I love Christmas.
What’s there not to like?
Between the holiday charm of Nantucket, all my family home to celebrate, and the spirit of St. Nick in the air, it just doesn’t get any better.
Plus, I get to write my Christmas column.
This season, I am feeling particularly blessed. But before we unwrap a few “gifts” and before I introduce you to Nantucket’s newest Spirit of Christmas, I want to say Merry Christmas and thank you to everyone for taking the time to read the Current and my columns.
Nantucket’s first gift this morning is one of generosity and kindness.
With a history of fundraising for others in need, Ben and Heather Woodbury of Wicked Island Bakery epitomize Nantucket’s incredible spirit of support. Recently, they donated an entire day’s proceeds from their bakery to help the Furtado family after the unexpected passing of Greg Furtado earlier this month. Officer Furtado started as a “summer special” on Nantucket, became a full-time police officer on-island, and ultimately secured a position with the Massachusetts State Police.
His brother, Sergeant Dan Furtado, is a well-known and respected member of the Nantucket Police Department. Greg’s sudden passing left a wife, Allison, and two young children behind including a daughter who turned nine years old the following day.
“There was never a question,” said Heather from her prep station. “Ben and I knew we were going to do something.”
She added: “Basically, we doubled everything and we still sold out. It was hard to keep hot coffee, muffins, and sandwiches out on the counter as the line went way out the door. And when we ran out of food, people still came by and made cash donations. We were blown away.”
Last Thursday was a bittersweet day for Heather. She went over to the Cape to meet up with “Alli" and Dan who had stayed behind to help with the kids. It was then when Heather handed over the $12,000 in donations on behalf of the Nantucket community.
It’s a jungle out there. By the number of car accidents lately, not even Santa is safe on the island roads. However, Nantucket’s second gift from Christmas Past might help.
For decades, Dennis Caron was the face of the student driving program on Nantucket. Not even the Chief and his cab can claim roughly 500,000 accident-free miles while assisting approximately 4,500 students over a 35-year career.
“The kids are great and they always have something to say. I’d like to think I’ve helped two generations of Nantucket families,” Caron offered.
If there was ever a man on Nantucket who knew if you were being bad or good - naughty or nice - it is Coach Caron whose stoic demeanor and no-frills approach reminds me of Sergeant Phil Esterhaus on Hill Street Blues who routinely reminded us “to be careful out there…”
Thankfully, Coach Caron is back working part-time with the Nantucket Community School’s driver’s education program. Riding shotgun in the front seat of the driver’s ed sleigh and splitting oversight duties with elves Galen Gardner and Beau Almodobar, Coach Caron’s gift of patience and experience couldn’t have come at a better time. Known for keeping two eyes on the road and one hand on the emergency brake, no one is going to skip class now.
Nantucket’s third present this morning is a general and sincere Christmas “Thank You” to all the local restaurants, sandwich stops, and coffee shops who have shown holiday dedication and island loyalty by staying open through Christmas and into the offseason.
I understand it is difficult to hire staff and keep the kitchens running efficiently during the winter. With foot traffic dwindling and offseason business expenses rising, the temptation to close and head to Florida is tough to pass up.
However, I also acknowledge the fact that the local, year-round population has options too. With that in mind and regardless of the time of the year, when your pockets are full of gold, frankincense, and myrrh and you are heading out to dinner, please remember to support those establishments that have committed to the island by staying open during the arduous winter months. The ultimate compliment is your patronage.
And finally, let’s be honest, it is difficult following in the footsteps of last year’s Christmas Spirit, Joel Gonzalez. Joel’s choice of Fernando Villalona’s Merengue announcing his FedEx deliveries on Main Street and his sincere respect and affection for those on-island certainly embodied that spirit.
But, Marcus Jindrak takes a backseat to no one.
Often seen chasing errant shopping carts or cheerfully bagging groceries at Stop & Shop, Marcus attacks life’s challenges with a sense of purpose and pride.
His love of Nantucket is infectious.
His effervescent personality should be bottled and sold at The Hub.
His limitless desire to help others is envious.
Marcus’ journey to live on Nantucket was initially a bumpy ride including stints at four different schools in three different states. For long stretches, he lived a nomadic life around the globe with his mother and father who was an internationally known, professional WWE wrestler. But when Marcus pleaded with Aunt Stephanie and Uncle Tom to let him live with them on Nantucket with the blessing of his extended family, all prayers were answered.
“That request was music to our ears,” said Aunt Stephanie (Jindrak- Watkins) who works at Congdon & Coleman Insurance.
“My husband, Tom Watkins, had a lifelong dream of wanting to live on Nantucket full time. We moved here in February of 2020 when a business opportunity presented itself. Three months later, Marcus arrived and we gladly opened our doors with two conditions,” she admitted.
One condition: Marcus had to finish high school.
The second: He had to get a job.
Marcus wasted no time.
He immediately enrolled at Nantucket High School and graduated in June of ’22. Additionally, he applied for and secured a job at Stop & Shop four months after settling in with Stephanie and Tom in Tom Nevers.
“Frankly, Tom and I would be lost without him. Marcus has come into his own over the last few years and we are incredibly thankful to the Nantucket community because everyone on-island has had a hand in on this,” Stephanie confessed.
Aunt Stephanie continued, “Marcus has had challenges being on the autism spectrum that he has fought to overcome. As time has gone by, he has improved. Clearly, it is a medical breakthrough”.
Honestly, we’d all be better humans if we had a piece of Marcus inside each of us. I know I would be. But, the next best thing is having Marcus part of our island community because he is Nantucket’s Spirit of Christmas.
Whether throwing a football around at home, working at Stop & Shop, or taking care of a friend’s dog, “Marcus Man” is Santa’s pied piper of innocence, happiness, and peace.
And that’s what Christmas is all about……
Merry Christmas Marcus. And to all, a good night.