Thank-you to two of the greats

By Dwight Collins | Jun 17, 2015

Camden — Over the last month, Camden has lost two individuals that not only made an impact on my life, but the lives of so many others in the community.

I was saddened to learn of the passing of Walt Drinkwater and Jimmy Hall, within a few weeks of each other, however it gave me an opportunity to reflect on what these two men taught me — without them even knowing.

I first met Walt when I was 7 or 8 years old, when I was invited over to play Wiffle ball by their son Todd, who was in my class. A warming type, with a quick whit, Walt never passed up an opportunity to coach. I remember as the coach of the Tanners he would give me pointers, even though I was a Knoxer.

I had heard growing up of the Knox, Lincoln, Waldo Championship when he was in high school and Walt not only pitched a shutout, he also had the hit to win the game 1-0. In the eyes of a young baseball player, understanding he actually had that “dream game” every ball player wishes for, gave credibility to everything he said about the sport.

When I was 14, my family moved to Lincolnville down on Coleman Pond. When we looked at the house before my dad bought it, he asked me what I liked most about the place. I simply said, “the Drinkwater's camp is just a few places down the road, that's the best thing.”

Through the years, Todd and I played on some of the same teams and one constant was the encouraging voice from the bleachers or from behind the backstop. I do not remember a time where his father and his mother, Glena, were not there cheering on “their boys” on the diamond, the pitch or the hardwood.

Later in life, after I returned from the service, I would see him occasionally at the grocery store or out doing yard work and stop and talk for just a moment or two. I never realized at the time, but the phrase "it takes a village" comes to mind. I can only speak for myself, but I would bet a week's pay that I am not the only one who got that feeling when it came to Walt. As a newspaper reporter, I would also see him performing his civic duty as part of the fire department. It never failed, it was usually the worst of conditions, but he would stand there never the less because he knew he was helping someone else.

Just recently I learned of the passing of another man that taught me many things about life and its great follies. Jimmy Hall took life seriously, but never let that get in the way of a good time. I remember the first time I met him, he was selling insurance and my dad was one of the many Midcoast people that was drawn to his charisma.

Ironically, we had just moved to the house in Lincolnville and around 9 p.m. I remember my dad getting up from the couch and say, “Who the hell is here at this time?” Dad went to the door and I hear this booming voice go, “Where the hell am I? I'm lost. Oh Donnie, how the hell are you, might as well stay and chat for a bit.”

I sat and listened to them talk about how things used to be done and how much easier life was back in the day. He was bigger than life, and I was drawn to his stories like a moth to the light.

Fast forward a decade, I am an Army veteran fresh off active duty and I was hired as the receiver at Graves Supermarket, as they were transitioning from IGA. One of the first people I run into was Jimmy and I knew right then and there I would enjoy my job because when things got too much, he would wink at me give me 100 reasons why working in a grocery store has its advantages.

I have never met someone who knew so many people and at times I was amazed that he could speak to almost every customer and still manage to get the job done.

I am going to miss running into him and receiving his standard greeting of “Hello, banker Collins' boy, what is the good word?” and the same old jokes that I pretended I was hearing for the first time. I don't remember a time when his grandkids were playing a sport or displaying their musical prowess that he was not there. Jimmy was the type of guy that was not shy when it came to how proud he was of his kids and grand kids.

I believe the Latin term parentus momentus — parent at the moment — fit both Walt and Jimmy because it never really mattered to them if it was their child by blood or through proxy of their children's friendships. Both men were a great influence to many boys of the area.

I will miss both because an era has come to an end, but I will always be thankful for the impression they both made on my life.

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