A mom’s mission in memory of her son


ZEENA AND SKIP WATKINS, Corey Gilding’s mother and stepfather step up to the microphone

ZEENA AND SKIP WATKINS, Corey Gilding’s mother and stepfather step up to the microphone.

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

CASCO — Fifty pints of blood.

Fifty pints of blood was what Corey Gilding needed during his fight against a liver disease, a condition with which he had been born.

Fifty pints was the goal during a blood drive that was part of the celebration of life for Gilding. Subsequently, the American Red Cross mobile unit drove away with more than fifty units of blood, according to Gilding’s mother Zeena Watkins.

The blood drive was blended into a lavish and uplifting celebration of life that was held during a sunny Saturday in September at the Watkins Farm acreage. The gathering was held two days after what would have been Gilding’s 37th birthday. He had died on Feb. 4, 2015, three months after being put on the waiting list for a donor liver.

On Sept. 12, close friends rolled up their sleeves and offered a vein to the workers with the American Red Cross. One girl kept saying it was her first time giving blood, and she was “doing it for Corey.”

CANDICE AND JOHN GILDING, Corey Gilding’s stepmother and father wear organ donation T-shirts.

CANDICE AND ROBERT "BOB" GILDING, Corey Gilding’s stepmother and father wear organ donation T-shirts.

A typical day-long blood drive usually receives 25 units of blood; and this one received double the number of blood donors, according to Watkins. In addition to the successful blood drive, one of the speakers provided information about becoming an organ donor.

“If someone had donated a liver when Corey was healthy enough for a liver transplant, he’d still be alive,” Watkins said.

Now, it is her objective to bring public awareness to the need for organ donations, and to let people know how vital every blood donation is.

“That is going to be my mission for the rest of my life,” Watkins said.

According to an article in The Huffington Post, “This nation has a severe shortage of donated livers.”

“More than 16,000 people are awaiting a liver transplant, and just 6,300 a year get one. More than 1,400 others die waiting each year,” according to the news story written in 2011.

For the friends and family members of Gilding, his story is so much more than a statistic. His life had meaning.

There is evidence of his existence in an adopted dog that found a new home, in a car that was sold and cherished by its new owners, and in a cheerful welcome sign along Route 302.

In 2010, Gilding wrote a letter to the editor about the need for welcome signs in Casco; and that idea spurred resident Pam Grant to design a logo, and to get the assistance of the Casco Fire Association and Muddy River Signs in Bridgton.

Gilding’s unwavering work ethic and his fierce loyalty as an employee led him to a decades’ long friendship with businessman Donato Corsetti. From high school through college, Gilding worked behind the counter of the Windham-based convenience store and ended up being the part-owner of a local newspaper as well as a magazine, according to family friend Ruth Vinyl.

Gilding was in on the ground floor of the inception of The Windham Independent; and the newspaper folded shortly after he entered the Lahey hospital on Dec. 12, 2014.

He “graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Southern Maine. After college, he and Donato Corsetti started The Windham Independent, a local newspaper that had a circulation of 5,000 copies a week. He never missed putting out a paper each and every week. He also rarely took a vacation during all that time at the paper. Corey mastered every job that had to do with putting out that weekly paper,” Vinyl said.

“He vacationed in Florida only twice while working at the paper, both times were during the one week each year at Christmas that the paper was not published,” she said.

Difficult news was delivered to Gilding during the summer of 2013.

“In July 2013 Corey went into the hospital with a cyst on his spine, one on his chest and an infection in his blood. At that hospital stay it was determined that his liver was failing and he was diagnosed with liver disease. He spent eight days in the hospital, barely avoiding death, and yet never missed getting the weekly newspaper out, as he continued to work from his hospital bed,” Vinyl said.

“During that hospital stay his doctors all agreed that he had a compromised liver from birth,” she said.

Many happy childhood stories were shared. Gilding’s love of the English language started young.

“Corey and his older brother Doug loved to fish. So much so that their mother would constantly be asked to take them both down to the river so that they could go fishing. Whenever their mother would tell someone that they went fishing that day, the boys would become hysterical with laughter over her choice of words,” Vinyl said.

“They would laugh and tease her by promptly telling whoever was listening that their mom took them fishing and that they would fish and she would just sit in a chair and read a book,” Vinyl said.

“Lounging in a chair and reading a good book while they fished, according to the brothers, was not really fishing, and should not be presented to others as fishing,” she said, “So they took every opportunity to explain a simple fact and to have a good laugh in the process.”

Vinyl closed with an untitled and undated poem that was found in Gilding’s journal:

“My favorite time of day

Is when I crawl into bed and crack open a book.

For books have words.

And words have meanings.

And meanings are all I desire.

And meaning is all I desire.”

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