By Benjamin Barr, Jr. Lincoln News • June 22, 2023
MILLINOCKET—On Friday, June 9 a donation of several handmade quilts was donated to Millinocket Regional Hospital’s Oncology department. The gift of quilts was brought to Millinocket by a couple of Massachusetts ladies who hope that the quilts will bring comfort in a time of difficulty for families needing to utilize the services.
The donation of quilts was presented to Michael Crowley, President of the Legacy Medical Foundation by Jackie Thissell and Kathleen Snyder of Massachusetts and New Hampshire, respectively.
The ladies made the drive earlier in the day with the goal of making the presentation and then touring the Katahdin area before heading back to their respective homes. The quilts were made by themselves and several friends in memory of Thissell’s brother, Clifford “Clif” Thissell who had five years ago been killed in an automobile accident on June 10, 2018, by a drunk driver.
“Clif was killed by a drunk driver,” stated sister Jackie. “It’s a good thing to do in his memory. They’re (the quilts) made with love to help people out.”
Clif Thissell was out on the evening of his birthday to celebrate with several of his friends while listening to music at a local pub. At age 63, it was a life cut short.
Clif Thissell (yes, with one f) had come to make a yearly pilgrimage to the Katahdin area and share the time with a close friend, Richard Blinn. The pair had been best friends for over 50 years. They shared a love of nature and that of the arts, especially painting.
Clif and Blinn traveled around the states hiking and climbing in places like Alaska and the Grand Canyon. As magnificent as those locations are, there was nothing that could quite compare to Mt. Katahdin and the area.
Blinn recalls that they were 17 years old driving in a beat-up Volkswagen when they came up to climb Katahdin for their first adventure in the region. Immediately, they knew that in some way, this was home and would continue to be a destination for many years to come.
Katahdin was the “Holy Grail” for the lifelong friends. They also backpacked the 100 mile wilderness in reverse paring down their supplies to the bare minimum. When they came out a few days later in Monson with barely a handful of granola left they caught the smell of meat on a grill, Blinn stated that “bar-b-que never tasted so good”.
Blinn and Clif often camped at Roaring Brook and Chimney Pond and then make the ascent to Katahdin via the Cathedral Trail. Day packs were used for a lighter load.
After Clif’s death, Blinn climbed Katahdin via the Cathedral Trail. In his pack with him were some of the ashes of his dear friend so that one last time they would climb together. Several signs made Blinn realize that Clif was with him: a bumble bee flew out of the day pack, a dragonfly landed on his pack as he rested.
The hikers had stashed a Nalgene bottle where every year they would make a notation of the date and weather conditions and then put back for another year’s trek. Blinn was especially struck with the moment when he paused and three ravens circled overhead and made their calls.
“I heard the ravens, and I had done what I had to do,” Blinn reminisced. “They circled up and were gone.”
Jackie Thissell and Clif’s partner, Kathleen Snyder came to see Mt. Katahdin. When they came around a bend in the road they were awed at the view of Katahdin before them.
“Wow,” Thissell exclaimed. “I could see why he wanted to come to Katahdin.”
They approached Baxter State Park one morning before the gate opened and a swarm of butterflies were hovering around the car. It was a surreal moment in which Clif’s spirit was with them.
Clif Thissell worked for many years as a postal carrier in Billerica, Massachusetts. He was an “old-school” postal carrier as he would often stop for a chat, find out how his customers were doing and say “hi” to everybody, Jackie described her brother’s dedication to what he did for a living.
“That’s the kind of guy he was,” Jackie stated.
The generous gift to MRH will be given to those needing hope and comfort during difficult times.
“This type of gift—it’s the heartbeat of who we are,” Crowley explained. “I’d like to think that this gesture is broad and deep. It’s unexpected and a treasure.”