By John Anderson
When you walk through the door at Mike’s Donut Shoppe in Leicester center, you may feel like you’re taking a step back in time. Tables of “locals” are having their morning coffee and maybe indulging in one of those fried breakfast masterpieces. The waitresses are diligently topping off coffee cups, and conversations are a constant. The décor is basic with a local flair, and it is without orange and pink.
If Sheriff Andy Taylor was at a corner table sharing a Cherry Coke with Opie, nobody would be surprised, but this wasn’t Andy’s beat. It had already been claimed by Officer Ronald Tarentino, Jr. when he was a Leicester cop. When he transferred to the Auburn Police Department two years ago, he remained a loyal customer.
Tarentino had a favorite coffee mug that has become the model for some Auburn High School artists. Art teacher Amanda Bastien explains, “I presented a Pop Art sculpture lesson to my Introduction to Art students. One team chose to create a large-scale coffee mug. They spent a few days experimenting with techniques and working through false starts. Within that time period, Officer Tarentino was shot.”
“One of the students read something in an article about the fact that he had a favorite mug at a diner he frequented, and decided they wanted to paint a mug with the badge and blue stripe on it. I recognized they were referring to Mike’s Donuts in Leicester because I was just there that morning and saw the mug. They decided they could replicate that mug instead.”
“So the next day I took a pictures of the actual mug and told Annie (who runs the shop in the morning) about the whole project. She was moved and agreed to let us display the mug in the shop, especially as they were planning to gift his real mug to the family. At the same time the superintendent had plans to collect money for a donation to the family and present it during the graduation. The 4 students involved in the project are Julia Handfield, Emma Jette, Will Sjogren, and Ryan Farrell.”
During Friday night’s graduation, Julia Handfield displayed the mug for the audience, and while Principal Casey Handfield spoke, Lily White presented a check for $3,520 to the Auburn Police Department for the Tarentino family. Yesterday morning, Ms. Bastien and her four students were at Mike’s Donut Shoppe at 7:30AM to present the mug to manager Ann Hunt who was visibly moved by the project. After the students left for school, Hunt said, “Make sure you say I’m the manager. Fox News said I was the owner, and I had to live that down for a week.” That’s just the type of place that Mike’s is.
When people go in Mike’s Donuts and see the giant mug, they will be reminded of the tragic loss of a great man. They will also feel the growing bond between two communities who share this loss and continue to grieve together. Mike’s not only lost a customer, they lost a member of their family. That’s just the type of place that Mike’s is.