Into the Light


Lexington memoirist and storyteller Anthony Martignetti publishes a collection of stories, many with Lexington roots, that resonate with humor, tenderness and ferocious honesty.


By Ana Hebra Flaster


Almost every day, Anthony Martignetti and his Border terrier, Piper, amble through Lexington Center at an almost European pace. There is no suburban power walking for these two. The leash dangles softly between them in quiet understanding. Martignetti’s cane lends a bit of support on the icy, gravel-strewn sidewalks of midwinter. The hint of another place and time that hovers over the old friends may originate in Martignetti’s Italian American roots. Or perhaps it stems from this longtime Lexington resident and psychotherapist’s Buddhist beliefs. Whatever its source, Martignetti has captured that air of another time and place with poignancy, energy and humor in his first book, Lunatic Heroes, a collection of short stories about his early life in Boston’s North End, West Medford Square and Lexington.

Boston-based indie publishing house 3 Swallys Press released the book in November, with a launch event at Lexington’s Cary Memorial Hall that drew more than 500 people. Part of the night’s success was due to the support for the book by musician Amanda Palmer and her husband, award-winning writer Neil Gaiman. While both artists performed at the event, Martignetti held the audience’s attention with powerful readings, particularly of the riveting Swamp, a piece about a pond full of myths and secrets near the author’s Lexington childhood home.

Martignetti was more than comfortable with the large audience. His background in theater and years of performing his stories to local audiences showed. As noted by the Worcester Telegram’s reviewer at the event, “[Martignetti] is an extremely captivating reader, with a Garrison Keillor-esque manner and charm…able to maintain energy and presence for the length of a story…a rare gift in a prose writer.” The audience responded to Martignetti’s energetic performance throughout the night, sitting rapt for long periods, exploding in laughter at others.

Palmer, who has described Martignetti as a combination of “mentor, guru…best friend,” recently suspended her European tour to be with the author as he receives treatment for an aggressive and rare form of leukemia.

Martignetti talked about Palmer’s gesture when we met recently in his loft, a book-lined space above the office where he meets his patients. The walls, shelves, and ceiling of the tree-house-like room hold clues of Martignetti’s passions. Books about the teachings of Christ rest next to Nabokov’s Speak, Memory, which leans against several copies of Tao Te Ching, which are bookended by a stack of leather journals the author has kept over the last fifteen years. A vintage Conga drum stands next to his writing desk. Hexagonal shurikens and other ninja weapons received as gifts during his martial arts days cling to the tongue and groove paneled ceiling. A “Martignetti” store sign from the early 1950s shines down in a neon swirl over the shelves. Across the room, draped over a peg, scarred leather boxing gloves remind Martignetti of his days as a club fighter. “I stunk,” he says, “but I fought a lot—for years.” On a side table, a pad of his watercolors is open to a half finished project. Nearby, a framed photo of the author with Palmer.

“I told her she didn’t have to do that,” he says, referring to the musician changing her touring schedule to be with him. “And when I told her that, she said—That’s exactly why I’m doing it.” Though Martignetti shrugs off the health challenges he’s facing, he admits that support from close friends, and especially his wife, attorney Laura Sanford, has been crucial in allowing him to counsel patients, promote Lunatic Heroes, and begin editing his next story collection.

Support from Palmer and Gaiman may have helped draw attention to Lunatic Heroes, but Martignetti’s writing is why the book has been so well received, and recently won the interest of a leading talent agency in New York City. These are linked, vibrant tales about a sensitive child growing up in a poorly functioning family, and the problems he faces as he tries to make sense of the beauty and cruelty surrounding him. Although a memoir, the book reads like a novel, with artfully drawn characters, rich dialogue and fast pacing. Much of the focus is on the author’s youth in Lexington, his confrontations with his force-of-nature father, creative but volatile mother, and a full cast of funny and horrible characters stretching from the streets of the North End to the Maritime Provinces. The writing is fluid and natural, more like listening in on a fascinating story than reading words on a page. Martignetti’s observations about human nature sparkle throughout the book, making the old friends, torturers and rivals he conjures up as real as those in our own lives. Despite the dark turns in many of the pieces, humor lifts the mood on most pages, as does the tenderness Martignetti feels for his characters, especially the wart-covered and the damaged.

“Humor definitely comes from pain,” Martignetti says. “Sitting around that dinner table every night, knowing my parents loathed each other, and being on the receiving end of the cruelty at times—you had to laugh to survive it.” Whatever the source of the humor, the comic moments stay with the reader long after the stories end. Like the image of a young Anthony carrying a bag full of cash from the family’s store in the North End to Shawmut Bank, Nonno, his gun-toting grandfather, a few steps behind, a pistol in his pocket, ready to take down any bad guys they might encounter. Or the scenes of his mother’s ill-fated efforts to end his nail-biting habit by gluing fake nails over his gnawed real ones. The boy develops a craving for the fake nails, and the mother doles them out to him during outings to keep him quiet. In another story, the writer experiences young love, and is fascinated and horrified by its possibilities. “I had no idea what to do with her—I was a rabbit chasing a tricycle.”

Like most memoirists, Martignetti considered the impact the darker stories might have on his family, but decided long ago to “honor my family with the truth.” Even when it means revealing the ugliest moments in a family’s life? The brutal criticism he endured at his father’s hands, the punishing bait-and-switch of love his mother used on him, his own moral failings? “You can’t put something under the scrutiny of observation and not see the dark side—unless you don’t want to see it.” Maybe there’s no difference between lunatics and heroes? He laughs. “Wherever you cast light, there will be shadows.”


“You can’t put something under the scrutiny of observation and not see the dark side—unless you don’t want to see it.”


Yet, as the characters emerge, dive and resurface in story after story, we begin to see the complexities of real lives. The harsh view we have of some characters softens in places, revealing the author’s understanding of human frailties. In Joe, we meet Martignetti’s father, a loving but unpredictably critical and angry man who one night, though tired after a grueling day, finds time to pull a six-year-old Anthony on a broken sled through the snow after a long work day. Though the son idolizes his father, we hear the far off drum of disappointment he will bring his father in the future, just by being himself: sensitive, curious, creative—different than the kind of man Joe admires. The conflicts between father and son rumble throughout the book, but the tenderness we first saw in Joe reverberates even to the end: “Some folks think he messed up with me. Some think I messed up. Everybody’s got an opinion. As far as I can tell, people get stuck together in this life. Sometimes it feels like love—and there’s nothing more you can say.”

