Community champs honored at National Night Out

Karlo Salminen and his late wife, Carolyn, were named this year’s Community Champions last week, and the town memorialized Carolyn by planting a lilac bush. (Photo by Courtney Lamdin)

If a stroll past the Milton town offices soon comes with the sweet, heady scent of lilac, thank Carolyn Salminen.

The longtime Milton resident who died of cancer this spring was posthumously honored with the planting of a municipal lilac bush a week after she and husband, Karlo Salminen, were named Milton’s Community Champions of 2017.

“It’s an honor,” Karlo said Monday. “I wished Carolyn could have been here to share it with me in person, because in spirit I know she is.”

Beloved in the community, the couple was celebrated for decades of service to the town, manifest in everything from musical performances at nursing homes to Karlo’s mowing of the grassy corner between Route 7 and Railroad Street extension, an impromptu Green Up Day task that evolved into 15 years of summer caretaking.

“That’s because I was brought up to just not walk away from something,” Karlo said.

An independent committee bestowed the award for the third time last Tuesday at National Night Out, an annual event promoting community partnerships with public safety departments, particularly police.

The carnival-like atmosphere included live music, face painting, concessions, safety demonstrations and a chance to dunk local figures like MPD Officer Matt McQueen in a tank of water. With Tuesday’s temps topping 87 degrees, though, the frequent dips were likely a welcome reprieve.

Last year’s NNO saw the Salminens and their pup, Roo, posted on lawn chairs in a shady spot, catching up with the countless friends they made over 48 years as Miltonians – both retired teachers, Carolyn from Milton Elementary and Karlo from Georgia Middle.

And in 2014, Karlo and Carolyn were truly in their element: on stage – albeit a makeshift one in the municipal parking lot – belting out their favorite oldies as Bobby and the Retrotones, a cluster of seniors swinging in time to the melody.

Those are the memories Karlo treasures of Carolyn, his companion for 50 years. The lilacs are a fitting tribute, as purple was Carolyn’s favorite color, often showing up in her attire, famously fabulous earrings or a dyed swatch of her cropped white hair.

Thick, full lilac bushes also dot the Salminens’ Cherry St. property, their perfume distinct and enjoyable to front porch revelers.

“I really miss doing things with her,” Karlo said.

Those things were varied but all enriched the town, organizers agreed. Whether leading PATCH, Milton’s monthly networking group at New Life Christian Fellowship, coaching youth sports or facilitating a support group for families of people with mental illness, the Salminens served others based on their own experience and interests.

Quinnlan Kittson received a top Boy Scouts of America honor for saving his friend’s life earlier this year. (File photo by Courtney Lamdin)

“We did what we did because we were passionate about being involved,” Karlo said. “We didn’t purposely think of it the night before or wake up in the morning and say, ‘Now what can we do for the town today?’ That’s not the way we operated.”

Instead, service came naturally, especially to Carolyn, who was a kind and patient listener, her impact especially felt on other women who confided in her, Karlo said.

Since Carolyn died, Karlo continues his own community service, but differently. He still mows the corner and runs the support group, but he’s hesitant to sing for seniors again without his partner.

Now, the Salminens join three other townspeople previously honored as local champions: Maggie Trayah and Ted Beaudoin each earned the inaugural award in 2015, Trayah for her work with Special Olympics and Beaudoin for starting Milton’s Meals on Wheels program in 2000, among other volunteer undertakings.

Last year, Bill Kaigle was recognized for his membership in numerous groups and efforts, including the Stannard House restoration project, Milton Historical Society, Milton Artists’ Guild and Milton Cub Scouts.

The latter group played another role in last Tuesday’s festivities when one of their own was recognized with a National Medal of Merit by the Boy Scouts of America: Quinnlan Kittson, an incoming sixth-grader in Milton’s Cub Scout Pack 43, earned the decoration for saving his friend’s life this April.

Then, Quinnlan heroically held on to his 11-year-old friend, Hannah, when she fell into a septic tank outside her home in Albany, Vt. As Hannah was pulled into the icy sewage, Quinnlan kept her from slipping deeper until adults could rush outside.

Milton police honored him for his actions several weeks later with a Citizen Lifesaving Award.

Mi’Sean Graham was also honored for his lifesaving actions last fall, when he performed the Heimlich on his choking friend. (File photo by Kaylee Sullivan)

The District Green Mountain Council nominated Quinnlan the Honor Medal, and the boy earned the third highest award a Scout can receive, his mother, Tabatha Kittson, said.

Presented by Scout leaders last Tuesday, Quinnlan’s latest accolade was approved by BSA’s National Court of Honor. A new medal pinned above the left pocket announces his “notable act of service,” which put Scouting skills and ideals into practice at a critical time, BSA says.

Milton youth can count yet another lifesaver among their ranks in Mi’Sean Graham, another incoming sixth-grader also recognized at NNO for his heroics.

Last September, Mi’Sean performed the Heimlich maneuver on his friend Liam Ryan when Liam began choking at lunch in the MES cafeteria.

Mi’Sean never formally learned the lifesaving procedure, though – rather, he reacted instinctually when Liam made the universal choking sign, wrapping his arms around his friend’s abdomen and thrusting to expel a grape.

Like Quinnlan, local first responders also honored Mi’Sean after the incident: Milton Rescue Chief Don Turner presented a Rescue Lifesaver Award to the boy in a school ceremony last fall.

Last Tuesday, Turner again recognized both boys, presenting them with donated gift certificates and movie passes.

“It’s amazing to have it happen once, but to have two 11-year-old boys save somebody’s life in the same year is just something very special that we wanted to recognize,” Turner said this week.