SCARBOROUGH – Fernand Gaudreau may have been the most popular guy at the party.

A group of girls giggled and called out for “Fern” to join them for lunch. Another girl showed up with a framed photograph of the two of them together. Two boys jockeyed to help him find a spot at the lunch table.

At 90, the World War II veteran is at least 75 years older than his new friends, but they fall easily into lighthearted conversations about their lives.

Gaudreau, a resident at Maine Veterans’ Home, has gotten to know a group of 135 Scarborough Middle School students through a program launched this year to bring together two generations to learn from each other.

The school’s Abnaki Team of homeroom classes joined with residents and staff at the Maine Veterans’ Home to begin weekly visits five months ago. A different small group from the 140-student team would visit the home to socialize with about 20 residents each week.

Students and residents met one-on-one or in small groups to talk, play games, do woodworking projects or play instruments. The visits allowed students to learn about history first-hand, and allowed residents to hear how technology and entertainment have transformed.

On Thursday, students and residents celebrated the end of the school year with a talent show, barbecue and promise to see each other next fall.

Marcia Shalek, activities supervisor at the home, said the visits put “a smile on everyone’s face.”

“Our veterans are proud to be a part of this endeavor and this is their way of contributing to their community,” she said.

Teachers say the program has allowed students to better realize that the freedoms they have are partly due to the service of the veterans.

“Residents, you don’t know the deep impact you’ve had on our culture at Scarborough Middle School,” said teacher Kelli Crosby. “This is the most meaningful work we’ve ever done.”

Robbie Hatem, an eighth-grader, found veterans’ stories fascinating and said the medals and badges they showed him helped him understand how serious war was.

Abby McCormick, 14, arrived at the veterans’ home with a framed photo of herself and Gaudreau, a gift for the man she looks forward to talking with. She met him through the program and now visits him each week outside of school.

“Fern has amazing stories to tell,” she said.

Gaudreau said he looks forward to his visits with students because they remind him of his youth.

“I love them, God bless them. I like their exuberance and their liveliness,” he said. “I’ve learned to enjoy life more. I get such a kick out of them.”

Staff Writer Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

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