SCARBOROUGH — Mary Leasure answered the door Monday morning in her bathrobe and bare feet.

It’s been a rough few weeks for Leasure, and it was a chilly 16 degrees outdoors, but she immediately felt the warmth of the Valentine’s Day surprise delivered by officers from the Scarborough Police Department.

Leasure was one of 30 Scarborough residents who received a box of chocolates donated by Len Libby Candies on Route 1 and a valentine made by local schoolchildren. All of the recipients had lost a loved one in the last two years and were nominated for the heartfelt recognition by friends or family members.

“That’s so nice,” Leasure said, smiling at her visitors with tears in her eyes. Eric Greenleaf, the town’s community resource officer, offered Leasure a hug. She eagerly accepted.

“It’s an emotional moment,” Greenleaf said later. “It tugs at your heartstrings.”

Leasure’s husband, John – an accomplished architect, singer and her favorite dance partner – died Jan. 23 at age 93.

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“For the rest of my life, I won’t have a happy Valentine’s Day,” Leasure said as the officers departed, “but I’m going to try.”

This was the second year that Scarborough police officers delivered valentines to special community members. Last year, the outreach program recognized residents age 65 and older, and the officers went by the nickname “Cupid Cops.” This year, they called themselves “Stand-by Sweethearts.”

The program was sponsored by an anonymous donor and organized by the town’s community policing division. A request for nominations was posted on the department’s Facebook page.

“This is a community-based program to build trust with residents,” said community resource Sgt. Steve Thibodeau, who wore a face mask that said Happy Valentine’s Day. Frank Plourd, a school resource officer who took part in the effort, wore a mask covered in Sweethearts candies.

“In a recent town survey, public safety got a 94 percent approval rating,” Thibodeau said. “The only criticism was that they don’t see enough of us in their neighborhoods.”

The program has proven so rewarding for police officers, Thibodeau hopes it becomes an annual event.

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“It makes everyone involved feel like they’re a part of something,” he said.

The convoy of seven officers in three vehicles left the Public Safety Building before 9 a.m. First stop was Delores Davio’s house.

“This is so nice – I’m gonna cry,” Davio said after receiving her valentines.

Davio was nominated by three community members. Her husband, Joseph, died in a car crash Nov. 19. He was 86 and had served over two decades in the U.S. Navy, including during the Vietnam War.

“He didn’t make it,” Davio said, tearful as she spoke. “He was so special.”

Nine people were nominated by the Michelle Raber State Farm Insurance Agency in Scarborough.

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“Our customers are all so important to us, and we know it’s been a tough couple of years for a lot of people in our neighborhood,” said Maria Odlin, an insurance agent. “We were so grateful when we saw the (Facebook) post by the police department and that they were partnering with our favorite local candy store.”

Odlin said she and her fellow agents were so impressed by the police department’s effort, they decided to recognize their customers outside Scarborough who recently lost loved ones. In the last several days, they delivered Len Libby chocolates and valentines to 12 additional customers in Old Orchard Beach, Westbrook, Portland and South Portland.

One customer, who lives in Westbrook, was so pleased by the gesture, he hand-delivered a bouquet of flowers to the agency Monday.

“We were inspired to take it outside Scarborough,” Odlin said. “We might do it again next year.”

In Scarborough, Stanley Gilbert was surprised to see seven police officers at his door Monday morning.

“Jesus,” he exclaimed, “this looks pretty serious. I was scared for a minute.”

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Gilbert joked with the officers as he accepted his valentines, but he also recently suffered a major loss. Janet, his wife of 53 years, a radiology technician who loved lighthouses and her family, died suddenly Dec. 29. She was 73.

“It’s been pretty lonely and quiet around here,” he said.

Scarborough Police Chief Mark Holmquist, who joined the department in December, took part in the Valentine’s Day caravan, as did Melissa DiClemente and Isaiah Jones, patrol officers, and Rob Pellerin, a school resource officer.

“These are some of the most compassionate people I’ve every worked with,” Holmquist said during a delivery break.

When the officers made their delivery to Cherie Barry, she revealed that she has lost several loved ones lately, including her husband, John, a former Portland police officer who died Aug. 31, 2020, at age 73.

“We got a call from an angel looking out for you,” Officer Greenleaf told Barry.

“Thank you,” she said. “I need it.”


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