Former commercial fisherman Bill Malaspina helps Paul Lang, a Heartland of Browning resident, land his catch from a pond.
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With his tattooed arms and deeply tanned skin, Bill Malaspina looks as if he might spend his days out on the open ocean searching for a big catch.
The small pond on the Browning Masonic Community campus in Waterville is no adventure on the high seas, but it's here that Mr. Malaspina has reeled in some elusive smiles.
Mr. Malaspina, a Waterville resident who regularly volunteers to lead fishing sessions for Heartland of Browning residents, said the quiet Saturday mornings by the pond make him feel good.
"I think these people need to spend time with somebody else besides seeing each other every day," he said. "They seem to enjoy the fishing a lot."
Mr. Malaspina, 67, has fished with the residents about twice a month during the last two summers. He used to work as a commercial fisherman catching salmon and crab on the West Coast, but his love of fishing goes back even further to his childhood in California.
Agneta Seeley, activities director at Heartland of Browning, said she and Mr. Malaspina will accompany only eight residents at a time to the pond, but usually about 15 people sign up for each session. The group releases the bass, bluegill, and catfish they catch back into the pond.
Heartland of Browning provides long-term care to seniors and people recovering from injury or illness. Barbara McIntyre, 77, and Marjorie Stachowski, 81, who have been friends more than 30 years, live in the facility and participate in the fishing activities.
Mrs. Stachowski used to enjoy fishing with her husband in Port Clinton. She hasn't lost her touch, as she's caught one of
Mrs. Stachowski used to enjoy fishing with her husband in Port Clinton. She hasn't lost her touch, as she's caught one of the biggest fish of the season: a 13-inch largemouth bass.
"We're having a lot of fun," she said. "It's good for the mind to get out and laugh."
Heartland of Browning residents keep written records of the sizes and types of the fish they catch, and Ms. Seeley said the staff will try to provide prizes to those who caught the most or the biggest fish this summer.
For Paul Lang, 80, the fishing sessions have become a family activity. His son-in-law, Mike Hudkins, often comes out to the pond and puts a pole in the water beside the rest of the group. Mr. Hudkins said Mr. Lang, who used to flyfish in upper Michigan, has had a more upbeat attitude since he started fishing with Mr. Malaspina.