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Saint Athanasius, Scotland and Marcialonga
BETHEL – Charleen Chase grew up in Mexico, ME but worked in Oxford Hills for 32 years. Now she cares for her father in Bethel.
She recently took time to tell us about her life.
Q: When were you born and where were you brought up?
A: I was born in 1948 in Mexico, Maine. I grew up there and graduated high school in 1967 and went on to college.
Q: Did you have any siblings?
A: I'm the oldest of five children. There are three girls and then a long gap and I have two brothers. One is a special needs brother. It was a small house. I go back to the house and think, “How did we fit into this house?” I think it's helpful to actually have siblings because there are tugs of war on what's mine, what's yours, how do you share. You know that if you have a disagreement you're still going to love them the next day. My mother and father were both good parents and it was really important that we were good to each other and they taught us to share. It was a learning process.
Q: What did your parents do?
A: My father was a paper maker for 42 years in the mill. My mother worked as a receptionist for a while in the mill. She only went to work after my father had some serious health issues and was out of work for a couple years. So she was the only bread winner for a little while. And then he was okay and went back to work and she continued as a receptionist because most of the kids were leaving.
Q: What was it like growing up?
A: I was in town. It's always my favorite place to be, in the village. I was two streets up from Main Street. The old Mexico high school was at the end of the road. We could walk around and it was hilly, so we walked around the hills and to a ledge nearby. We could walk to Rumford, to the movies, at that time. I had cousins in Rumford. There was a field nearby and everyone would gather there and we'd play baseball or softball. Everyone played, it didn't matter if you were a boy or a girl. In the winter there were hills where we could slide and one family would make a little ice skating rink. When I was in sixth or seventh grade a friend of mine wanted to go skiing at Black Mountain and there was transportation to get to the mountain so I started skiing in junior high.
Q: Where did you go to school?
A: I started school at Saint Athanasius in Rumford. I was in elementary school there until seventh grade. I had a very good moral upbringing, which was true at home as well. Responsibility, caring for your neighbors and being thoughtful and being true to yourself, as well, that kind of thing. But Catholic school was difficult, it was very strict so I found it intimidating, so I didn't do well in school, I was very quiet. I was a failing student until sixth or seventh grade—I had some really good teachers those last couple of years. In the eighth grade I ended up back at the school in Mexico, up the road. Then I was an A and B student and I actually graduated high school in the top ten. I went to Thomas College for two years and then I came back to Rumford and did some substitute teaching and before I left I found out what I needed for my four-year degree so I went part time at the University of Maine at Farmington.
Q: What have you had for jobs?
A: I got a job at the mill for four years in production planning. I quit in April of 1973 and started looking in the newspaper for community service organizations. I had saved some money which ran out because I didn't find a job until September. I found some things in the yellow pages and called some community service organizations and I found out there was a position open in Head Start in Oxford County and told me who to call. I came over for an interview and my education with Thomas College was Executive Secretarial Sciences. They had two jobs, a secretarial job that fit my skills and a job for HeadStart director. I told them I wasn't qualified for director, but they told me to apply, and I got the job. I was there for 32 years. Now I'm on the Oxford Hills Scholarship committee. There's a lot of people here in this community that believe that it's important for students to go away from here for school. I left Community Concepts in 2007. Right now I'm exploring what I might do to contribute my abilities and skills again.
Q: Have you done much traveling?
A: I've been making an effort to get to the state parks in Maine and one I hadn't been to was Cobscook Bay so I went there are a couple years ago. I've also been to Scotland five times, my family is from Scotland. I just got back recently from Italy. My partner, Carlie Casey is a cross-country ski official, it's called a technical delegate. For the first time he received a European assignment that somebody didn't want. We went to the Alps and he officiated the Marcialonga, a marathon cross-country race. In the Alps there was no snow. All there was, was a ribbon of snow from village to village. We rented a car in Rome and drove up and we were there for a week and we stayed in Rome for a week. WE were about a block and a half from the Trevi Fountain and the last few days we were there they got snow. They hadn't had snow since December 1985 so the city stopped for three days.
Q: What would you like people to know about you?
A: What I find important is that I'm led by my heart. I'm a huge feeler, I care very deeply about people. Also, I'm one who has a commitment to doing the right thing. I have a big heart. I have a vision of the way I believe things could be better and I am dogged about following through and making a plan, even it's just me, to make something better. I'm never satisfied with doing it just a little bit.