Meet MOFGA Volunteers Eva and Paul Murray
By Betsy Garrold
Eva and Paul Murray certainly personify the community spirit that keeps every small community in Maine functioning. As residents of Matinicus Island, they are the quintessential embodiment of the “can-do” and “we’re-all-in-this-together” ethos of rural living — a fact that made itself apparent when I tried to set a time to interview them for this article. On the evening finally agreed upon there was a delay as Paul got called out to fix a problem with the phone system on the island. At last, we got to chat.
Eva moved to Matinicus Island in 1987 to teach school, fell in love with the local master electrician, Paul, and settled in to build a life in this small island community. Together they raised two children there and became, from all accounts, an integral part of Matinicus Isle Plantation.
It has not always been an easy and idyllic life. From surviving a plane crash (Eva) to receiving the Carnegie Medal for heroism for helping rescue a crew from a sinking construction tugboat (Paul), their lives can go from quiet to dangerously adventurous in moments. Rural communities stick together, and as Paul says, “if someone is in trouble on the water you help them.”
For many years they had been going to the Common Ground Country Fair, camping along the tree line at the Windsor fairground. When they were encouraged to volunteer at the Fair they started out as generalists, trying their hand at everything from parking cars to face painting to participating on the safety team. When Steve Plumb discovered that Paul was a master electrician, Paul transitioned to helping set up and maintain the Fair’s electrical grid.
Paul says the electrical work at the Fair has gotten a lot easier over the years due to innovations from the group of dedicated electricians who work at the Fair. In the past, some of the food vendors had to be directly “wired in” to the grid for the weekend, but they now have access to plugs. Now on Sunday night the vendors can just unplug and go.
Eva is content to work as a generalist and pitches in with a variety of tasks. “I like to keep my fingers in a lot of pies,” she says. Eva is a member of the emergency medical team and has worked on the safety team. Fairgoers might know Eva from her role introducing keynote speakers and making public service announcements over the loudspeakers at the Fair. For each role, she keeps an eye toward good communication and safety for Fair attendees.
When asked what advice they might have for future volunteers, they both recommended going into the volunteer experience with an open mind: “Don’t think of a specific thing you would like to do but think about what the Fair might need done.” Many hands make light work, and it might be something as unglamorous as standing by the trash cans helping folks get the right bit of recycling, compost or garbage into the right container.
When the Murrays return to their island home after their week helping set up and break down the Fair to continue their essential work keeping Matinicus running, I think we can all be thankful that they take a brief hiatus each year to be two of the cogs that help the Common Ground Country Fair community function.