And Then What Happened?: Here’s to the cheers


For the Recorder
Published: 1/3/2021 3:57:45 PM

Well sir, I figured the best thing I could do for humanity at this point in our lives together would be to tell you the endings to some of the stories I began for you this year.

You might remember how in May I lamented the silence of Ashfield’s broken curfew bell, the one that had rung in town for more than 200 years, having been repaired throughout history by local engineering-types who had always found something lying around to hook up and startle the bell and its mechanics back to life. I declared we needed someone to do that again.

Bill Townsley, a son of Ashfield who now lives in Virginia but remains a faithful reader of all things pertaining to his beloved town, read my column and offered to pay for the repair. The town’s own Christopher Gray, grandson of beloved maple syrup industrialist Willie Gray, stepped around, climbed the bell tower, figured out the problem, and on Halloween day, sent me an urgent email to run outside and listen. With the encouraging help of his young children watching out there in front of Town Hall, Christopher restored peals of cheers mixed with the bell, yet again. Accepting Mr. Townsley’s generosity for the price of the materials, Christopher contributed his own noble goodness for the ingenuity and labor in the operation, for which we stand and salute.

Our second round of cheers applauds Mr. Norm Nye who celebrated his 94th birthday the month after a September tumble landed him with a broken pelvis in Cooley Dickinson Hospital, with a follow-up move to Linda Manor. While life at Linda Manor wasn’t as dangerous as it has been for some other nursing home shut-ins in the time of COVID-19, necessary precautions with their no-visitors declaration made the world a lot lonelier for Norm. He convalesced behind closed windows as visiting friends and family members sat outside in the elements and called him from their cellphones.

Despite — or maybe because of — his seclusion, his health and pelvis improved to where, about three weeks ago, Linda Manor’s staff sprung him to come home to Ashfield, something, I have to say, that very few of us imagined might happen. And while the pandemic has kept his world pretty quiet, Norm is remarkably pain-free for the first time in a year and a half, a second miracle no one saw coming.

In all of this surprise, goodness Norm has a message he’d like me to send out to all of you: “Thank you for all of the cards you sent!” He asked me to tell you that the arrival of cards and letters “really brightens up a day when you’ve nothing to do but sit and look out the window,” and what he knows at 94 is that “the real treasure in the world is a person’s friends.” Those cards, he said, were what kept him going in the belief that there would be “a light at the end of that dark tunnel.”

The only thing he misses about life at Linda Manor is chocolate milk and ginger ale three times a day. Otherwise, he’s happy to be home.

Whoops of celebration also ring out to Ashfield’s Mary Leue, who tiptoed into her 101st year of life on Dec. 21. You may recall from that same September column about Norm that Mary herself, still recovering from a broken hip, declared she has a long list of things to do in life before she’s ready to call it quits.

I remember running into Mary at the Post Office one afternoon when she was 90, when she told me she was headed that week for a visit to England, but reckoned it might be the last time she’d be able to make the trip. Sure enough, the same determination that propelled her to the U.K. in her ninth decade is seeing her through to making good on her plan to greet her daughter’s move back to this area in about three years.

And finally, calling back a story I wrote in September of 2019, you may remember my anguish toward the potential painting of my house. I have a southern propensity toward bright colors that runs afoul of New England tradition, unless you count historic Deerfield, which I do. But with so much time on my hands in the era of no work, I painted my house. Bright yellow with trim flourishing in the fields of warm orange and white.

And lo, a Christmas miracle happened, and everybody (with the exception of Norm, who maintains his staunch New England disapproval) has told me how beautiful it is. I assume, of course, that they’re just happy I finally painted the dang thing, but any compliment warms my heart and finishes the year out in a happy jubilation of community.

So there are my stories, rounded out for 2020. Here’s looking forward to the next ones, already simmering in a warm, anticipated happier broth of 2021.

Nan Parati lives and works in Ashfield, where she found home and community following Hurricane Katrina. She can be reached at


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