Deployed soldier forms bond with Bedford residents

May 24, 2008

Bedford Minuteman

By Chris Klingenberg / Staff Writer

Bedford, Mass. –

John Bair and the Residents of Carleton-Willard Nursing Village are separated by age and geography, facts that failed to hinder a bond between the soldier from Pennsylvania and the elderly Residents of Carleton Willard.

Bair, brother-in-law of Bedford Resident Derek Logan, is flying Apache helicopters in Iraq. Bair’s been overseas since October and his deployment was tough on his family.

“We were all very upset that John was going to be put in a very tough situation,” said Logan, the rehabilitation director at Carleton-Willard. “But the way that everyone at Carleton-Willard reached out to John and our family is very special. It’s a wonderful feeling to know that two groups of complete strangers have connected so well.”

The relationship between Bair and the Residents at Carleton-Willard started earlier this year when director of activities, Nancy Kanter, sent a letter to Bair in Iraq. Since then, the relationship has deepened and both sides involved feel a sense of connectivity.

“It is just a really nice situation to be a part of,” said Kanter. “Not only do the Residents show concern, but the staff members seem to be genuinely concerned. It is really a good thing to be a part of. When I read the letters to the Residents they are very happy to hear from him and John appears to be just as happy to hear from the Residents.”

Residents at Carleton-Willard have sent Girl Scout cookies, dried up rose petals formed into hearts and touching poems.

“In reading the cards that John has sent over, I am seeing a side of him that I have never seen,” said Logan. “I am seeing a lot of sensitivity and an outpouring amount of appreciation. This has been a really touching experience and I have seen a tremendous amount of appreciation on both ends.”

Kanter is currently in the process of putting together a care package that will include toiletries for Bair and his fellow troops in Iraq.

“You can really see the connection that has been formed,” said Kanter. “You can see it in the letters that John has sent back. It means a lot to have a connection with people back home. Even though it isn’t his family, these are still people that care about him.”

Bair is expected to be serving overseas for 18 months and Kanter is hoping that he will make a visit to Bedford for a special ceremony at Carleton-Willard Village.

“It’s a wonderfully special feeling to know that two groups of strangers have completely connected,” said Bair. “John makes a point to share with other members of the his group the stuff he receives. I just think that it has grown beyond what I thought it might be. It has been a pretty exciting opportunity and I am so grateful for it.”

Bair grew up in eastern Pennsylvania dreaming of being a pilot. He majored in aviation at Ohio University and married his wife, Claire, a week before leaving for the Army. The couple has two children, Madeline, 13, and Jake, 3.