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From left, Christopher Annino, Mac Turner and Michael  Dibble build a ramp at Bill Peterson's home in North Stonington. | (Courtesy of Gary Annino)
Armed with a power screwdriver, 12-year-old Christopher Annino makes quick work of the ramp with the help of Michael Dibble, right. | (Courtesy of Gary Annono) The Peterson house with its new ramp. | ( Courtesy Gary Annino )

Friends moved quickly to help a man who’s given his town so much

N. STONINGTON — When Bill Peterson, a former selectman and community volunteer, was felled by a stroke on Dec. 5, it marked the beginning of a long road to recovery. Now a group of friends has made at least one part of that road a little easier for him to navigate.

On Monday, a relatively warm day just before this latest snowstorm, friends Mac Turner, Mike Dibble, Gary Annino and 12-year-old Christopher Annino spent the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday building a wheelchair ramp at Peterson’s house, much to the delight of his wife, Claire.

“It was Jim Friedlander’s idea,” said the 65-year-old Turner. “He was visiting Claire one day when he realized that when Bill comes home he would need it. He made some calls and I told him I would give him a hand.”

According to Turner, directions for the project were found on the Internet. Dibble and Annino offered to help and Turner fronted the money for the materials so it could be quickly built during the warm spell.

“Friedlander was going to help but he came down with the flu. He suggested waiting, but we said we could still do it, so we went ahead. It took us less than four hours,” Turner said.

Claire Peterson said, “It was very nice of them to do that. I appreciate it. It’s wonderful. They worked very hard, especially Chris. He had that powered screwdriver and he went to town, he did a very good job.”

As for Bill, she believes he is up for the challenge of rehabilitation.

After spending the last six weeks at L + M Hospital, he has started therapy at the Mystic Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center. “His left side suffered but he is coming along,” she said. “He’s got a great attitude and he has been working very hard with physical therapy.”

Bill Peterson is well known in the community.

He is the curator emeritus at Mystic Seaport, a founding member of the Mystic River Historical Society and a former member of the North Stonington Board of Selectmen.

He is also a member of the North Stonington and New London County historical societies and author of “Mystic Built: Ships and Shipyards of the Mystic River, 1784-1919.” He is a member of the North Stonington Community Grange No. 138 and long-time volunteer at the town fair.

“He’s an active member of the North Stonington Volunteer Fire Department,” said Turner. “When he had the stroke he was alone at home but managed to call 911. It was their fast action that probably saved his life.”

While the Petersons face challenges during rehabilitation, the compassion of their neighbors and friends brings a measure of comfort at a time of stress. First rescued and then aided by friends, Peterson has the support that comes from small-town living for a man whom his friend and local writer Steven Slosberg called an “all-around good guy.”

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