The late January light is fading through the window by Martignetti’s desk. He looks down at his watch, then feels for a silver vial he wears on a chain around his neck. He empties out a handful of pills, pops them into his mouth and washes them down. “Gotta keep the chemical warfare going.” He smiles, remembering his first day of chemo, the day before that big crowd at the Cary Hall book launch. He’d lost some vision by then, some hearing also, was in graphic pain, and possibly in a mild state of shock at the combination of events: the cancer diagnosis, the publication of his first book, and the book launch the next night. When the moment came, he looked into the hall at a buzzing crowd of old fans and friends—and new ones, he hoped—waiting to hear what he had to give them. “I said, I’m going out there even if I’ve got to wear a johnny. This is happening.”

The fight in Martignetti is palpable, in person and in his writing. He says he wants to walk the edge in his writing. “If I’m not writing about something dangerous, what’s the point?” He’s got what he needs: his wife and family, Buddhism, the boxing gloves and assorted ninja weapons, his writing, and a heart full of gratitude for the community of lunatics and heroes around him.





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Child Centered Divorce – A Model for Cooperative Co-Parents

Shawn McGivern

Shawn McGivern

By Shawn McGivern

In September 2000, TIME Magazine invited renowned sociologists and mental health professions to weigh in on What Divorce Does to Kids.

While the issue presented a balance of perspectives, what took front and center stage for readers and experts alike were the late psychologist Judith Wallerstein’s doom and gloom predictions for adult children of divorce. Based on her 25- year study of 131 subjects, Wallerstein concluded that children of divorce “look for love in strange places” and “make terrible life partner choices.”

“Expecting disaster, they will create it,” she writes. “They will delay career choices, delay marriages and likely get divorced themselves.”


Both her book and the TIME exposé drew harsh criticism. Christy Buchanan, author of Adolescents After Divorce undercut Wallerstein’s findings stating that, “There’s some good research suggesting that many of the problems attributed to divorce are actually present prior to the divorce.” Penn State Sociology professor, Paul Amato effectively dismissed Wallerstein’s predictions, saying in Time, “What most of the large-scale scientific research shows is that although growing up in a divorced family elevates the risk for certain kinds of problems, it by no means dooms children to having a terrible life.”

Twelve years later, what seems logical is that the subjects whom Wallerstein began tracking in 1971 reflected the loss that can stem from children being raised in an unhappy intact home and then being subjected to “adversarial ” divorce.

The fact is, divorce, like death, is a profound loss of possibility for the child. To him or her, it is as if a once-whole beautiful egg has been shattered into two jagged pieces.

Divorce will likely interrupt the child’s social, emotional and cognitive development. Studies show, however, that children can adjust and do better in the long-run when parents put their differences aside, work as a team, and model for the child the respect and collaborative spirit that informs a successful business partnership.

With 40-50% of marriages ending in divorce, it’s no surprise to find a plethora of literature on the how-to of divorce. For parents whose chief concern is their child’s well-being, however, some of the best thinking from judges, divorce mediators, attorneys and mental health professionals comes from The American Bar Association publications. My Parent are Getting Divorced: A Handbook for Kids and Co-Parenting During and After DIvorce: A Handbook for Parents offers concepts and codes of conduct between co-parents that aim to minimize conflict while optimizing the trust, autonomy, initiative, social interest, cognitive development, and capacity for friendship and intimacy needed in adulthood.

Tips for Cooperative Co-Parents

Kids’ fears and questions run rampant when parents separate. They may not have the language to voice their fears, but a typical interior diaglogue includes: What is divorce? Will I still see both of you? Where will I live? Will we still have enough money to do fun things? ? Am I going to have to leave my school, my teachers, my friends? This is embarrasing; what will other kids think? How will I buy Mom/Dad gifts for holidays or birthdays? If I’m with Dad on weekends, when can I see my friends?

Kids need assurance that it’s okay to be loyal to both parents. They hear criticism of Mom/Dad as descriptive of themselves. Often, when kids are exposed to parents fighting or negative comments about the other, they feel forced into the role of referree or caretaker. For this reasons, competent co-parents have disagreements in private. They discuss adult matters behind closed doors or with other adults. If and when they introduce a significant other to the kids, it’s understood that the child has input on where and when. Resilient kids are most often the product of two homes where warmth, acceptance, and open communications abide.

Language creates experience. Kids know “friends” are people who get together to have fun, enjoy the same things, laugh, and in times of difficulty turn to each other for emotional support. If you are true friends, kids already feel it . If what you mean by we’re friends is closer to “we’re not enemies,” however, try: “Divorce means that we will be living in separate houses. When it comes to major holidays, your birthday, things at school and other important events, though, we’ll get together as a family. There are going to be some changes for all of us, but one thing will stay the same forever:, your dad and I will always share our joy in watching you grown into the terrific person we knew you were the day we brought you home from the hospital.”

Family Advocate and many other child-centered divorce materials emphasize kids’ need for structure. Cooperative co-parents will ideally offer consistency in both homes with respect to times for dinner, homework, TV, internet,and bedtime.

In its Handbook for Clients, Family Advocate encourages single parents to exercise self care. When the kids are gone, make plans with friends. Join a support group. Let the housework go. Go to the gym. Take a class. Pamper Yourself . Relax.

Divorce marks the end of marriage. As Scott Peck wrote in The Road Less Travelled, however, “where there is love, there is healing.” And, with child-centered divorce, the healing can begin.


