For the 18 months since Belmont Patch has been covering the various goings-on in town, we’ve come across a diverse and fascinating population.
This community is quite lucky to be home to so many smart, hard-working and interesting residents who contribute to making the town an enjoyable place to live and work.
To honor them, we created a series called “Meet Your Neighbor” so readers can learn more about the people they may very well pass on the street often or see in the grocery store but not know a thing about what they do or provide.
All the individuals we profiled are town “treasures” but we’ve picked out a few we met in 2011 who struck us as having particularly unusual accomplishments, interests and jobs.
Walking toward a cancer-free world
After losing Anne, his beloved wife of almost 25 years to cancer last summer, Robert J. Ramsey took a long walk a few weeks after her death.
It wasn’t just any walk for the lifelong Belmont resident, however. Sixty-one people joined Robert and his three children -- James, Christine and Danny -- as part of Kulke’s Krewe for the second Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk on Sunday, Sept. 18.
The team was named for Anne’s oncologist – Dr. Matthew Kulke – who helped her and Robert for several years with such crucial medical knowledge, kindness and encouragement that he became a lifelong friend.
In fact, Robert said, the doctor is the driving force behind all the work he does to prepare Kulke’s Krewe for the annual walk. The original 11-member team collected $40,000 during its first participation in 2010 for Kulke’s research. Last fall, the 62-member team raised over $95,000.
They will keep walking – along with the doctor for which their team is named – for years to come. Hopefully, Robert will see an end to the disease in his lifetime.
“Cancer touches all of us and we must keep this disease in its tracks,” he said. “Help reach the ultimate finish line: a world without cancer.”
Healing the hidden emotions
Billie Bivins firmly believes we are all capable of creation.
In fact, the licensed mental health and alcohol and drug counselor feels hands-on artistic formation is essential for a balanced emotional life and curative treatments for abuse, depression, substance abuse and delinquent behavior.
Within a safe environment, Billie said, people who are suffering from any number of painful psychological conditions are more clearly able to express their feelings – and, thereby, begin the process of healing – through non-verbal and design endeavors.
“Creating makes you feel better,” said the board certified art therapist who has a private practice where she sees clients primarily from Belmont and Cambridge. “It is also healing and a means of looking inside ourselves that is not as frightening as we think it will be.”
The way Billie helps people talk about emotions that might seem frightening to face is through such forms of art as building sculptures with unusual materials and then talking about the pieces.
And the best part of her therapeutic method? It works, said Billie.
One can’t make a “mistake” when creating art through emotions and very often the process itself leads to discovery and ways to feel better.
Achieving a life-long goal
Soccer has become more popular in the United States over the decades but when John Feeley was playing it was unusual for an American to be a professional in the sport.
The odds, therefore, were against him but the Belmont native followed his goal succeeded because of hard work, athletic ability and especially what he said was extreme determination.
As goalkeeper for several professional leagues from 1976 to 1982, John said in his position as a goalie one cannot ever slip up.
“When you’re the goalkeeper, you’re the last person,” he said. “(The other players) can make mistakes but you have to correct them. It doesn’t have to be pretty – just effective.”
He was certainly that because for his years playing – and his tremendous ability – John earned a place in the New England Soccer Hall of Fame.
Helping Latin Students Achieve
Ever since she was young, Eleonora Villegas-Reimers wanted to be a teacher.
Originally from Venezuela, she earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the Universidad Catolica Andres Bello and then taught sociology and citizen education at the high-school level.
In 1983, Eleonora moved to the US to study at Harvard University where she earned a Master of Education and Doctor of Education degree from the Graduate School of Education.
Eventually, she said she realized she could help students more if she could influence teachers and began working in higher educational settings.
Today, Eleonora is using her academic background to discover the reasons why the fastest growing group of students in Massachusetts – comprised of Latino children -- is also the one with the largest achievement problem.
Her research and dedication to teaching educators led to an enormous honor and achievement – last fall, Eleanora was the recipient of the Latino Excellence in Education Award and accepted the honor during a ceremony at the State House celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month.
The luck of the Irish
Although he’s lived in the United States for the majority of his life, John Curran maintains the pace, attitudes and loves of a true Irish man.
Born in Waterville, County Kerry and raised in County Cork, Ireland, Jonn emigrated to this country in 1955 when he was just a teenager.
“When I was 16, I decided to come here and make a better life for myself,” John said.
And he’s done just that: married a woman from Ireland who he met on a bus to Harvard Square where they were both studying, raised four children with her and founded a Celtic music show four decades ago.
Titled “The Sound of Erin,” the weekly radio show can now be heard 24 hours, seven days a week. It features traditional Irish music, interviews, book reviews and discussions with a variety of guests.
“We have close to one million listeners in more than 85 countries,” he said.
“It’s the longest running Irish-American music program in the world and has never been off the air.”
About a year ago, John brought the program to the Belmont Media Center where his 30-minute show airs every Friday from 11 a.m. to noon and is then repeated several other times during the week.