Dan Spofford, from left, Scott McAdoo, Sue Dutil and her husband, Rick Dutil, are members of the newly formed Winslow Garden Club. The group is shown Monday at Fort Halifax Park where the club attends to flowers and shrubs. The club is looking to broaden its community service plans in an effort to help make the town shine. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

To say Winslow Garden Club members are genial doesn’t do them justice.

Ebullient might be more appropriate.

I met four club members Monday at Fort Halifax Park where they were planting, mulching, weeding and watering plants and flowers around the park, all the while laughing, joking and telling stories.

It became evident after about an hour that their joy of beautifying Winslow — they call it beautifying, rather than just gardening — comes from the club’s co-chairs, Sue and Rick Dutil.

Sue, 48, and Rick, 50, launched the club in May after about a year of considering it and drawing in Town Manager Erica LaCroix, who, it turns out, also had the same plan. Dan Spofford, who met the Dutils at a town manager’s coffee event in March, also had wanted to do something for the town and joined the effort.

The friendly and outgoing Dutils had no trouble enlisting others and now the club has 19 members.


Their enthusiasm is infectious, as evidenced by how they drew two members.

In 2014 the Dutils were on a business excursion in Hawaii and met Mary and Don Kealey of Florida. The couples became fast friends and the Kealeys visited the Dutils in Maine several times. The Kealeys loved the area so much, they bought a house in China, moved in three weeks ago and now are members of the garden club.

Winslow Garden Club member Rick Dutil waters flowers Monday at Fort Halifax Park in Winslow. The club is looking to broaden its community service plans in an effort to help make the town shine. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

“They’ve come a long way just to pull weeds with Rick and Sue — from Maui to Maine,” Sue quipped. “I feel like, if you are a good person, you’ll attract good people and do good things, and we really are doing good things.”

I was moved by the Dutils’ positivity and zest for life, particularly after learning of their health challenges. Sue has serious back issues and was recently immobile for several weeks; Rick has had five brain surgeries since January. He is on medical leave from Bath Iron Works where he is a pipe insulator. She is taking a hiatus from work as a licensed health care administrator to help care for her husband and is working on a doctorate in health care administration.

“They’re wonderful — they really are,” Spofford said.

Spofford, 65, retired in December from MaineGeneral Health, where he was a dietician and patient experience specialist, and became the garden club’s first member.


“This is really my first retirement volunteering gig,” he said. “Winslow has a lot of great people and we want our town to look great, too. It was just a natural desire.”

Scott McAdoo of Waterville also joined because he is friends with the Dutils and, as president of Kennebec Messalonskee Trails, he has an interest in Fort Halifax Park, which is on the trails map. McAdoo, 39, volunteers for multiple causes and has won awards for his work, which includes volunteering for Kringleville, a mini Santa’s village in Waterville.

Speaking of Kringleville, Sue said the garden club wants to extend Kringleville into Winslow. The club isn’t active just in the summer — it is a year-round endeavor. Funds from the town allowed the Dutils to purchase an 1800s, one-horse, open sleigh from Peter and Jackie Reny of Vassalboro to place in the gazebo next to the Winslow Town Office and decorate during the holidays. The Renys not only lowered the price of the sleigh — they also donated money so the town could restore it.

Winslow Garden Club members Sue Dutil, right, and Dan Spofford care for flowers Monday at Fort Halifax Park in Winslow. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

LaCroix, the town manager, said this week that Winslow had a garden club years ago but it eventually disbanded. She said she sees the club’s efforts as the foundation for future economic growth in the community.

“They’re doing so much more than planting flowers,” she said. “They have taken on the beautification of the Bay Street corridor. Their work is giving Winslow the facelift that will encourage more people to come here and live, work and play, and will attract new businesses to set up shop in our town. This is huge for Winslow …”

The town provided seed money for the club’s startup and MacKenzie Landscaping donated mulch. The club is soliciting donations to hang a dozen holiday kissing balls on the Sebasticook River Bridge on Bay Street during the holidays. Members also are planning to host fundraisers and will work with the town to set up an account at a bank or credit union for accepting donations. For now, those wanting to donate or join the club may contact Sue Dutil at susandutil@yahoo.com.

“I say all the time, ‘All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome,’ ” she said. “You don’t have to have a green thumb. What I always say is, ‘Come grow with us.’ Because that’s what we’re doing.”

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 34 years. Her columns appear here Saturdays. She may be reached at acalder@centralmaine.com. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to centralmaine.com.

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