It’s been a year since Toby Pennels’ death, but the Windham community has refused to forget the Casco-based financial adviser, Iraq War veteran and civic-minded volunteer.

With another blood drive held in his honor this week, and road improvements at the Windham Veterans Center scheduled to be done in his name before the end of this month, friends, family and former business associates have continued their efforts to commemorate Pennels’ life at the first anniversary of his death.

Pennels, 55, died on Sept. 4, 2014, after suffering severe injuries from a motorcycle accident near Rangeley. A president of the Windham Veterans Association, past president of the Sebago Lake Rotary Club, chairman of the Sebago Lake Ice Fishing Derby and past chairman of the Windham-Raymond school board, Pennels devoted much of his time to public service and became friends with people in different sectors of the community.

Pennels’ life and his dedication to community service have been commemorated with three blood drives, a 5K race, a scholarship fund, moments of silence and “Toby’s Dream,” a fundraising campaign for the Windham Veterans Association.

When Pennels became president of the Windham Veterans Association, he set out to resurrect the group’s flagging finances. Key to the effort was his plan to pave the Windham Veterans Center’s bumpy dirt access road and parking lot behind the Windham Mall, which, he believed, would increase hall rental income and help the veterans organization keep up with its bills. Upon assuming the association’s presidency in summer 2012, Pennels established a paving account.

The paving account had accrued about $4,000 by September 2014, when Pennels died. The goal of the Toby’s Dream campaign was to raise that total to $50,000 to pave the access road and parking lot.

Pennels’ wife, Brenda, said more than $60,000 was raised for Toby’s Dream. The paving will take place before the end of September, according to Don Swander, the association’s president from 2005-2012 and a leader of the effort.

“I’m just elated,” Swander added. “There were a lot of naysayers when I said I wanted to raise $50,000. A lot of people saying, ‘You’ll never be able to make that.’ ”

But Swander and Brenda Pennels organized events such as the Toby’s Dream 5K road race at Windham High School on Memorial Day to boost the fundraiser. In April, Windham’s Shiba Haddadi, 12, and Brooklynn Hennigar, 10, walked door to door in the Albion Road neighborhood, selling Easter baskets filled with candy, coloring books, stuffed animals, Easter eggs and other items, raising money for Toby’s Dream.

Emily Wainwright, who works for Metayer Family Eyecare and has helped to organize two blood drives in Pennels’ honor this year, said she didn’t know Pennels well, but was driven to help anyway.

“I had met him a handful of times but he did a lot of charity, a lot of community stuff, and I just respected that a lot,” Wainwright said. “I’ve gotten to know his wife since he passed, so I love helping her out on these little things.”

Brenda Pennels said she was grateful for the community’s efforts to commemorate her husband.

“I’m proud that everybody has really rallied behind everything that was important to Toby, particularly the events that took place at the veterans center,” she said.

Casey Alexander, a collections technician with the American Red Cross, prepares to draw blood from Pam Varney during a drive held in memory of the late Toby Pennels on Wednesday at the North Windham Union Church. Pennels’ wife, Brenda Pennels, looks on. It was the third blood drive held in Pennels’ honor since his death in a motorcycle accident a year ago.Staff photo by Ezra SilkToby Pennels


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.