David Scribner describes himself as an empathetic man who remembers details of things that happened long ago when others don’t.

“I have a great empathy. I really feel things deeply inside, and I think those types of people tend to remember things. That’s just my theory.”

I met Scribner, 67, on Tuesday at the Lamb’s Clothes Closet at the First Baptist Church on Newhall Street in Fairfield, where he volunteers at least three days a week and has done so for 16 years.

In 2012, he had a heart transplant after suffering for years with cardiomyopathy. Before the surgery, he had no energy, and when he went outside, he could barely breathe.

Now he is strong and energetic and moves hundreds of boxes of clothes a year at the clothes closet.

“He’s absolutely the best,” said Erma Blakney, 81, who was working with him Tuesday. “If he ever stopped volunteering, I wouldn’t stay.”

Scribner is an unusual person. Aside from doing a lot of the heavy lifting, he is a wealth of knowledge, upbeat and very talkative, according to Blakney.

“When we have breaks, he can remember more stories from way back — where it happened, what happened — it’s just amazing.”

She said she was worried about him before his heart surgery.

“Oh my gosh, he was so sick, and his color was not good. He was having a hard time to carry things.”

Scribner reads a lot and always has. He was a very good student when he was young. Well, in everything except math.

“I tried, but it put me to sleep,” he said. “I always read a lot of books, mostly history and geography. I’ve always been very, very interested in history, especially world history and ancient civilizations.”

Scribner is 5 foot, 5 inches tall with blue eyes and wisps of gray hair. He said when he was about 5 years old, he and his uncle Norman and sister Linda went to see “Cinderella” at the Haines Theater in Waterville, which later burned in a fire.

“Now, my uncle Norm didn’t remember going there and my sister didn’t remember, but I remember everything about it. Maybe it’s the emotions that printed it in my mind.”

Scribner never married and has no children. He lives within a mile of the closet, and about every day, he walks from Fairfield to Waterville to go to Elm Plaza, The Concourse and the Hospice Volunteers of Waterville Area Resale Shop on Main Street. He especially likes the shop because hospice volunteers there helped his mother when she was sick and in the hospital.

“I’ve contributed stuff there, and I kind of support them,” he said.

Scribner grew up on Ridge Road in Fairfield with two brothers and three sisters. His father, Herbert, was a machinist at Keyes Fibre Co., and his mother, Maxine, took care of the family and was a consultant for the Girl Scouts.

“Ridge Road is very different than when I used to live there. There were no neighbors for quite a ways, and there was open country and cow fields. Life was good then. We always looked forward to berry picking: strawberries, raspberries — a lot of raspberries.”

He graduated from Lawrence High School in 1971 and later lived in Augusta, where he was employed nearly 20 years for a service that works with people who are emotionally disabled, he said.

Scribner’s father died in 2014, and his mother died in July. Losing his mother was hard, but he remains close with his siblings. His younger brother, Mark, of Dresden, whom Scribner describes as very generous, looked after him when he had his heart transplant at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

“My brother, Mark, he was with me, overseeing the heart transplant. They liked him down in Boston at the hospital. He was pretty popular. They’d say, ‘Is your brother coming in today?’ Now he drives me to Portland for appointments. He bought a house for me to live in.”

Scribner told me that even more interesting than his own life story is the story about the clothes closet, which has been in existence more than 20 years. People come from all over to get free clothes, no questions asked.

He talks about the closet like a salesman because he is so proud of it. It is open 9 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. Tuesday and 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday.

“People have made a lot of contributions,” he said. “They’ve brought in these things and invested their time, knitting mittens and hats. When there’s a need, like victims of a fire or domestic violence, the church has always been open to things like that. We have a lot of clothes in good condition, and many of them have tags because they are new. It’s top quality stuff. I think it’s very important. People should know what’s going on here.”

He strolls through the aisles of clothes, all neatly arranged on racks. He points to another thing of which he is proud: a notice on the window that he wrote himself and taped there. It reads, “Heaven Knows We Have Plenty of Clothes.”

“I just looked around at all the clothes that we have, and I think you could say that it’s absolutely true. Nobody would argue with that. It sums up the whole situation.”


Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 31 years. Her columns appear here Mondays. She may be reached at [email protected] For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to centralmaine.com.