Castle Hill Bridge may Rise from the Flood Waters

by Lynne Ober

Castle Hill Bridge after Mother's Day Flood.

Windham Town Administrator David Sullivan wrote to Pelham’s town administrator about possible progress for re-opening Castle Hill Bridge.  During the May flooding the road leading to the bridge was severely damaged, and the bridge and road have been closed ever since.

Previously when Windham had inquired about Pelham’s plans for the bridge, selectmen authorized Town Administrator Tom Gaydos to write and tell them that Pelham had no money available for repairs.

Previously both towns had voted money that was used to design a new bridge to replace the one lane wooden span that is there now.  Both Pelham and Windham Selectmen had accepted the design.  After the state approved the design, both towns received their 80 percent reimbursement for the costs of completing the design, but that’s where the project sat until the flooding forced the closure of the road and bridge.

The bridge is more important to Windham commuters than to Pelham commuters.  With a large development going into Windham just north of the bridge, Windham Selectmen feel even more need to get the re-designed bridge built.

Gaydos told selectmen that the design, which they had accepted, did not require any taking of land by eminent domain.

Sullivan wrote in his letter, “As I understand your [Gaydos’] letter, you believe the Town of Pelham would be interested in replacing the structure as long as there is no further appropriation required by Pelham.

Given the fact that portions of the bridge as well as roadway lie within the jurisdiction of Pelham how do you envision your community providing the Town of Windham with the authorization to proceed if our board supports moving forward?  As I see it there are at least two ways to approach this:

  1. The Town of Pelham supports a warrant article to raise half of the funds needed to complete the project with 80 percent being reimbursed by the State DOT and the 20 percent town balance being paid for by the local developer.  The Town of Windham would do the same, or
  2. The Town of Pelham, through its Board of Selectmen, authorized the Town of Windham to work within Pelham’s right of way to complete the project.  Windham would raise the funds and be reimbursed by the state for 80 percent with the town’s 20 percent share being paid for by the local developer.  Under this scenario, Pelham does not need to raise any funds, but would have to provide Windham with authorization to work on and within Pelham’s land.”

Gaydos suggested that selectmen might want to consider option two with veto power over construction plans and implementation.  “Since the state is approving the design and paying 80 percent of the construction costs, Pelham would have the same protections as with other state-approved construction projects.”

Selectmen discussed the two options and their concerns.  When Selectman Hal Lynde proposed that Pelham require a traffic impact study on the Castle Hill and Mammoth Road intersection, Board of Selectmen Chairman Victor Danevich pointed out there had already been two court cases and a box full of traffic studies.  Danevich suggested that the Windham Planning Board could be asked that question.

Because of the new development going in, the developer is willing to pay the town’s 20 percent of the project to get the bridge open.  Without that bridge, commuting south is more arduous.

Selectmen reached consensus that Gaydos would work with town council on the issue of having a veto over the plans.  If that can be worked out, Gaydos will work with Windham on implementing the second option.

Veterans Treated to Special Breakfast and Heartfelt Words

by Lynne Ober

Air Force veteran Russ Ober and Retired Major Ronald Santigardin enjoy breakfast with Marine and Army veteran Bob Schweida and Principal, Dr. Dorothy Mohr.

It’s become a tradition at Pelham High School for student council members, under the guidance of adviser John Costa, to plan, organize, prepare, and serve breakfast to veterans in honor of their service to the country.

Members begin planning as soon as school starts and on the morning of the breakfast, they crawl out of bed early and hustle into the kitchen at Pelham High School.  By the time that veterans begin to arrive, the coffee is warm, the tables are gaily decorated, and good smells drift out of the kitchen.

Veterans and their families enjoyed pancakes, eggs, sausage, bacon, fresh fruit, juice and coffee – all served by smiling student council members.

Costa began the program by introducing Dr. Dorothy Mohr, Principal.  Mohr said she’d been born in France because her father was stationed there.  She thanked the students for their hard work and for getting up early to prepare breakfast and decorate the tables.

Laura Hachez read her award-winning Voice of Democracy essay to the audience.  She spoke of the importance of freedom and the cost of keeping America free.

