Townsend lost someone whose contributions to the town were larger than life this week with the death of Roy Shepherd.
A sign in Townsend Center says “Thank you, Roy,” saying in 6-inch letters something that carries a mountain of sentiment.
Roy’s contributions date back many decades but all had one thing in common: The well-being of Townsend. In interviews past, he talked about his service on the town’s early ambulance squad, which he referred to as “scoop and screw,” meaning, of course, to pick up the patient and get to the hospital fast.
We recall a meeting with selectmen where he, together with Jean Taubert and Jim Taubert, pushed for an advanced life support service, one that would bring more advanced treatment in ambulances. It was a lofty goal and ahead of its time. But Roy saw its value, defended it on many Town Meeting floors and saw it through.
When Roy Shepherd spoke at a meeting, people listened.
Among the many things for which he was known was his sense of humor. Fellow Townsend Harbor resident Marilyn MacEachern used to tell a story about Roy and the brick steamer. When Marilyn first moved to Townsend Harbor, Roy, she said, told her about a brick steamer that traveled along the Squannacook River each day at 5 p.m. The following day, she dutifully arrived at the harbor to see the ship. It never came. Roy had the last laugh since, 1. Townsend Harbor is not actually a harbor, and 2, a ship made of brick is unlikely to travel far. The trick Roy played on Marilyn brought her considerable delight over the years that followed.
Folks in Pepperell may remember Roy as “Uncle Sam,” as he walked in that town’s July Fourth parades. His tall, gaunt figure and white beard suited the part perfectly. And anyone locally with a snowblower, lawn mower and such knows Shepherd Sales & Service in Townsend Harbor.
Anyone in the area associated with Townsend’s emergency services and mutual aid knew Roy well. Working in town, and serving for many years as ambulance director, Roy could be counted upon to respond when the tone sounded.
Such were Roy and wife Nancy’s contributions to the town’s seniors that the town’s new Senior Center was named in their honor, the Roy and Nancy Shepherd Senior Center. Roy also received the William E. May Endowment Fund Award in 2004 for outstanding service to the town’s senior population.
Every town should have a place where the significant contributors to a town are chronicled. Towns don’t take the direction they do in a vacuum. A town is guided by the actions of its residents.
Most towns do have books chronicling their distant past, but later contributions are just as important.
We recall a line in the most recent remake of “Titanic” where an elderly Rose Calvert recalls the young man she met, loved and lost on the Titanic. “He exists now only in my memory,” she said.
Such is not good enough for people like Roy Shepherd.
News reports this week carried the story of a war veteran and his service dog who were thrown out of an Oxford, Mass., restaurant by the owner who said the “service” dog was fake.
When the restaurant owner was told that the 21-year Air Force vet suffered from PTSD and the dog provided comfort when he needed it, the owner reportedly asked, sarcastically, how much comfort he needed to eat breakfast.
PTSD is a difficult illness not only because of its horrific symptoms but because it is invisible to all but the victim. Whether the vet, James Glaser, would suffer one of many sometimes debilitating symptoms that come with PTSD as he ate is impossible to tell.
What is shameful is that the restaurant owner had so little empathy for a fellow man, that he took it upon himself to call the man a liar and throw him out of his restaurant. The shame of the act is only exacerbated by the fact that the man is a veteran.
PTSD is afflicting many of the military men and women coming home from war, and its symptoms can be horrific.
Just as we stand by those whose wartime injuries we can see, we, too, must stand by those whose injuries are invisible to us but all-too-present for those who suffer.