 Shawn M. McGivern LMHC

 Conflict resolution/divorce mediation

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LEXCELEBRATE! Author’s Panels March 16th






















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The Mass Memories Road Show Comes to Lexington

Get out your favorite photos and make them a part of Lexington’s history. Whether they are stored in an album, in a shoebox in the attic, or on your smartphone, the Mass. Memories Road Show allows individuals to decide what should be recorded in this chapter in Lexington’s history. What will you bring to LHS on March 16th? Polly Kienle, project coordinator, has already heard people share a long list of favourite photo subjects: prom photos, baby pictures, snapshots from book groups, and images from work!

As part of LexCelebrate! Incorporation Weekend, the Mass. Memories Road Show is coming to Lexington thanks to Kienle’s successful application. What is MMRS? Think “Antiques Roadshow” but with a wonderful public history twist… everyone is invited to bring up to three photos that help tell your Lexington story, they will be scanned (you keep your originals) and volunteers will help record your story. Your images and memories are documented as part of the history of our town and the state of Massachusetts.

Kienle confirms that the photos can be “old – new – yours – your family’s – as long as they are meaningful to you. While you are visiting, you can have your own ‘keepsake photo’ taken, and receive advice from professional archivists and historians on dating and caring for family photo collections.”

Kienle invites individuals and community groups across town. She emphasizes that, “Every resident’s personal story is a part of Lexington’s story. MMRS will bring together Lexingtonians of all ages, ethnicities and backgrounds in one place at one time. We hope that both the event and the digital archive will make our community stronger.”

Carin Casey, the 300th Anniversary Image Curator, is excited about the event: “Kienle’s idea, to combine MMRS with our town’s 300th, provides a way to connect everyone. It’s a great honor for Lexington to be selected to participate in this grant-sponsored program. She worked hard to put together an application and groups across town enthusiastically sent in support letters.”

Casey, an archivist by profession, observes: “This project gives residents the authority to set down town history. We want to see what is important to each individual. Maybe it is a special day at the Town Pool, or a graduation. MMRS is great complement to the Image Archive: it’s a one-day community event, while the Archive is a long-term virtual project. What unites them is their embrace of the 300th motto, ‘We Are Lexington’.”

“Over the course of the weekend of March 16th and 17th, the town is invited to explore Lexington’s ‘roots and branches,’” says Betty Gau, co-chair of the LexCelebrate! Committee.

“The idea is to uncover the origins of our community, and the ways we have branched out and grown into a vibrant, diverse place since 1713. MMRS is a really active, participatory way to share in this spirit of adventure and inquiry,” Gau continues.

To date, the state-wide project has digitized more than 4,000 photos and stories from across the state, creating an educational resource of primary sources for future generations. This online digital archive is available at:

The MMRS is based in the University Archives & Special Collections Department at the Joseph P. Healey Library, UMass Boston and is co-sponsored by Mass Humanities.

More information on Lexington’s Mass. Memories Road Show and LexCelebrate! Incorporation Weekend can be found at the Lexington 300th Anniversary Celebration website:

Questions about participating in Lexington’s Mass. Memories Road Show can be addressed to project coordinator Polly Kienle at

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Your Style Coach


Style Coach Karen Schiff wearing a black pencil skirt, black hose and shoes a great jacket an statement jewelry.

Stop Over-Shopping and

Start Looking Great!

By Laurie Atwater

You have an important event. You go to your closet. Staring back at you is every bad shopping decision you’ve ever made and then some. A closet full of clothes and what to wear? If you suffer from closet paralysis it’s time to confront your demons and make 2013 the year you get your wardrobe in shape!

The closet can be an intimidating place full of scary dark corners. That perfect red dress—not so perfect after all. Those gorgeous 3 inch heels—never out of the box. From eighties shoulder pads to black pants in three different sizes—we’re all in the closet about our clothes. Well it’s time to come out!

If you’re convinced that you have nothing to wear despite a closet full of clothes you’re not alone. Instead of setting out on another aimless shopping trip, try shopping a little closer to home—your own closet! But don’t go it alone.

Karen Schiff is a Style Coach right here in Lexington and she wants to help you stop over-shopping and start looking great.

Closet Therapy

A style coach makes it easy to get started on a task that you may have put off for years. Karen who is a therapist by profession has always loved fashion. She is the unofficial go-to person among her friends when it comes to pulling an outfit together for a special event. Being a professional therapist can be very helpful since for most women clothing, stlye, fashion and body image are very emotional issues. Why not work with someone trained to understand emotions?

“As clinicians we work from the inside out,” Karen says, “but when you feel like you look attractive it gives you a level of confidence and pride.” And don’t we know it. While it may be easy to scoff at the superficiality of fashion—what we wear and how we feel wearing—it affects our moods.

Don’t be embarrassed if your closet is a tangle of unused, out-of-date or over-the-top mistakes with not an outfit in sight! That’s why you hire a guru to get you through it in a non-judgmental and efficient way. Don’t want to deal with questions like: Why did you ever buy that? or Boy you spend a lot on clothes—then don’t rely on friends or family—hire an unbiased third party.

When her son left for college, Karen decided that she could take her love fashion to a new level and actually help other women out of their wardrobe ruts. “This is fun and creative for me,” Karen says. “And I love it when my clients begin to conceptualize something about themselves and find their style.”

Finding your style can be a complicated matter. While many closet-clutter books and advice manuals tell you to toss what’s not “your style” they don’t tell you how to find or build your style. According to Karen, most women have a style hiding in their closet somewhere—she helps them find it and build on it.

Diving Right In

If you’re imagining a painstaking process, think again. I talked with two of Karen’s very satisfied clients and both of them used the same word—“fun.” That doesn’t mean they weren’t nervous about exposing their closet secrets but they both agreed that it was more like a girlfriend day than a work-over by Stacey and Clinton! “The intimidation part of it for me was just agreeing to it,” Karen’s client Judith explains. “As soon as it started it was fun!”

Karen starts by talking with her clients about what they do in life and how they think about their style. When Karen arrives she asks that her clients be dressed in an outfit that they feel good about. This gives her a baseline idea about a client’s personal style.

“My way is to say, ‘I really want to know where you’re at,’” Karen says. She wants to know what you do professionally and what kind of clothing you also need for the personal side of your life—socializing with friends, drop-off and pick-up, attending Little League games or going to the gym.

