|Wilma Johnson (left) and Wilma Stewart. Photo by Heather Spalding.
The Two Wilmas
By Holli Cederholm
Each year thousands of T-shirts featuring a graphic of the Fair poster are sold at the Common Ground Country Fair. The shirts usually arrive during the week before the Fair opens to the public – in need of folding. Wilma Johnson, of Thorndike, Maine, and Wilma Stewart, of Unity, Maine, have coordinated the sorting and folding of more shirts than anyone wants to count.
Johnson started volunteering with MOFGA shortly after the Fair relocated from Windsor to Unity in 1998. She worked as a dish washer in the Common Kitchen her first year. When she went to the bathroom she noticed a volunteer crew folding T-shirts to be sold at the Country Store and she thought, “That looks like fun.” Johnson even asked one of the women to swap volunteer duties with her, but she declined.
The following year Johnson signed up to volunteer with the Country Store and returned each year after that. She witnessed several location changes for folding shirts – from inside the exhibition hall to outside the exhibition hall where “the wind took the shirts one year” to inside a rail car were the roof leaked when it rained. “It was nothing more than we can handle you know,” said Johnson.
No matter where they folded shirts, Johnson had a good time. She said, “I meet so many nice people over there. I look forward to seeing everyone each year.”
One person Johnson counted on year after year was friend and former neighbor Wilma Stewart. Stewart confided in Johnson that she too liked volunteering at the Fair because of the opportunity for social networking: “I just enjoy getting to know so many people.”
“Wilma and I always used to be the first ones there,” said Johnson. “We didn’t fool around … well we can fool around and do a good job too.”
Volunteer coordinator Abby Sadauckas attests to the quality of the Wilmas’ work. “Wilma Johnson would bring a little pair of scissors to cut off stray threads, and they would check the shirts for stains.”
Sadauckas said, “Their contribution goes well beyond what they contributed to the Fair. What is most memorable about both of them is not only were they really amazing volunteers, but they were also incredible examples of volunteerism in the community.”
Over the years, Johnson and Stewart were involved in several of the same organizations, including the Thorndike Fire Department and the American Legion Auxiliary. Johnson also knit and crocheted hats and table savers to donate to different organizations, such as the Veterans Home in Augusta. “I can do almost anything to help out,” said Johnson.
Johnson appreciated MOFGA for its treatment of volunteers. “Someone would always bring us coffee, we would get fed a nice dinner. They even let us have a break,” said Johnson. She added with a laugh, “I never had a break in my life!”
In foreseeing her and Stewart’s retirement, Johnson said, “I don’t see how they’re going to fold shirts without us.”
Wilma Johnson, 86, died on December 30, 2009. She was interviewed for this article shortly before then. MOFGA extends its condolences to her family.