December 21, 2012

Bill Nemitz: Deep thanks to the pillar of West End

By Bill Nemitz bnemitz@pressherald.com
Columnist

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Besides publishing the West End News, Ed King also distributed free copies of the Munjoy Hill Observer. In this Nov. 2 photo, King ceremoniously hands over the distribution of the Munjoy Hill Observer to his son, William King. Ed King moved to Russian on Nov. 5, but has returned to Portland to battle serious health issues.

Photo by Liz McMahon

Then, behind this darkest of news, lights began to flicker.

Eric and Betsy Handley, friends of McMahon's family, were leaving for a month-long trip to Hawaii shortly after King and McMahon arrived back in Portland. The Handleys offered the couple their condo on Munjoy Hill – its picture window looks out over the surrounding rooftops at Casco Bay.

A Facebook page titled "Liz and Ed, we love them!" has 192 friends and counting, most chiming in with their fond memories of King and McMahon and, of course, their prayers.

As of Thursday, the "Ed King Emergency Fund" on the fundraising website gofundme.com had drawn $11,873 from 187 donors. The goal is $20,000. (Considering that King has no health insurance, the money will come in handy.)

And on Saturday evening, Empire Dine and Dance, at 575 Congress St., will host "A Carnival of Support for Ed King" – one of several such affairs planned by Portland's arts community over the next few months.

In the middle of it all sits one amazed – and uncharacteristically dumbstruck – Ed King.

A pillar of his community? Beloved by so many? Who knew?

Sure, people scoured the West End News for its weekly "Dumpster" column that chronicled whoever and whatever crossed King's path day after day.

And they chuckled at the paper's regular centerpiece – a cartoon map of the Portland peninsula (one of King's countless creations as a professional cartoonist) complete with balloon-captioned snippets of street-corner conversations he'd overheard in his travels.

But King also took pride in ruffling feathers – the higher up the political totem pole, the better. Now, even to his oldest adversaries, that's no longer what matters.

"His commitment to this community and his commitment to the West End being a stronger place is as deep as anyone's I know," said Ethan Strimling, CEO of Learning Works and a frequent target of King early on. "And I've always appreciated that about him."

King can't make it to Saturday's benefit – he's worried about "picking up something in addition to what I've already got."

Besides, he added dryly, "I'm trying to cast as few palls on as many holiday parties as possible."

Still, regardless of where this unexpected turn takes him, it feels like a good time to thank the man who started his own newspaper not to save the world or achieve any of those other lofty goals that we journalists are so fond of talking about.

"I was in it basically to keep from starving to death," King insisted. "It was purely to make a living."

Fair enough. But let the record forever show that Ed King, a local newsman if ever there was one, single-handedly connected his West End neighborhood with the city that surrounds it.

And in the process, he's enriched both.

——————

An update from the other end of the Portland peninsula: The Munjoy Hill Mothers Club's annual Christmas party for needy kids is back on track.

Linda York, who struggled this year to keep the club afloat after the death last year of her mother (and club founder), Marie Trott, said last Friday's column on her dilemma prompted scores of people to come to the rescue – and then some.

"We got more than $3,000 in toys and donations," York reported.

That was enough to put a present in the hands of every child who attended the party on Saturday, "adopt" three needy families on Munjoy Hill who faced an anything-but-merry Christmas, and open a bank account for next year's party.

"I could feel my mother's presence the whole day," said York. "She was right there at my side."

To all who stepped up, York can't thank you enough.

Nor can I.

Bill Nemitz can be contacted at 791-6323 or at:

bnemitz@mainetoday.com

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