She says most of her clients buy way too much and they become overwhelmed by the clothing in their closets. The process of going through every item in the closet—trying it on and evaluating it is so important to regaining control. Part of the process is being honest. As the expert in the room, Karen has to be “sensitively straightforward” with her clients. “I make sure that they are okay with that,” she says. “People appreciate that honesty. They are quite open and eager to learn.”

Still it is a process of coaching clients through a closet purge—determining what to keep and what to toss—so Karen says it can get emotional. People have all kinds of reasons for choosing particular pieces—some are sentimental, some are unrealistic, but for most clients their closet is about holding onto the past, she says. It’s her job to gives them a very encouraging little push into the future. Over time, styles change, your body changes and life changes. It can be hard to keep up for most of us!

As part of the process Karen works clients through every single item of clothing—including shoes and accessories—in their closets. “If it looks good—try it on and ask yourself, ‘Do I really love it? Will I wear it? Can it be tailored?’ If you love it and it can be tailored to fit properly—get it tailored! It can be so worth it to pay the money to have something altered if it’s not worn and you really love it,” she says.

After she goes through the closet, Karen helps her clients put outfits together from the items that remain. “Some women like to hang the outfits together; some take pictures. Women should only have what they love in their closets,” she says definitively.


Annette works in healthcare. She is petite and she recently lost quite a bit of weight. “I couldn’t figure out what to wear! What I was seeing in the mirror wasn’t matching what I thought I was seeing,” she says. She knew Karen casually through her brother. She was a little nervous about the process but has not regretted it one bit!

“She was really honest,” says Annette. “She was really helpfully honest and kind!” They went through every single item in Annette’s closet. “I threw away lots which was okay with me since I was in a purging mindset,” she adds.

Annette went into the process a little confused about how to dress her new figure. “Karen had me pull out the things that I actually liked and try them on first.”And lo and behold they discovered what Karen calls “foundation items”—a good black skirt and a well-fitting pair of black slacks. No need to buy new! Then they had fun re-combining items to make new outfits.

“It was amazing! Karen has a really good eye. I was actually quite amazed because I never put certain things together. I didn’t think about combinations of things. I’d buy a sweater and I’d buy a skirt and I wouldn’t have anything to wear with either of them.”

Karen has each client recombine different pieces and accessorize to create several looks. “She actually created some outfits that are go-tos for me now,” Annette says. And the future looks bright. “She made me feel like I can do this,” Annette replies when asked about keeping it up. As a final suggestion Karen gave Annette a list of pieces she should be shopping for to “really pull things together.”

Karen really enjoyed working with Annette. “Despite giving away a fair number of items,” Karen says, “Annette ended up feeling her wardrobe expanded which was satisfying for me.”


Judith admits freely, “I don’t love shopping.” Even so when she did shop she often had the same habit that Annette fell in to—she would buy part of an outfit. “I had a lot of things that I just wasn’t wearing,” she admits. She knew she needed help but she admits the idea was daunting. “The intimidation part for me was just agreeing to it,” she says with a laugh but once it started, “I was fine,” she says.

Judith’s closet was packed and going through every item took awhile. Judith loved the fact that Karen made it easy “to have a dialogue about ‘keepers’—she wasn’t tyrannical about it! I was shocked at how much stuff it was easy to let go of.”

The real revelation for Judith was tailoring. “My closet was full of jackets that didn’t quite fit,” she says. “Karen suggested that I get them tailored if I really loved them!” As a petite woman, Judith found that a little tailoring here and there could make a big difference. “Karen can see the shape and not just say it needs to be tailored, but how it needs to be tailored which was so helpful.”

“Once the weeding was done and Karen had a look at what was left,” Judith explains, “we had the time to put together a few outfits. Just getting fewer items in your closet helps! Working with Karen really helped because I really had to decide why I liked something and wanted to keep it.”

Karen acknowledges that Judy was anxious letting anyone into her closet. “However,” she adds, “once we got started she felt relieved to get help in recycling items she knew were not flattering. Judy had numbers of pieces that were quite nice but needed to be tailored. Fit is so important, and together we could see what a difference it would make to utilize tailoring to expand her wardrobe.”

Lighten Up & Simplify

Karen uses her trained eye to discuss scale and proportion and line with her clients which she says can be hard for anyone to master on their own. “No matter what size you are,” she says, “A good fitting pencil skirt, a nice pair of stockings and shoes with the right toe will elongate your line.” And don’t forget accessories, Karen advises, “Accessories can help to create a signature look.”

Karen says that overbuying is the biggest problem she sees and most people know they are buying too much. “It’s so easy to get sucked in to buying trends that our daughters are wearing, or purchasing the same items that worked 20 years ago,” Karen states. “Most women feel so relieved when their closet is lighter, they know what works for them and they have a plan for buying in the future.” Karen says. I want them to think, ‘that was fun, that was interesting and I learned some things so I’m not going to have to spend so much time and money to look great!’”

If your closet needs an intervention, give Karen a call! You can look forward to looking great, feeling less frustrated, saving time and money and simplifying your life in 2013!


Your Style Coach / Karen Schiff / 781.674.0013 /


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To Serve and Protect

Bruce Cleaver is pinned by his grandfather Tom Will, a 30 year veteran of the Bridgeport, CT police force.

Lexington Welcomes Three New Officers

Bruce Cleaver stood proudly in his blue uniform as his grandfather Tom Will, a 30 year veteran of the Bridgeport, CT police force, pinned the badge Bruce had worked so hard for on his chest during the Lowell Police Academy graduation in November. Bruce grew up in Lexington and is now part of the Lexington Police force. And he’s in good company. Two other new officers with strong Lexington connections graduated on the same day and are now rookie officers here in town. Jeff Chaisson graduated from Minute Man High School and lives in Lexington with his family and Kim Orr is a Lexington native.