Poetry was a theme for this year’s breakfast.  All of the poems honored veterans and the work that they do in keeping America free.  Freshman Cassie Flanders read a poem honoring veterans.  Junior Jordan Nealey read Carry On, a poem about the work of a soldier and sophomore Brittany Long also read a poem.

Senior Tim Mallard talked about the history of Veterans Day and how veterans share a love of country.  “We need to renew our commitment to those who made a commitment to America,” he said.

The last speaker was Alisha Gionet, whose brother Dan, was killed in Iraq.  She had written a poem that chronicled learning about her brother’s untimely death and how she and her family struggled with his loss.  It was a moving and touching story of her road through the loss and the effects upon her family.

Retired Major Ronald Santigardin briefly spoke.  “It’s the soldier and not the poet who gives you freedom of speech.”  He talked about how we enjoy freedoms because of the work of the military.

Editor’s note: Last March, the Hudson~Litchfield News reported in a story “In the Blink of an Eye” about the events surrounding a very sick little boy, Justin Bissett, 6, of Litchfield.  At that time, Justin had been recently diagnosed with a very rare type of brain cancer called diffuse pontine gliomas.  The peak incidence for this type of cancer (age group) is between ages 5 and 10.  Pontine gliomas are so rare that only 150 children are diagnosed with this disease each year.  While patients, who have pontine tumors have been known to improve dramatically during or after six weeks of chemotherapy and radiation therapy, the overall prognosis for children with these tumors reflects survival rates of only 12 to 14 months.

At the request of Justin’s parents, Jeff and Darlene, the Hudson~Litchfield News has followed up on Justin.

Dance Like No One is Watching/Sing Like No One is Listening

by Doug Robinson

The rain is pouring and the street is dark.  Through the front window of the rain-swept house is a light shining from the living room.  The light from the television reflects off the ceiling, against the walls and out to the street, illuminating the black driveway.  The reflection from inside the house is coming from someone who is watching television.  Justin Bissett is watching cartoons.  He is sitting upright, smiling, and laughing as he continues to watch one of his favorite cartoon shows, Curious George.  With the clicker in hand, Justin is in control. 

As Justin adjusts himself to become more comfortable on the sofa, he has to be very careful of the tubes and medical equipment strapped to his body.  He has to be careful not to crimp the hoses, or pull a hose out of one of his feeding ports.  Justin has had a port installed into his chest to assist in the administration of his medicine, and he has had a feeding tube medically inserted so that he may receive the nutrients.  He has also had a drain inserted into his head, to assist with the drainage of excess fluid which builds in his brain as a result of his brain tumor.

Eight months ago, Justin Bissett was not watching movies, nor did he go to the movies.  He could not sit up, nor could he walk.  It was New Year’s Day when Justin said “I have a headache.”  These three words were the Bissett’s the catalyst that led this family on a series of chain-linked events immediately changing their lives. 

Justin’s health deteriorated as he began to get dizzy and started complaining of an upset stomach, too.  Justin became more “sluggish, his right foot began to drag, and he favored his left arm,” recalled Darlene Bissett.  “I called the doctor and he changed his schedule to see us immediately.”

After examining Justin with these new symptoms, she was told by their doctor, “It appears like he has something in his head, the left side of his head.  He has vision problems and he has gait issues.  I would not want to hear about this if it were my child.”  

Justin was diagnosed with a brain tumor that was located in the deepest part of his brain, the brain stem.  Diffuse pontine gliomas, according to information from St. Jude Children’s Hospital, “Brain stem tumors account for 10 percent of pediatric brain tumors.  The peak incidence (age group) is between ages 5 and 10.  Pontine gliomas are so rare that only 150 children are diagnosed with this disease yearly.  Children’s Hospital of Boston reports that ‘there are no known factors or conditions that predispose an individual to the development of pontine tumors”  Surgery to remove diffuse pontine tumors “is not generally possible because these tumors are widely spread within the brain stem and can not be removed” according to St. Jude Children’s Hospital

“One day we have a healthy boy, learning his letters, and in the next day, we are told our worst fear, our son has brain cancer and it is referred to as a diffuse pontine tumor,” recalled Jeff Bissett.  These tumors affect the cranial nerves, causing symptoms relate to the nerves that supply the muscles of the eye and face, and the muscles involved in swallowing.  These symptoms include double vision, inability to close the eyelids completely, dropping one side of the face, and difficulty chewing and swallowing,” stated St. Jude Hospital.  “The tumor also affect the (side) of the brain, with resultant weakness of the arms or legs and difficulty with speech and walking.  Symptoms usually worsen rapidly because the tumor is rapidly growing.”

