of the computer tuned into Zoom on the internet. With over 20 participating screens on Zoom, communicating with such a large and diverse group was challenging. A person would ask somebody a question, and before the person could respond, another question or comment was being thrown out there. This was virtual chaos, but then again, our family thrives on chaos! We in the United States had better get used to this new normal, but living in fear is not an option.


Amber Hathaway ’20 Ph.D.

Brian Toner ’13, ’15G, ’19G and I were married on May 22nd, 2020 at the UMaine ornamental gardens in a socially distanced/ virtual wedding ceremony. While not the ceremony we had envisioned, we are grateful to UMaine for providing us with a space to celebrate our union safely, and thankful to have been able to enjoy the day with a handful of close family members in person, and many more family and friends virtually.


Betty Loew White ‘68

One day recently my six-year-old granddaughter had a virtual tea party. She drank a cup of hot chocolate prepared by her mother. I drank a cup of green tea and we talked about what our names would be if our names were spelled backwards. She figured hers out right away, “Nylada” and mine “Ytteb.” Now we have a Secret Tea Society going on.


Gary Thorne ‘70

From traveling seven months a year to cover Major League Baseball to no movement for months was a major adjustment, but not a negative one. Being home with family during months normally on the road was a wonderful time. You forget how much you miss when traveling to work. We helped at food banks boxing and delivering items while staying in touch with neighbors to be supportive. Helping one struggling with cancer during the pandemic was a reminder of what courage really is. Also a reminder that the games I cover are just that — games.


Sudy Taylor Graham ‘70

For me — more concerning than the virus itself has been watching how quickly fear set in — and how quickly most people just accepted what they were being told and doing it without question. For me, that’s been the most alarming part and eye-opener.


Reverend Frank J. Murray ‘71

Our routines were torn from us three months ago and many have responded impressively: our first responders, medical professionals, teachers, and parents to name but a few categories of heroes. May the “good” we have experienced through so many of them be captured by us and used as the “glue” we need to put together our “new normal.”


Lisbeth Wiley Chapman ‘65

I have been taking a daily walk with a neighbor I didn’t know well — she on one side of our rural road and me on the other. I’m teaching her about birds and she is introducing me (from a distance) to neighbors I’ve never met before. Our new friendship has made everything endurable.


Rachel Davenport Dutch ’73

We are pretty boring. Steve works from home and will until the end of May. Our daughter or Instacart gets our groceries. We walk every day. I am reading about four books each week. The big highlight of the week is the pint of gelato from our neighborhood gelato shop…gotta keep them in business!

We are grateful to be in California with a proactive governor who gives daily coherent news conferences.


Don Cookson ‘59

Our rural lifestyle at Maple Shade Farm requires us to go to work every day. We have animals who are always glad to see us and to keep us company. Social distancing is an oxymoron for them … and us … We live in a township of 350 or so people who pride themselves in their pragmatism and common sense. They know for sure that things will brighten.


Dodge Tucker ‘15, ‘17G

Unfortunately I was laid off from a job that I really enjoyed pretty early in the quarantine. Based on how hard the commercial real estate industry was hit, mostly office space, it doesn’t look like there will be a recovery in the near term. I find it very important to keep busy, whether it was professional development, exercising, or enjoying the outdoors. I have some elderly neighbors that I continue to check in on. Luckily they are all doing great. It is exciting to see things start to reopen as the weather gets nicer outside.


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