That’s no coincidence. Through the Civil Service exam candidates are given residential preference in the selection process. The only group that receives a higher preference is military veterans. So it’s natural, especially in a town like Lexington, to see local faces joining the police force. Chief Mark Corr is a strong supporter of community policing and understands the benefits of having Lexington graduates on the force, “The average student in Lexington has gone on to an Associate’s or Bachelor’s Degree in college. That doesn’t mean you’re going to be a better or worse police officer, but in Lexington which has a highly educated community, having candidates with a college degree is certainly a good match.” And all three of these new officers fit the bill. (see Bios on facing page)

Corr says there’s also a sense of grounding that comes with being known around town. “When you put a badge on a new officer there is the potential of a little bit of superman complex. If somebody is grounded in their own community where somebody can look at you and say, ‘hey, we went to high school together,’ it helps ground people a bit.” It also gives new officers a head start in building good relationships with those they serve and protect. “If you’ve grown up in the community you know the teachers, you went shopping in the stores, it’s a lot easier for the people to be reaching out to the Police Department, and it’s easier for the Police Department to reach out. For me it’s much more fertile ground for building a relationship,” adds Corr.

Chaisson, Cleaver and Corr will get plenty of support and time to build a relationship with both the community and the force. Candidates receive a conditional offer from the town based on results of the Civil Service exam and interviews. But that’s just the beginning. There are background checks and a physical exam. Then they have to successfully complete the 24 week police academy. After graduation they immediately start a 10 – 12 week field training and policy procedure program with the department. They ride along with veteran officers and learn the ins and outs of policing policy in the department. Chaisson, Cleaver and Orr are in the middle of that training now. But it doesn’t end there. “It takes them another two or three years before they are reasonably seasoned. It’s probably five years for an officer to get a sense of the comings and goings and what to expect and to really know what they need to do when, and be very competent in that,” says Corr.

One might say they become part of the Lexington family. And that is just the sentiment Town Manager Carl Valente shared with the new officers and their families at the swearing in ceremony held in late November. “These officers are now part of our family and they’re going to spend a lot of time with us. The Chief and his Command Staff saw a level of integrity, a level of professional commitment, commitment to public service, folks who wanted to continue to learn. Those qualities are not qualities you learn at the academy or going through school. We believe those qualities were learned from you when you raised them. So a large part of the reason they’re here is because of what you’ve done is bringing them to us. So thank you because now we get the benefit of having them here in Lexington. And we hope we have you for a long, long time.”

When you’re around town watch your speed, use your blinkers and cross in the cross walks…but if you do see Officer Chaisson, Cleaver or Orr, take a minute to welcome them to the family.

Officer Kim Orr

New officer Kim Orr with her family.

“Having grown up in town everyone expects me to know all the streets, but I don’t,” admits rooky officer Kim Orr. That’s part of what makes joining the force in Lexington so appealing to her. There’s still plenty to learn. “Everything is so new. Every call you go to you pick up something new. You kind of pick up different things from everyone and design your own way of doing things.”

Kim Orr grew up in Lexington and graduated from Lexington Christian Academy in 2008. During her senior year at LCA she did a three week internship with the Lexington Police Department. She was responsible for the radio log and learned about the department worked. After that she was hooked.

“Before I decided what college to go to I knew I wanted to study Criminal Justice, “ she says. She settled on Franklin Pierce University where she played field hockey and lacrosse and pursued a Criminal Justice major. She transferred to UMass/Lowell where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice and Criminology. Another internship opportunity had her working with the National Park Service in Boston in their Law Enforcement Division. “ I got a ton of experience. They wanted me to learn dispatch. I ended up with 2 shifts a week every week. In the summer it was really busy, mostly motor vehicle and medical calls. After a while I got used to it,” Kim says it so calmly I can tell it was great preparation for what was to come.

It seems the most nerve wracking part of the process was the almost seven month wait between taking the Civil Service Exam in April 2011and hearing anything back. It was a year ago, in January 2012, that she finally heard from the Lexington Police Department and started the interview process. Once that process began Kim felt she was finally on her way, “The officers that are involved in the hiring process take a lot of time and effort. Every step along the way I was so excited.”

By the time she received her conditional offer and headed to the Academy she was ready to go. And proved herself an outstanding candidate. Kim graduated in the Top 10% of her class and took home the Top Gun Award. Maybe the second most nerve wracking part of her


Officer Jeff Chaisson

New officer Jeff Chaisson with his family.

Jeff Chaisson could have gone a completely direction in his life, and for a while he did. But he never took his eye off the prize – becoming a police officer. Jeff grew up in Cambridge, but he spent plenty of time in Lexington while he attended Minuteman High School where he studied Culinary Arts. “I always knew I wanted to be a cop,” he says, “Minuteman didn’t have criminal justice, so I studied culinary arts. But I took the Civil Service Exam right out of high school.” After Jeff graduated from Minuteman High in 2001 he continued to study Culinary Arts in college and went on to work as a cook and built his career to become an Executive Chef for Sodexo. But when he heard from the Lexington Police Department he ran from the kitchen and into the training process.

You could say he went from the frying pan to the fire.

He says he had an idea of the rigors that awaited him at the academy, “I’d heard from a lot of people that the hardest part was the academic part – learning all the laws, but it was so interesting that I just soaked it up like a sponge.” Jeff proved his to be a very effective sponge graduating in the Top 10% of the graduating class.

That would have made his great father very proud. “He was a police officer in Cambridge, I heard stories about him growing up. My parents had friends who were on the force.” Jeff remembers, “I just had such respect for what they went out and did everyday, the level of community involvement they had.”

Now Officer Chaisson has a growing family that is extremely proud of him. His wife Elizabeth nervously pinned his badge on at the Swearing In Ceremony in late November, not as confident in her role as he appeared to be in his. A good sport, she joked, “It’s a good thing he’s got his bullet proof vest on.” To which Chief Corr replied, “That’s why we’ve got the Fire Department here.” Meanwhile his adorable young son, Dylan, age 16 months practically stole the show. Too young to understand the proud course his father’s life has taken, admiring him just for being a great dad.

For now Jeff is happy to be on the force, soaking in all there is to learn. “I’m getting to know the station, the policy and procedures. It’s only my first week out on the roads, I’m keeping an open mind for all the different fields. I want to see everything.”