Following the advice of their medical professionals, the Bissetts took Justin to Dana-Farber Medical Center and to Brigham’s and Women’s hospitals in Boston for his six-week strict regiment of chemotherapy and radiation.  While adult patients who have pontine tumors have been known to improve dramatically during or after six weeks of chemotherapy and radiation therapy, the overall prognosis for children with these tumors reflects survival times of only 12 to 14 months.  Justin was so weak that he was transported to Boston for his daily doses of radiation and chemotherapy by ambulance.

Since June 2006, Justin’s follow-up treatment has been administered by the Burzynski Clinic, Houston, Texas.  “We are in touch with the clinic daily and we receive Justin’s medication from the clinic.  According to The Burzynski Clinic Website, the clinic defines itself as “the Houston Center for excellent cancer care and experimental research on targeted therapy against cancer.  Dr. Burzynski and his staff provide groundbreaking, individualized cancer treatments in a caring, positive, and very supportive atmosphere.”

The Bissetts spent three weeks at the clinic in Houston developing, designing, and learning from the medical professionals in preparation of taking care of Justin in their Litchfield home.  They learned how to administer the drugs twice daily to his pump which he wears 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  They learned how to properly clean and to properly feed their six-year-old little boy, as well as assist him with his trips to the bathroom, every four hours.  They learned the medical processes of port flushes, blood draws, equipment operation, and preparing the drugs for use.

Justin continues to have MRIs of his head every eight weeks as his progress is closely monitored.  Today, he walks with the assistance of a walker, and he, along with his parents, travels by car to Boston for follow-up tests.  “According to his blood counts, Justin’s cancer has been reduced by 45 percent.  The tumor in his brain, however, has increased in size and we now may have to consider another operation,” stated Jeff Bissett.

Justin follows a strict diet of specialized foods for his special medical condition.  “We spend about $1,000 a month on special foods which are not covered by insurance,” commented Bissett.  “I am very thankful to my insurance for picking up the $10,000 a month fee for the clinic.”

“I am also very thankful for all the help and support we have received,” continued Bissett.  “As we approach the 12-month mark, I find myself becoming more anxious and more nervous to what the doctors have told us.  We don’t talk terminal.  My wife, Darlene, daughter Casey, and I are just so thankful for this time of encouragement and support we have received from everyone.  We are continuing to fight this disease on all fronts.  It is very draining on the family … listen to me, who am I to complain … think about Justin”

Hopefully, Justin will continue to improve.  Hopefully, Justin will once again ride his bike, take a spin on his skateboard, play a board game, or throw a ball with his right hand.  “I am good at Nintendo,” commented Justin.  In the next breath, he states, “I don’t like school.  I wish I could read more.  Reading is more fun than writing.”  And just like any other six year old child, Justin can be heard, “What’s for dinner Dad?”

The values of hope and thanks are visually displayed thoughout their home in Litchfield.  The walls of Justin’s home have been stenciled with various verses of encouragement and strength:  Things in life that are important are not things, sing like no one is watching and dance like no one is watching.

And sister Casey, when she goes to bed, still recites her prayer of hope and love for her baby brother:  “Dear God, please make Justin stronger and healthier so he can get the important medicine that he needs.  Please kill that tumor so his brain will get better.  We love him so much and need him to stay with us for a long time.  Please hear our prayers, God.  Amen.”

The Bissetts have created a Website for those who wish to write and sends words of encouragement or to follow the progress of Justin.  The Website is

Don’t ‘Wattle’:  Watch for the Early Deadline

The gobblers are coming.  The gobblers are coming. 

Due to the Thanksgiving holiday next week, the Pelham~Windham News will be going to press on Wednesday, November 22.  Therefore, the deadline for submission of advertisements, articles, and press releases has been moved to Monday, November 20 at noontime.  Please plan accordingly.

The offices of the Pelham~Windham News will be closed on Friday, November 24.

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