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Worcester Telegram & Gazette

Latina Preserving Heritage; Sturbridge Woman Records Poems On CD

Bill Fortier

26 January 2005
Copyright © 2005 Bell & Howell Information and Learning Company. All rights reserved.

One of the first things you notice about Elmy A. Spence is the soft, lilting quality of her voice.

When you sit in her Catholic Charities office on Elm Street in Southbridge, where she is the coordinator of financial assistance, you feel comfortable and calm.

I would think that the voice and earnest manner of Ms. Spence, the former area director of the office, would be very helpful in working with people who, to be honest, are not enjoying the best times of their life when they visit.

Ms. Spence, who lives in Sturbridge, recently authored a book, "Elmy, a Puerto Rican Woman," about her time as a girl in Puerto Rico, and now she is using her melodious voice on a 43-minute compact disc that features her recitation in Spanish of 17 poems backed by music.

In her book, she talks about reciting poems in the sugar cane fields near her parents' home in Puerto Rico.

"My father loved poetry," she said a little while back. "You have to be a special person to really like poetry. My father used to tell poems to me."

Elmy, whose official first name is Edelmira, said she has always been interested in poetry, but she would be the last person to tell anyone she is a special person.

After all, she just laughs when asked her age.

"I was born in the last century," she said.

Elmy says she likes all the poems on the CD.

"One of my favorites is `Patria,'" she noted.

"Patria," which was written by Elmy's best friend, Esperanza Montnez, is Spanish for "country," and the poet recounts how much he misses his country and that he didn't realize the depth of his love until he moved away.

With the exception of "Bernardina," all the poems were written by somebody other than Elmy.

Bernardina is the mother of one of Elmy's closest friends in Puerto Rico, somebody who died about five years ago and whom Elmy had not seen in 37 years.

"Bernardina is in heaven," Elmy said, "and she is surrounded by her very special angels, her husband, daughters and other family members. I will always remember her, even though I haven't seen her in 37 years. Bernardina is applicable to all mothers who have died."

Elmy says she recorded the CD because she wants to do her part to preserve the culture and legacy of Puerto Rico.

"I am interested in keeping the poems alive," she said. "I think if nobody records these poems, they are going to be lost."

Elmy says she would like to record another CD, but she's going to wait and see the response to this one, which was released about two months ago.

"I'm very happy, very pleased with the CD," she said. "I have received a very positive input so far."

It took two hours to record the poems, and the CD costs $10. All of the proceeds will go to Catholic Charities. Anybody who wants to buy one can call the Southbridge Catholic Charities office at (508) 765-5936.

Super Bowl Sunday is coming up Feb. 6, and in Southbridge that means more than the Patriots' yearly appearance in the big game.

Actually, I'd like to call the Super Bowl the annual celebration of the self-importance of the National Football League, but somehow you look past that when the Patriots are involved. And besides, doesn't it seem like the winter goes by faster when the Pats are playing? And will there ever be a bigger sports rush than the first time they won?

Super Bowl Sunday is also the day of the Cartoon Character Breakfast, which is sponsored by the Southbridge Lions Club at the Knights of Columbus Hall on Route 169 in Southbridge.

You really have to like the K of C Hall.

I mean, along with the Cartoon Character Breakfast, wrestling matches and the occasional victory celebration by state Rep. Mark J. Carron are among the events that are held there. Not that there are any similarities, other than Carron supporters and wrestling fans seem to have an inordinate love of Chinese food.

But as usual, we digress.

Ken Delage and Ben Tully are the coordinators of the 14th annual breakfast, which runs from 7 a.m. to noon Feb. 6.

The event raised about $5,000 last year and benefits a number of local charities, said Mr. Delage, who is a past president of the Southbridge Lions Club.

Tickets for the breakfast buffet of pancakes, French toast and ham cost $5.50 for adults and $3 for children. More than 1,000 people went last year, Mr. Delage said.

Mr. Delage, who used to dress up as Garfield for the breakfast, isn't donning any unusual attire this year, he said, and none of the cartoon characters does any cooking. Rather, they circulate in the crowd and entertain the youngsters and probably the adults, too.

"It's really a great time," he said.

The event has always been held on Super Bowl Sunday and Mr. Delage isn't sure why that it is, but he offers this: Maybe the founders of the event thought it was a good idea to have a fund- raising event for children early in the day, so their parents could spend the rest of the day watching the game.

You know, something about family obligations.

The cooks arrive about 5 in the morning and they leave about 2 p.m.

Which, of course, leaves them enough time to get ready for another Patriots victory.


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