Officer Bruce Cleaver

New officer Bruce Cleaver with his family.

Bruce Cleaver grew up in Lexington and graduated from Lexington High School in 2006.

Although his grandfather, Tom Will, had been a police officer on the Bridgeport, CT force for nearly 30 years, Bruce didn’t grow up wanting to be a police officer. “I only really knew him as a cop from pictures and stories he and my mom told about Bridgeport,” says Cleaver, “I really got interested in college – it popped into my head and went with it. Having my grandfather as a police officer certainly inspired me.”

Bruce was attending UMass/Amherst where there was no Criminal Justice major. So he pursued a Sociology degree with a concentration in Criminal Justice. Through UMass he was able to do a full time internship in the Probation Department of Cambridge District Court. That real world experience helped him understand the relationship between the police and the courts, and those they serve. “I realized the courts give people a lot of opportunities to change and make things better. To go to prison or jail you have to screw up really badly. I saw how they try to help you make things right.”

In his own life Bruce was making all the right decisions to achieve his goal. After college he took the civil service exam, worked in related fields and kept himself in great physical shape.

When the call came from Lexington he was ready. Going into the academy Cleaver felt he was ready and had a good idea of what to expect. His biggest surprise at the academy was the amount of paperwork involved in policing. “A lot of people don’t’ realize how much paperwork there is. People think cops just ride around and solve crimes, but for every hour of police work, there’s 1 – 3 hours of paperwork.”

All that paperwork didn’t seem to phase Bruce. He not only finished in the Top 10% of his graduating class, but he found time to stay in great shape and won the “Most Physically Fit” award as well. His father Kip Cleaver remembers, “Bruce would come home from being at the academy all day and go to the gym. Even in the summer.”

Cleaver agrees with Chief Corr that being from Lexington gives him a step up in building a relationship

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Teddie: Big Dog, Big Show!

Owner and breeder Dr. Sheri Russell with Teddie James.

By Heather Aveson

Teddie James to compete at Westminster

Lexingtonians have a competitive spirit. And they tend to excel in competition. Three year old Teddie James is no exception. Teddie weighs 160 lbs., walks on four legs and wears a luxurious black and white fur coat. Teddie is a Newfoundland and the pride and joy of Lexington residents and Teddie’s co-owners Dr. Sheri Russell and Julie Patino.

“Teddie is a pretty remarkable dog. I like to say he has super secret powers,” says owner and breeder Sheri Russell. She knew he was special right from the start when she took the four-week old puppy to visit a terminally ill friend. He immediately snuggled up and licked her hands and face before settling in at her neck. The young girl opened her eyes and shared a final conversation with her family. “Every once in a while you get a special dog. He’s one of those dogs who just connects,” Sheri adds. That’s one reason Teddie is no only a show dog, but a trained therapy dog as well.

Teddie has it all; a good heart and good looks. In December he competed in the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship in Orlando, FL. He took the 1st Award of Excellence, similar to a runner up position. And it’s quite an accomplishment for a three year old to rank second out of forty-nine Newfoundlands nationally.

Next month Annisquam Light’s Perfect Gentleman “Teddie James”, his full show name, goes to the big show; The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York’s Madison Square Garden. This is the Kentucky Derby of dog shows. Once of interest to mainly breeders and owner, it’s now an event that garners national attention. And Teddie will be at the heart of it.

Julie Patino of Lexington with Teddie James (left) and his mom Ella (right).

Sheri says it takes approximately two hours to groom him before any show and hours and hours of training, nutrition, exercise and grooming before that. Although she does groom Teddie before any show, Sheri laughs off the idea that she would compete with Teddie, “We have a professional handler for that. I’m too much of a stage mom. Who knows what I’d do.”

Besides Sheri and Julie, Teddie shares his house with mom Ella and half sister Siren, who is also becoming quite a show dog. Having 450 pounds of dog, fur and drool around the house means making adjustments to the way you live. “Everything in my house was pub height. It was always a crap shoot whether a roast beef would make it or not.” Now that she’s moved to Lexington, pub style is gone but big rooms are in. “These are Velcro dogs. They always want to be where you are, but you need enough room for them to fit.”

Newfoundlands were originally bred as water rescue dogs. They are smart and extremely loving. But if you’re thinking one of these gentle giants might be right for you or your family, Sheri has a word of advice, remember they are 160 lbs of dog, fur and drool. Your commitment has to be as big as the dog.



Teddie is pictured at one of his favorite spots—Annisquam Light in Gloucester.

Thousands of people will be buying tickets to see Teddie compete in New York, tens of thousands more will watch the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show on CNBC and USA networks. But here in Lexington we can often catch Teddie, Ella and Siren taking their paces around the Green. You can’t miss him, he’s a show stopper.


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Task Force Dagger

Jack’s boat team and dive team after 90 foot wreck dive on USS Vandenberg, Jun 2012, Key West, FL. L-R standing: Team Doctor, ACDU SF, Raytheon Diver, Raytheon Diver, Wounded SF soldier, Wounded SF soldier L-R kneeling: ACDU SF, Jack in chair (quadriplegic), ACDU SF, Raytheon Diver Glen Bassett is kneeling.

Unique Group Offers Wounded Special Ops Vets Whole-Family Support and Healing

By Ana Hebra Flaster

As Jack floated in the choppy waters 12 miles off Key West, a team of active-duty and retired special operations soldiers treaded water around him, balancing him carefully before one of the men took off Jack’s mask. The team watched Jack’s face for a sign

Glen and Shirley Bassett of Lexington

that their week of work in the pool—figuring out how to stabilize his body, manage his air flow, communicating with only eye and head movements—had paid off. When they peeled off his mask, a smile spread across Jack’s face. “This is the best day!” he

said, for the first of many times that afternoon.

That’s the kind of reaction Lexingtonians Glen and Shirley Bassett live for in their volunteer work with Task Force Dagger (TFD), a not-for-profit founded in 2009 to provide assistance to wounded special operations veterans and their families.

