Temple Beth-El rabbi emeritus Susan Bulba Carvutto, left, waves at well-wishers Friday after being discharged from Augusta Rehabilitation and coming back home to Granite Hill Estates in Hallowell. Staffers explained to the group that the facility’s property is closed to visitors, but let them briefly wave and chat from a distance. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

HALLOWELL — To a soundtrack of kazoos and pots banged with spoons, Susan Bulba Carvutto returned to Granite Hill Estates on Friday after recovering from asymptomatic COVID-19.

Carvutto arrived home around 1:15 p.m. on Friday after a weeks-long stay at Augusta Center for Health & Rehabilitation, where she contracted the coronavirus, according to event attendee Emily Bley.

On Friday a group of 10, appropriately clad in face masks and standing a distance apart, welcomed Carvutto back to her residence at the facility. As she was exiting the vehicle she arrived in, Carvutto said the reception was “unbelievable.”

“This is really something,” she said shortly before being taken inside. Carvutto was not immediately available for additional comment Friday afternoon.

Ellen Freed of Hallowell said she organized the event after recognizing the need to celebrate a positive moment during an uncertain time.

Emily Bley wears a sandwich board sign Friday while welcoming Temple Beth-El rabbi emeritus Susan Bulba Carvutto back home to Granite Hill Estates in Hallowell. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

“There’s so much awful stuff that’s happening,” she said. “She’s such a significant part of the community.”

Temple Beth El’s current rabbi, Erica Asch, who was at the event with three of her children, said Carvutto, rabbi emeritus of the congregation, was “so incredibly welcoming” when she took over.

“I feel very lucky to have her as a mentor and a partner,” Asch said.

Bley said Carvutto was an important member of the temple community who was “loved by everybody.”

“She’s super smart, very generous, good sense of humor, wonderful with kids,” Bley said. “We all love her; she means a lot to all of us.”

Asch said the congregation was distressed when it learned Carvutto had come down with COVID-19.

“She has been with this congregation through a long time,” she said. “She has seen people through joys and sorrows. She’s not only a leader but a beloved member of the congregation.”

During the welcoming, an employee from Granite Hill Estates came out to tell the group that no visitors were allowed on the property, per guidelines enacted due to the coronavirus outbreak. After a short conversation, the visitors stayed briefly, speaking to Carvutto from a distance before disbanding about 10 minutes after she arrived.

Bley said the group did not seek permission to hold the event from Granite Hill Estates. She said people previously were allowed to go up to a window at the Augusta Center for Health & Rehabilitation, so the group felt it was doing the right thing as long as social distancing guidelines were followed.

“We’d much rather apologize than ask for permission,” she said. “I feel bad about it, but there should be a sign.”

Jennifer Hastings, a spokesperson for Granite Hill’s parent company, Northbridge Companies, said the senior living community was elated to welcome back its resident but glad that an employee informed the welcome party of the guidelines. She recognized the group’s good nature and said the event “certainly didn’t cause any issues.”

“Certainly, they wouldn’t have known (about the no-visitors policy),” Hastings said. “In the end, it was a beautifully spirited group trying to do a wonderful thing.”


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