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Join other families for a pre-Thanksgiving walk

Tom McGonagle of Billerica, a champion pool player, has written a novel about a young pool player who searches for his biological father. Tom McGonagle of Billerica, a champion pool player, has written a novel about a young pool player who searches for his biological father.
By Cindy Cantrell
November 23, 2008
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WALK THE TALK: Many families enjoy taking a walk together after enjoying Thanksgiving dinner. Becky Warren of Pepperell is offering a reason to move that tradition a day earlier.

Warren, president of the Chelmsford Land Conservation Trust, is inviting families to follow past generations in meeting at the rocks in the town's Thanksgiving Forest. Instead of joining in the long-ago traditional holiday fox hunt, however, she will lead a 1-mile walk while talking about the town-owned land, Chelmsford's past, and some of the town's little-known Thanksgiving traditions. Refreshments will be provided by Jones Farm.

Warren said the first pre-Thanksgiving walk was organized just last year, with more than 100 people participating despite the cold, overcast conditions. The highlight, she said, was when five deer trotted by the group standing along their pathway.

"We had a lot of people from the neighborhood," Warren said, "but it was also a chance for other people to check out this part of town for the first time. It was very gratifying to be part of that."

Co-sponsored by the Chelmsford Open Space Stewardship Program, the second annual "Walk (and Talk) Turkey" will take place on Wednesday. Residents have two options: meet at 2 p.m. at the Janet Road entrance to the forest, or at 2:30 p.m. at the Gary Road entrance (which offers a shorter hike). For directions to Thanksgiving Forest and information about other open spaces in town, visit www.thechelmsfordian.com. The walk is free.

VOLUNTEER AWARD: Mary "Muffin" Hester was a teenager when she began volunteering in the coffee shop at Salem Hospital. While attending Smith College, she found time to fold diapers at Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton. And while serving in the US Navy during World War II, she somehow persuaded a friend to join her in emptying bedpans at a hospital in Washington, D.C.

"She looked very unhappy most of the time," recalls Hester, "but for me, volunteering at hospitals is in my blood."

Now 87 years old and living in Lincoln, Hester was recently selected as the Massachusetts recipient of the AARP 2008 Andrus Award for Community Service for her dedication to the local community.

She has volunteered more than 9,400 hours at Emerson Hospital in Concord since 1966, first in the coffee shop and now transporting patients to and from appointments within the hospital.

A former adoption worker who earned her master's degree in social work through the GI Bill, Hester also volunteers at St. Anne's Episcopal Church in Lincoln; serves on the board of the Church Home Society in Boston; serves meals each month at the Pine Street Inn in Boston; and is active with the Lincoln Council on Aging.

Although she is a sought-after mentor at Emerson Hospital because of her experience and sense of humor, Hester said she simply enjoys interacting with patients and other volunteers who have become good friends.

"My new motto is: I don't do it better," she joked. "I've just done it longer."

RIGHT ON CUE: When Tom McGonagle was 13 years old, he and a friend dedicated a week of their summer vacation to playing a marathon game of pool - which he eventually won by sinking his last seven balls, despite never having played before.

"That was the beginning of my love of the game," recalled McGonagle, who lives in Billerica. "I guess I was kind of a natural."

McGonagle, who went on to become a three-time New England nine-ball champion, was inducted into the New England Pool and Billiard Hall of Fame in 1995. He recently published his first novel set in the environment he knows best: the pool hall.

"Right on Cue" tells the story of a young pool player who falls in love while tracking down his biological father, who turns out to be a pool hustler.

McGonagle, who advocates honesty in the pool hall and real life, has also filled the novel with pool facts and lore so it is as educational as it is entertaining.

"Unfortunately, pool has never taken off like other sports," said McGonagle, who also teaches pool. "It's too bad, because it's such an intricate game."

"Right on Cue" is available at Amazon.com and Booksurge.com, and through additional wholesale and retail channels.

People items may be submitted to Cindy Cantrell at cantrell@globe.com.

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