Every day was a great day for Ezra Smith. In the Hospice Unit at the VA’s Togus facility since April, Dad thrived, thanks to the extraordinary care of the professionals there, and even in his final weeks, when he was on ever-heavier dosages of morphine and slept a lot, when he awoke, he’d exclaim, “Well, this is a great day!”
Dad’s last significant act was to vote, and as I took him through the ballot, I was not surprised to find that he still had lots of opinions. He is well known for his letters to the editor of this newspaper. About a month ago, I found folders at his house with many of the letters Dad wrote to the newspapers over the years. Today, I’ll share some with you.
From the 1990s: “In order to save money, the state government is closing nonessential departments some days. If indeed these departments are nonessential, why do we have them in the first place?”
In 1980, in response to a negative letter from a woman in New Jersey who said her family intended to move here: “I spent some time in New Jersey during the War and I can understand why a person would want to leave and come to Maine. I would suggest that the family come to Maine, find out what a great State we have and get to know the people who make it what it is. Yes, we do have sweet orchards but a lot of rotten apples are imported over the Kittery bridge. As we often hear about Maine (love it or leave it), in this case, if you don’t like the way we run our state, don’t come.”
Dad didn’t neglect local Winthrop issues. Here’s a more recent letter to the editor from 2011. “I was pleased to see the photo of our new town manager, Jeff Woolston, and Police Chief Joe Young, as members of the Rotary Club. We are indeed fortunate to have men of this caliber serving our town. Now that the photo session is over, however, perhaps Chief Young will get serious about speeding in Winthrop. Hopefully, our new town manager can wake up those incompetent drones in Augusta and get our Main Street and railroad tracks repaired. Good luck to both of them, and my best wishes in their future efforts.”
Here’s a couple of sentences from one of my favorite letters. “I owe my existence, at least in part, to an old country Doctor who came to my rescue in a horse drawn buggy. Due to this primitive delivery, I probably am not even programmed right or qualified to make judgments.” Of course, in that letter, he went on to make judgments.
During the 1982 referendum on moose hunting, Dad wrote a letter to the Sunday Telegram. Here’s his final paragraph: “I was born on a little old farm in rural Maine. My Dad gave me a gun instead of a rattle. I have always considered hunting, fishing, trapping, etc., as a very special privilege and have supported the conservation of our wildlife by supporting the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife. I trust the majority of people in Maine will vote wisely and let the people we pay to manage our wildlife do their job.” The people followed Dad’s recommendation on that one, and 30 years later, on the bear referendum last week.
In many of his letters, Dad was decades ahead of his time. Here’s one from 1983. “The idea that our state government can control the cost of hospital care is like putting coyotes in the deer yards to save the deer herd. Government on any level is hardly the place to go for lessons in thrift.”
And then, of course, there was Dad’s “final letter,” in which he proclaimed that he was all done writing to the newspaper. I told Dianne at the KJ that she ought not to believe it. And sure enough, four months after his final letter, he wrote another letter to the paper. He even wrote one from the Hospice Unit.
Dad ingrained the importance of expressing our opinions to all of his children. Back when this newspaper, at the end of each year, published the names of all who had written letters to the editor that year, Dad, brother Gordon, sister Edie, and I were all listed one year.
We will make sure, in the years ahead, that Dad and his opinions are not forgotten.