Glen Bassett is a retired colonel and former recon Marine, so when a Raytheon colleague of his, Keith David, told him about his unique idea for a wounded warrior project that would offer exciting rehabilitative activities to veterans and their families, Bassett was all in. Other groups were stepping forward to help wounded veterans, but no other group seemed to be including families this intensely and physically in its rehabilitative work with veterans.

1.6 million veterans have served in the post 9-11 wars, our nation’s longest. Approximately 6,400 Americans have died in those wars. But wounded soldiers have been kept alive at an unprecedented rate in the post 9/11 period; an Associated Press report this fall cited a 95% survival rate. (By MARILYNN MARCHIONE 05/27/12 01:40 PM ET, However, the increase in the number and complexity of injuries requiring extensive rehabilitation is also unprecedented, and many groups have stepped in to address the needs of these returning veterans.

Dive team preparing Jack to be brought back aboard the dive boat after the 90 ft wreck dive to the USS Vandenberg, Jun 2012, Key West, FL. CW from Left: Raytheon Diver (me), ACDU SF soldier, Raytheon Diver, Raytheon Diver, ACDU SF. Jack in the middle, immobilized on backboard.

A former special operations soldier himself, David named TFD after the first special operations team that went into Afghanistan after 9/11. His goal was to offer immediate assistance to wounded or ill special ops soldiers and their families. But David also wanted to offer rehabilitative activities that tapped into the spirit of adventure so many soldiers share. And he understood that the injury to the soldier affects the entire family; he wanted to include the wounded warrior’s family in whatever TFD offered. David hoped that by experiencing challenging activities together the whole family would build new skills, strengthen bonds, and, well, have a blast as they all healed.Although TFD events include a variety of activities, much of the recreation occurs in the water, a medium that increases ease of movement for the wounded soldiers. “Water is liberating for a person who’s lost mobility or a limb,” says Glen Bassett. “They’re just…Wow! A guy missing two legs gets around great. You can put fins on prosthetics! These guys are used to doing exciting things. Now, they can dive again—or even learn to for the first time. They can do thrilling things again, and we can teach their families how to do it with them.” Family members and caregivers train along side the soldiers, and earn their diving certification in the process of learning to assist their soldiers in the water, as they themselves learn to accommodate their blindness, loss of limbs or mobility. Jack’s story is just one example of what a week of such attentive rehabilitation can mean to injured soldiers and their families.

Bassett was one of the four members of the team helping Jack get comfortable in the water again that day. Jack had suffered a broken neck in an accident during his last tour of duty, and had lost all mobility and feeling below his neck. He’d been an Air Force special operations combat diver, specializing in getting behind enemy lines and guiding aircraft with radio and lasers. Now, Jack was being guided back to a sport he’d loved before his accident. All that week, as the team practiced in the pool, Jack talked about going even deeper than planned on their 60-foot dive to the top deck of a sunken US Navy ship off the coast of Key West. The ship lay under 140 feet of water, with the top deck at 60 feet, the top of the mast at 30. The goal was to get to the deck at the 60-foot depth, if things went well.

On the day of the dive, the tail end of a tropical storm had stirred up the sea. The buoy line marking the dive site was at a 45-degree angle, the current very fast, about 1.5 knots. There were other wounded soldiers on the same dive. Jack and his team looked at each other and debated, Should we do this? But Jack was adamant. No way was he not diving. They went in.

Jack after the 90 ft wreck dive, Jun 2012, Key West, FL. His caregiver is behind him, his wife is on the right looking away.

Bassett was on Jack’s right side, another teammate on his left, another preparing to lock arms around Jack and stay face to face so he could read Jack’s eye and head signals. The fourth helper on the team would hover over the other four men to watch for any trouble. Bassett and his teammates let out their own air, then Jack’s, so they could begin to sink. With one hand Bassett grabbed the rope l

eading down from the buoy to the sunken ship. With his other hand, he held the soldier who was holding Jack.

As the team descended, the teammate reading Jack’s eyes knew when to stop to check Jack for signs that he needed to release pressure. At that signal, the helper would hold Jack’s nose so he could blow and equalize the pressure in his head. Slowly, the team dropped lower into the ocean. The pressure is greater at the lower depths, and in such a strong current, the team was going through their air faster than expected. Bassett kept a close eye on the supply.

They reached the mast, then the pilothouse of the wreck, where the current slowed a bit. Finally, they reached the top deck at 60 feet. A 6-foot barracuda hung just off to one side watching them. Jack motioned with his eyes. He wanted a better look. As the team watched the barracuda watching them, they were celebrating inside. They’d made it to 60 feet without killing anybody. Mission accomplished. Everybody was smiling. They gave the hand signal to start going up. Jack shook his head. He wanted to keep going. Now, the team realized Jack hadn’t been kidding all that week when he told them he wanted to go to 90 feet.

The men continued to drop farther down into the ocean. Finally, they hit the lower deck at 90 feet. Bassett shot Jack a look and signaled: 90 feet. Can we go up? Jack was beaming. They could begin their slow ascent now, stopping every 30 feet for five minutes to let the nitrogen bubbles out of their bloodstreams in order avoid the bends. “The whole time we were getting Jack back on the boat, he just kept talking and talking and talking. He was just so happy,” Bassett says.

The team took Jack, his wife, and his caregiver out for one more dive that week. This time, they dove in “only” 25 feet of calm water over a coral reef just off Key West. By then, Jack was totally comfortable in the water. All the team had to do was hand him off in the water to his wife and caregiver and watch as they had a great time together.

This is a unique program,” Bassett says. “Most programs focus on the injured soldier alone. But the soldiers’ caregivers and family members are a major factor in successful healing. TFD works with the whole caregiving unit around the injured soldier; it makes all the difference, and they’re all so appreciative.”

TFD operates entirely on private donations and some corporate help—Raytheon is one backer and American Airlines, which discounts the soldiers’ airfare for the event, another. Once TFD determines the number of volunteers who can attend the Key West event, they tell Special Operations Command (SOCOM) the number of injured soldiers they can host, and SOCOM selects the list for that year’s program.

