For years, Gearry and Tammy Judkins have been constant fixtures at Boothbay Harbor United Methodist Church. Tammy is a lay leader who often leads the Sunday service. Gearry is a church trustee and volunteers his talents as a handyman maintaining the church grounds.
Last year, Gearry, 67, retired as a Lincoln County News pressman. He looked forward to spending more time volunteering at the church. While on one of those volunteer projects, something odd happened. On Sept. 2, he was preparing storm windows for installation. Around 2 p.m., he left the storm windows and tools inside the Clothing Closet to mow the lawn. Forty-five minutes later, he finished mowing and returned to his original project.
As he entered the Clothing Closet, he saw the storm windows, but his DeWalt power combination drill power set and power sander, and a tool box he had owned for 20 years, were gone. “Are you kidding me,” he remembered thinking after realizing his tools were gone. “They may have walked in and thought the tools were up for grabs, but I don’t think so. Things were laid out on the floor, like a painting caulking gun, scrapers and brushes. So it looked like a work area and I don’t think it was a mistake.”
The Judkinses sought justice in two ways. Gearry reported the theft to Boothbay Harbor Police Department and Tammy posted about the incident on Facebook. “The reaction was immediate with people offering to help,” Gearry said. “People out of state said they were coming to Boothbay Harbor this weekend and wanted to help.”
Locals also reacted to the theft and offered financial support. Brady’s Pub raised nearly $400 in donations in one day and Hawke Motors raised $160. Gearry also reported Grover’s Hardware contacted him to stop by and replace his missing tools. Jennie Mitchell owns Brady’s Pub and saw the Facebook post. She contacted her friend Stephanie Hawke about raising money to replace the stolen tools. In about 24 hours, the two businesswomen raised enough money to replace the tools.
“When I saw the post, I thought, ‘This is just wrong,’” Mitchell said. Her staff also shared the Facebook post on their social media platforms. “My bartender put it on Vendmo which raised a lot of money fast. Paul Lorrain, who used to live here and now operates Funky Bow brewery in Lyman, donated a significant amount,” she said. “It really shows when something like this happens, the whole community pulls together.”
“The outpouring is just amazing,” Gearry said. “It was very touching. It tells me over time I must have done something right for people to step up, and want to do this.”
Neither Tammy nor Gearry grew up in the Methodist church. As youths, Tammy attended First Congregational Church of Wiscasset and Gearry was a Baptist. The Judkinses now live in Newcastle, but when they lived in Boothbay Harbor, someone invited their sons to attend Sunday school at the Methodist church. So the Judkinses started attending church in Boothbay Harbor.
Over the years, both took active roles in church operations. And as Christians do, the couple turned the other cheek regarding the perpetrator. “We thought they must have really needed the tools more than I did and we prayed for him,” Gearry said.
A few days after the Facebook post, a tote bag with miscellaneous wire brushes, a hack saw, small wrenches, pliers and screwdrivers was left at the church. “That was great somebody thought to let me have tools they no longer needed,” Gearry said.