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Balloon connects Md. man, N.Y. couple

July 03, 1997

By VANDANA SINHA

Staff Writer

A Hagerstown nursing home resident is linked to a woman more than 100 miles away by nothing more than a deflated balloon.

Jean Ann Calabrese, of Ozone Park, N.Y., was walking along a Rockaway, N.Y., beach with her husband when she noticed a shrunken green balloon covered in black ink nestled among seaweed in the sand.

The balloon, deflated from its 42-day adventure across the Eastern Shore, bore the name and address of Richard Hawbaker, 53.

Hawbaker was one of 100 Clear View Nursing Home residents and employees who participated in the home's May 14 balloon launch in celebration of National Nursing Home Week.

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Calabrese sent a card to Hawbaker on June 25 telling him that his balloon had made a safe landing.

"I never dreamed it would end up that far," said Hawbaker, who wrote back to Calabrese and hopes to build a permanent correspondence.

"It shows that people really take the time to do something nice," he said.

In her card, Calabrese wrote that she found two four-leaf clovers and a heads-up penny the same day she came across Hawbaker's balloon.

That news prompted him to comment, "I hope she had a lucky day."

Hawbaker and six other people received word that their balloons had been found. All of those who reported finding the balloons were from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York.

Becky Melody, the nursing home activities director who organized the balloon launch, said her balloon floated for only two hours before it finally settled in Mountville, Pa., three miles from her old hometown high school building.

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