This year, TFD expanded the program to include Gold Star families—families who have lost a soldier during his or her service in the military. “They’re going through a different kind of healing,” Bassett says. Some of the Gold Star families’ soldiers had trained at the Key West Special Forces Underwater Operations School where the TFD held the program’s final activities this summer. “Two of the boys whose fathers had died, had never dived with their dads. But they earned their diving certificates right there—at the same pool—that day. I’ll never forget that ceremony.”

Nor will those boys, or the many soldiers and their families who shared that moment with a group of devoted, and highly skilled, volunteers.


For more on TFD, please visit:
As we commemorate Veteran’s Day, 2012, please consider a financial donation to TFD, as it continues to help wounded special ops veterans and their families: Task Force Dagger Foundation, 5900 South Lake Forest Dr., Suite 200, McKinney, TX 75070
The Task Force Dagger Foundation was established in July of 2009 and is a federally recognized 501(c) (3) non-for-profit foundation. The Foundation assists US Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) soldiers and their families when a valid need is identified.

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Local Architect Renovates 1935 Cottage

By E. Ashley Rooney

Older homes, often built before residential building codes were put in place, have steep stairs, narrow doorways, or bathrooms only on the second floor.

Sally DeGan, A.I.A. Principal, at Lexington’s SpaceCraft Architecture, Inc.

These environments make it difficult for adults to remain in their homes as they age. Modifications such as enlarging doorway openings, increasing the width of hallways or other pathways, and adding a full bath to the first floor can make a significant difference. The Emmy® Award-winning PBS home improvement series This Old House® will feature the transformation of a 1935 cottage in rural Essex, Mass., into a universally accessible space for seniors as one of its renovation projects for the upcoming 33rd national season.This Old House general contractor Tom Silva selected Sally DeGan, A.I.A. Principal, at Lexington’s SpaceCraft Architecture, Inc. as the architect because of her listening skills and knowledge of sensible design practices. “Some of that,” according to Sally, “is knowing the different products to specify; some of it is common sense.” The house needed a significant amount of work to get “its bones back in shape.”

Once that was done, Sally and her team at SpaceCraft Architecture, Inc. added a new kitchen, a four-season porch, and master bathroom and bedroom on the first floor, all connected by an open floor plan. The doorways became wider and lost their thresholds; the bathroom became bigger so that a wheelchair or walker could be used within it; the kitchen became more user friendly, i.e., a mere touch opens cupboard doors; the outside walkway was raised and graded so it was flush with the first floor of the house, eliminating tripping hazards. When completed, the cottage will seem like anyone’s home, but the new design will allow residents to live entirely on the first floor. The cottage has another two bedrooms and a bath upstairs for grandchildren or caregivers.

Family members often worry than an older person’s own home would become unmanageable and unsafe. With the rising number of aging baby boomers, more and more attention is being paid to the increasing ranks and needs of older people. Instead of skirting around the issue of limited physical functions, architects and design professionals are accepting it and dealing with it as a design challenge. And instead of seeing the solutions as sterile, hospital-like environments, architects such as Sally are coming up with beautiful, thoughtful, and personal solutions.

Sally says, “I have experience with younger clients who suddenly have a knee replacement or a family member who has significant health problems who need to retrofit their house accordingly. There are many home modifications and services that create a safe, living environment. For example, we use lever handles on faucets and showers, encourage hand held showers in every bathroom, and build a room that can be used as a first floor bedroom, if necessary. When clients are building new houses with the traditional half bath downstairs, I suggest they add enough space so that a shower can be installed within it.”

In a user-friendly house, the goal is to increase the flexibility of the space, preparing for the unknown and creating an environment that creates useful options for how to use and function in the space. When planned to incorporate any physical changes over time, these homes will end up beautiful and enjoyable.


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Diana Taraz Performs at First Parish

Diana Taraz

Diane Taraz performs her new Civil War song sampler, “Home Sweet Home,” on October 20 at 7:30 pm in the historic 1847 structure at First Parish, Lexington Center, in a CD release concert co-sponsored by the Lexington Historical Society. Music holds collective memory and sheds light on this turbulent time when the nation was torn asunder and families, too, were bitterly divided. Brothers, cousins and lifelong friends took opposite sides in the conflict, but they shared the songs they all knew. “Tenting Tonight,” “Dixie,” and songs beloved by both North and South are in the evening’s repertoire.

Saturday, October 20
First Parish
7 Harrington Rd.
Tickets: $12.00

Dressed in period attire, Taraz evokes this dark but inspiring time. Re-enactors will be on hand adding to the atmosphere and answering questions about the life of a Union soldier. Concertgoers will get a close-up view of a diminutive, evocative original 1860s gown on display and glimpse Taraz’s recently acquired cache of actual period sheet music at this special celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.

On her new recording, Taraz has collected songs that reflect the diversity of people from all walks of life struggling through wartime. The album is anchored in the title song, “Home Sweet Home,” which captures the longing of soldiers as well as their loved ones.

The Civil War era also gives us some raucous tunes. Anyone who sang “Jimmy crack corn, and I don’t care!” as a child is welcome to join in the fun as Taraz rousts the crowd into a sing-along or two. Taraz is familiar to many as the leader of the Historical Society’s Colonial Singers. “Diane has a unique ability to tell history through music,” noted Susan Bennett, Lexington Historical Society Executive Director. “Her resonant interpretations transport us to the Civil War days.”

Taraz will bring both her guitar and mountain dulcimer, but an authentic 1860s songfest must have banjo, harmonica and jaw harp. Joining her in concert will be harmonica and jaw harp phenom Chris Turner, singer John Yannis, plus banjo man John Berger, one of Taraz’s band mates from the Gloucester Hornpipe and Clog Society.

“The history of the time is revealed,” says Taraz, “in details about the music of the era – the Union Army had 32,000 drums! – and about the songs, themselves. For example, Abraham Lincolnnsaid that music has more power ‘than a hundred generals and ‘Dixie’ was a favorite song of his.” Fittingly, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” with lyrics penned by Julia Ward Howe of Massachusetts, will provide the concert finale.

To reserve tickets call 781-862-1703. Admission is $12 ($10 for Society members).

For more information visit or

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