Who are they, these people I write about? Sisters Rossana, Theresa, John Bosco, who lived in the convent across the street from me? There is Skeeter O’Neal and Barney, the church custodian with two club feet.

Are they real? I can smell the fragrance of Skeeter’s saloon now as I pass in dreams.

Every now and then “inquiring minds” ask about these people I slip into my columns.

I begin.

I remember little Tommy Aubuchon who fell into the river and vanished, Johnny Desnoyer, The Webb brothers who collected comic books. Alan and Paddy, all of my nuns, especially the young sister who knew my father in the long ago, or so the whispers said. She said I had his eyes.

These characters were the flowers, autumn leaves and winter sticks, on the unkempt lawn of my life. Common folk all, but I became a writer, not to get rich, because I’m certain I was chosen to keep them alive.


And here are a few more.

J.P. Devine is seen with his sister Dawn, the “Keeper of the Flame,” in this undated photo. Photo courtesy of J.P. Devine

Carrie Karenbrock, Mrs. Ebner, who ran away from Hitler, the Carrs who owned the dry cleaners and Rosemary De Branco.

Can you see them?

My “baby” sister Dawn is still alive, older, a bit weaker, but alive. She survived breast cancer and a stroke, and now sits in her house protected by two retired police officers, Lisa and Rome, her aging children who attend to her needs.

It’s she who remembers those names and the folks who carried them on their report cards, in their yearbooks and on their wedding licenses, remembers them and through the years, reminded me of them.

Dawn, who looks enough like me to be my twin sister, is the “Keeper of the Flame,” of a four block neighborhood that was once our “Camelot,” a family musical I’ve forgotten the lyrics to.


Dawn, who refuses to forget, sits by her window. Sometimes they wave.

Look around in your family and you will see a grandma, or an almost forgotten aunt who is a docent of the past, walking you through the yellowing museum halls of your family, pointing out the heroes and the villains, their successes and failures. Pay attention. They remember you.

Dawn reads the obits daily and has since she was young and beautiful, riding trains and planes as a sales rep.

Widowed from her Leo, now long gone, she managed to raise her two cops alone.

When I was a young actor in New York and L.A. she would call me around supper time with startling, vivid news.

“I forgot to tell you, Paddy Carr came to Jug’s (Jim) funeral mass. He has bad feet.”


The fast runner ever “has bad feet” now?

I can see him now, my childhood best friend, limping into the church, dipping arthritic hands in healing Holy water, quietly limping away back into the past where once we ran the alleys together.

She would read me the obits of Alan, Billy Hagany, Jimmy Tamcel who died in Korea in the same year I was nearby; so close we were, that we could have had a last beer together.

The names, the dimming faces, I thought I was finally far enough away from those days.

When politics and COVID wear you down, I’ll bring them to you. It couldn’t hurt.

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer. 

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