Oscar Winner Speaks at Harbor Days Festival – Sippican Week

Note: This article ran in print in the July 24 Edition of Sippican Week. The original online version can be seen here.

Mattapoisett — Ernest Thompson, the Academy Award-winning screenwriter of the 1981 classic “On Golden Pond,” spoke and answered questions before the movie was screened for the Harbor Days Festival crowd on Saturday night.

The Mattapoisett Lions Club hosted the showing, which followed the annual lobster dinner at Shipyard Park. His wife Kerrin is a Mattapoisett native. Thompson brought his Oscar and allowed guests to pass it around and take pictures with it.

“If you’ve ever wanted to make an Oscar acceptance speech, here’s your chance to do it,” Thompson joked.

One audience member asked about Thompson’s Oscar acceptance speech. He said that he had prepared one, but promptly forgot it when he got on stage.

“When you’re suddenly standing up on that stage, knowing that there is 70 million people watching you around the world, it’s hard to even remember what your name is,” he said.

Thompson started his career as a playwright. He wrote the play “On Golden Pond” at age 28 and acknowledged that was his breakthrough moment, noting the production company had faith in him to adapt it into a screenplay.

“I was really lucky that they let me adapt it because I was an unknown writer,” Thompson said. “I assumed they had some Oscar-winning writer waiting in the wings.”

The movie tells the story of Richard and Ethel Thayer (Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn), an elderly couple who spend their summers on Golden Pond.

Their estranged daughter Chelsea (Jane Fonda) visits them and introduces her parents to her fiancé, Bill (Dabney Coleman) and his son Billy (Doug McKeon). Richard and Ethel agree to take Billy in for the summer while Chelsea and Bill leave to have time to themselves. The movie follows the developing relationship between Billy and Richard – at first distant and brusque, then as the two bond over their fishing adventures, they become close. Chelsea, upon her return, notices this and is envious of Billy for his bond with her father that she never had.

One guest pointed out that the relationship between Richard and Chelsea is similar to the one Henry Fonda had with his daughter Jane Fonda. Thompson replied that the Fondas chose to work on his movie for that very reason.

“Jane immediately saw it as a chance to bond with her dad. They had an extremely tumultuous relationship all of their lives,” Thompson said.

When asked how he could create such a diverse group of memorable characters for his story, especially the elderly Richard and Ethel Thayer, at such a young age, Thompson said: “I get asked that a lot: ‘How can someone so young know so much about old people?’ I just use my imagination. I’ve written scores of films and that’s what artists do. It’s like asking Picasso why he put the two eyes on one side of the nose. It just occurred to him to do it.”

Beyond his imagination, Thompson’s stories come from his own life experiences.

“My fear. My joy. My excitement. My insecurity. I just graft them onto other characters,” he said. “I just assume that our life conditions are the same for anyone no matter who they are.”


Marion Resident Celebrates 100 Years of Life – Sippican Week

Note: This article ran in print in the June 19 Edition of Sippican Week. The original online version can be seen here.

Marion — If you ask Marion O’Connor what it takes to live to be 100, she might tell you that all you need is a positive attitude and a glass of Andre Cold Duck champagne every now and then.

Cheer and humor, hallmarks of O’Connor’s life, were evident during the course of her birthday celebration, as guests laughed and took photos with her on June 13.

“She’s always in a good mood,” said Patricia Normand, O’Connor’s daughter.

Born June 14, 1914 in Jamaica Plain, the 100-year old O’Connor celebrated her birthday at the Sippican Healthcare Center. She was surrounded by her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, friends, healthcare staff, and well-wishers.

Through her life, she was an avid tennis player (where her competitive side would come out) and loved taking long walks with her dogs. She worked for many years in the foreign currency department of a Boston bank.

She moved to Marion 11 years ago after her husband passed away. Here, she continues her long walks, searching for conch shells at the local beaches.

O’Connor’s devotion and love for her daughter, grandchildren and great grandchildren stood out the most, family said.

As the celebration continued, her family recalled stories that painted a picture of O’Connor as a playful, loving mother and grandmother, giving O’Connor herself a few laughs as well.

“When I was young, I remember her as my playmate,” Normand said in a speech at the party. “We would go to Boston to ride the Swan Boats, go to lunch, to Filene’s Basement, then to Bailey’s for a big hot fudge sundae.”

Her eldest grandson, Ron, remembered his grandmother’s generosity at Christmas.

“We’d open all our gifts on Christmas. Then my grandparents would come down from West Roxbury around 11 a.m. or 10 a.m. that morning. It was exciting because we knew more gifts were on the way!”

“You know how grandparents are,” said Elizabeth, the youngest granddaughter. “They love to spoil their grandkids.”

Even after 100 years of an active O’Connor isn’t slowing down. Healthcare center staff said she is very involved in the day-to-day activities.

“Even though Marion’s 100 years old she doesn’t just sit in her room all day,” said Activity Director Anne O’Connell-Bishop. “She gets dressed, cares about her appearance, and comes down to activities every day. She socializes with her peers and participates in all of the activities.”

Other than enjoying a glass of her favorite champagne and her upbeat nature, O’Connor’s secret to longevity may be her competitive nature.

“My mother is still so competitive,” Normand joked. “There’s another man here who’s 104 years old. She’ll live to 105 just to beat that!”

Planning Board denies contentious request from development – Sippican Week

Note: This article was originally printed in the June 3 Edition of Sippican Week. The online version can be seen here.

Mattapoisett — The controversy surrounding an amendment to the Brandt Point Village housing development was resolved Monday night with the Planning Board denying the development’s request.

In 2006, the Planning Board approved a proposal from the Brandt Island Realty Trust for a 41-house development off of Brandt Island Road. The permit, as initially given, allowed for the construction of two- and three-bedroom houses for a total of 90 bedrooms.

The developer recently submitted a request that would give every home three bedrooms to meet a change in market demand, said Trust attorney John Williams.

While the footprint of the house would not change, Williams said that many buyers would use a room designed as an office or a den in the two-bedroom houses as an extra bedroom anyway.

The increase in the number of total bedrooms in the development, from 90 to 123, would require an increase in the size of the septic system, which has already been installed.

Several abutters complained at the board’s May 19 meeting, saying that the existing septic system and construction had already caused the water table to rise, affecting their wells.

“The aquifer was definitely changed when the lots went in,” Geoff King said at the prior meeting. “You’re putting a larger system in the ground. It’s going to affect it again.”

Neighbors also said runoff was causing flooding on adjacent properties.

On Monday, the board voted 3-2 to deny the developer’s request to increase the number of bedrooms. The board reasoned that the existing drainage and runoff issues would only be further aggravated by a larger system. In addition, the board noted that more bedrooms would mean more residents and traffic in an already dense area.

“I feel it was sufficient to have 90 bedrooms in this dense area surrounded by wetlands,” said board member Karen Field.

Planning Board Chair Thomas Tucker said the developer could have reduced the number of houses and made them all three bedrooms while remaining within the permit limits.

“I gave him (the developer) an option. Thirty three-bedroom houses. Go with 30 and get the 90 bedrooms. He didn’t want that option,” said Tucker. “We did everything based on 90 bedrooms and after the fact he stated that two-bedroom homes don’t sell. Why even make two-bedroom homes? He never answered that.”

Tucker pointed out that the board hasn’t taken anything away from the developer, saying the trust can still build the homes with the previously approved 90 bedrooms.

“He asked for 90 back in 2006. He still has 90. We didn’t take anything away.”