GORHAM – Recovering from an accident that nearly claimed his life, a longtime Gorham political figure is thanking the community for its massive number of well-wishers.

Burleigh Loveitt, 65, has been at Maine Medical Center in Portland since Feb. 16, where he’s undergone several surgeries to repair damage caused when a huge tree smashed down on his leg, nearly severing it.

“The tree landed on my right leg and nearly cut it off,” Loveitt said by telephone from the hospital Tuesday.

A hospital spokeswoman said this week Loveitt’s condition is now listed as satisfactory.

Loveitt, a semi-retired veterinarian and a Gorham native, served many years on the Gorham Town Council with several terms as its chairman before stepping down in 2010. Active in town government since 1975, Loveitt retired to spend more time with his wife Deborah, a retired Falmouth Middle School principal, and their three children and three grandchildren.

The accident occurred the morning of Feb. 16, when Loveitt, accompanied by his brother Peter, was cutting wood on his property with a chain saw.

“It was a big ash tree down in the woods,” Loveitt said.

As it toppled, the tree split.

“Four-thousand pounds of tree came shooting at me,” Loveitt said. “It hit my helmet and knocked me down.”

Loveitt said his brother rushed to get his chain saw to cut the tree off his leg.

“I was bleeding like crazy, my chaps were filling with blood,” Loveitt said.

Using their belts, he said, his brother applied a tourniquet and called for help.

“My brother saved my life,” Loveitt said.

He lauded Gorham police and rescue personnel for their quick action. The rescue was prompt, “on the spot,” he said.

Loveitt’s surgeries to repair extensive leg damage have included a plate attached to his thigh bone, bone chip removal, repairing tissue damage and closing a large, lower-leg wound.

Loveitt has received hundreds of get-well wishes from residents and clients.

His wife posts updates about his recovery on a website, www.caringbridge.org, which has been visited by thousands of Gorham friends, town leaders and residents.

Loveitt’s page had 3,829 visits as of 7 a.m. Wednesday and the number was rising steadily.

“We continue to count the blessings of our friends and family,” Deborah Loveitt posted on March 2.

Brenda Caldwell, chairwoman of the Town Council, said before Tuesday’s council meeting that Loveitt has meant a lot for this town. “Hundreds of people have responded,” she said.

“You are one in a million,” one well-wisher posted in a message, while also seeking advice about a newly acquired cat that was staying under the bed.

As a councilor, Loveitt was known for his quick wit and down-home quips. When he retired from municipal duties, the Gorham Town Council named its chambers in his honor.

“Burleigh was involved in so many important issues that benefited the town,” Town Manager David Cole said Tuesday. “I wish him the best and a speedy recovery.”

Loveitt was instrumental in getting the Bernard P. Rines Bypass built, which opened in 2008 and eased decades of downtown traffic congestion.

“Burleigh has clearly done a great job for the citizens of Gorham,” Police Chief Ronald Shepard said.

“Burleigh was my mentor,” Town Councilor Matthew Robinson said, and Town Councilor John Pressey, although he was elected after Loveitt stepped down, said, “I know he has given a lot to this town – his time and energy.”

“No person since Frederick Robie built the Gorham Normal School 135 years ago has done as much for the town of Gorham as Burleigh Loveitt has with his years of selfless service,” Rodney Quinn, American Journal columnist and Gorham historian, said this week.

Loveitt had his first wheelchair ride in the hospital on Feb. 29. A website posting this week said Loveitt was experiencing nerve pain.

“He works hard to show a good side, even though he’s in pain,” the Rev. Dan Lakeman of South Windham, a friend of Loveitt’s, said Wednesday morning before leaving for the hospital.

Lakeman is receiving numerous calls inquiring about his friend. “A lot of people are praying for him,” Lakeman said.

Deborah Loveitt said there is no specific long-term prognosis.

“The goal is to get him mobile and as free of pain as possible. We have no idea how long rehab will take at this point,” she said.

“In the morning when I come in I read him the messages from the guest book and he really enjoys hearing from folks. He and I both are so amazed at all the responses this site has elicited,” she wrote on a March 1 posting. “I have always known that Burleigh’s impact has been wide and deep, and has reached so many people, but I think he is only now beginning to see this himself.”

“The town’s people have humbled me,” Loveitt said Tuesday. “How humbled I am by the kindness of citizens.”

Burleigh Loveitt of Gorham has received hundreds of get-well wishes from residents and clients of his veterinary practice since a near-fatal accident put him in the hospital Feb. 16. (File photo)

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