Authors Posts by Anna Solo

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Raymond Goulet
Raymond Goulet sits in his apartment near downtown Portsmouth. photo by Anna Solo

Editor’s note: Open Doors is a series in which photographer Anna Solo visits the homes and workspaces of fascinating Seacoast people.

Portsmouth resident Raymond Goulet was the fastest foxhole digger in his company, which landed in the first wave on Omaha Beach in Normandy in 1944. In the uneven waters of the English Channel, climbing down rope ladders from large ships to flat-bottomed landing craft, he witnessed soldiers crushed between ships, killed before even reaching the beach. “It was a terrible thing to see,” he says before changing the subject.

Now 94, Goulet is still hesitant to open up about the perilous situations he faced during the D-Day invasion and throughout World War II. “I was absolutely terrified,” he says. “Anyone who denies having been scared is lying.”

Raymond Goulet

More than 70 years after the war, Goulet prefers to focus on the positive: He is healthy, doesn’t look or feel his age, maintains strong relationships with his friends and daughter, and stays active every day, no matter the season.

A native of Lawrence, Mass., Goulet has now lived in Portsmouth for 30 years. In his apartment near downtown, his strong love for New England and the sea is on full display. Images of lighthouses cover much of his small, warmly lit, and impeccably organized one-bedroom apartment. Mugs with lighthouses engraved in the ceramic line shelves, blankets with a nautical theme cover armchairs, lamps take the form of anchors and lighthouses, wooden cutouts of boats and pictures of ocean scenes adorn the walls.

Raymond Goulet

Any leftover wall space is dedicated to photos of family members and mementos of his time in the Army, including newspaper cutouts, medals, and illustrations of “Monarch of Bermuda,” the ship that brought him and his unit to England. On another wall are nearly 200 Christmas cards sent to Goulet by friends, family members, and volunteers from the Pease Greeters. The juxtaposition of wartime memories with the Christmas cards and the simple-yet-colorful New England theme is striking.

Raymond Goulet

In Goulet’s bedroom, a neatly made bed with a quilt crafted for him as a gift by The Pease Greeters sits against the wall. One corner is dedicated to his faith. Though he identifies as a Catholic, he has decided not to attend church and instead practice on his own terms. He says that he prays for his friends and family members daily.

Goulet strongly believes in “divine intervention.” He and his two brothers all fought in the war. When he boarded the ship to Normandy and unexpectedly encountered his brother Roland at a church service, he began to believe things were meant to be.

Raymond Goulet

As soon as the ship arrived, “the Germans began shelling immediately,” he says. The brothers were separated until after the end of the war. They remained extremely close until Roland’s death a couple of years ago, an event that left Goulet heartbroken.

“I really, really miss talking to him,” he says, showing a hint of emotion before changing the subject once more.

Raymond Goulet

Robert Wheeler
Local author and Hemingway scholar Robert Wheeler in his home studio in New Castle. photo by Anna Solo

Editor’s note: Open Doors is a new series in which photographer Anna Solo visits the homes and workspaces of fascinating Seacoast people.

“The perfect cocktail” is a phrase local author Robert Wheeler applies not only to his favorite libation — a simple vodka tonic with fresh lemon juice. He strives for a perfect blend in every aspect of his life, including his writing, his workspace, his home, and his relationships.

Wheeler is almost finished with his third book, and he’s already started a fourth. He does his writing in his home studio in New Castle, in a house offering water views from almost every window. It’s a classy, beachy, quirky space that Wheeler and his wife decorated to reflect their mutual appreciation for comfort, good light, and, notably, Paris. He describes his studio as a sacred space where he can concentrate on his craft.

“The (writing) process is to be appreciated and celebrated as much as the final product,” he says.

Wheeler’s primary area of interest is Ernest Hemingway’s life, travels, and writing process. Wheeler’s fascination with Hemingway began after he read the late author’s memoir, “A Moveable Feast.” He says he noticed a sense of loss and longing between each line of Hemingway’s prose, and he read the book slowly and carefully, taking notes and highlighting sections.

One winter, alone in Paris, Wheeler felt the city reveal itself, he says. The statues, the river, the art, the cafés, and the architecture all seemed to fill in the truth about Hemingway’s time there as a young husband and writer. The experience resulted in Wheeler’s first book, “Hemingway’s Paris,” a collection of stories and photographs that portray Hemingway’s time as an expatriate.

“I simply listened and wrote and held up my camera and, well, my book was born,” Wheeler says.

A full-time writer, Wheeler has developed a daily structure in which he writes early in the morning or in the afternoon, goes to the gym most days, and practices and teaches Jiu Jitsu several times a week. His small studio is filled with stacks of books, portraits of Hemingway and various visionaries, a massive map of the world, photographs and paintings of Paris, and several wooden signs with messages like “I’d rather be in Paris!” and “Simplify.” Through the small window he faces when working at his computer, an American flag is visible in the distance. The flag is symbolic for Wheeler as he works on his latest book, which is focused on Boston’s Freedom Trail.

Sitting in his studio recently, Wheeler plays a few YouTube videos of Matt Cardle, a British singer and former contestant on the reality TV show “The X Factor.” He observes the reaction Cardle’s voice gets from the audience, the sparkle in the judges’ eyes. That’s the look he wants people to have on their faces when they read his prose. “That’s how I get there. That’s how I get jacked,” he says.

Though all of his books combine text with photography, Wheeler identifies as a writer first. “I like to think that when I compose a sentence and it works beautifully, or when I take a photograph and it evokes real emotion, I hear music. I actually hear the faint sound of a symphony,” he says. Asked whether he is a writer or a photographer, Wheeler replies, “I think I’m a musician.”

Both Wheeler’s writing and his workspace reveal a curated blend of words and visuals, creating an atmosphere that feels just right — like the perfect cocktail. The result, to borrow a word Wheeler might use, is “stunning.”