WINTHROP — Dozens of people turned out Sunday to honor a local Korean War veteran who went on to devote much of his life to preventing others from having to do the same.
Some of Tom Sturtevant’s work, like his role in establishing Veterans for Peace, which now has chapters in every state and in England, carried beyond central Maine. But his passion, like the gardens he grew, were rooted firmly in his local community.
“Tom was a community builder,” said Margy Burns Knight, who helped organize Sunday’s ceremony to dedicate the bench and peace pole erected in Sturtevant’s honor in the Inch-by-Inch garden outside the Winthrop Grade School. “Tom was a hero. We’re honoring a hero.”
Sturtevant, who died last year at the age of 83, served four years in the Navy during the Korean War. He came to question the effectiveness of war to bring about peace.
Sturtevant later moved to Winthrop, establishing a farm near Mount Pisgah, and taught English at Cony High School in Augusta for 24 years.
After retiring, Sturtevant spent countless hours volunteering for a variety of community and projects, particularly those that promoted peace. He helped found Veterans for Peace in the 1980s. The Winthrop chapter has been named in Sturtevant’s honor.
Doug Rawlings of Veterans for Peace said he has often been told that the hope of abolishing war is naive. Rawlings, as did Sturtevant, counters that using war to bring about peace is equally naive.
“Tom was a homemaker and a peacemaker who was not a pie-in-the-sky mystic,” Rawlings said “He was a fiercely moral man.”
Sturtevant was also an organic farmer who helped establish the Inch-by-Inch garden in 2009.
Karen Richards Toothaker recalled Sunday how Tom urged they young people who worked in the garden to take care of their tools. That meant wiping the dirt off their hoes when they were done for the day.
“Tom was a very unique and wonderful individual who paid close attention to detail,” Toothaker said.
State Representative Craig Hickman, D-Winthrop, an organic farmer, recalled Sturtevant’s devotion to the Winthrop Food Pantry.
“Tom wanted his community to always be well fed,” Hickman said.
Sturtevant’s widow, Mary Sturtevant, said Sunday the peace pole and bench will continue to honor her husband’s legacy.
“I think he’d be amazed and very happy,” she said.
The Sturtevant’s children, Ben Sturtevant and Susannah Sanfilippo, expressed their thanks for those who attended the ceremony.
“I love everybody for doing this,” Sturtevant said.
Sanfilippo said she, like the others at the ceremony, continues to miss her father.
The molecules inhaled by those at the ceremony were the same molecules inhaled by her father, she said, and all creatures of the world. She said her father understood that one-ness of the earth.
“From that understanding he marched to the beat of a different drum,” Sanfilippo said. “We were all really drawn to that beat.”
Craig Crosby — 621-5642