TOWNSEND -- Most people who have traveled through Townsend up Route 119 toward Groton lately have likely asked the same questions: Who is Johnny and is his family all right?
For about a month, the Citgo gas station in Townsend has sported a mysterious sign reading, "Our thoughts are with Johnny and his family" with no details elaborating on the message.
"Multiple people have come through asking what it's for," said employee Scott Connolly.
Johnny, as it turns out, is John Boland of New Ipswich, N.H., a former employee of Harbor Auto Body and previously a regular customer at Citgo.
Connolly put up the sign with permission from manager Michael Nash following a visit with a distraught Boland.
"He had come in really upset one day and I had asked him what was wrong," said Nash.
Boland had told the employees behind the counter that his wife had received some heart-wrenching news: Her doctors had discovered several areas with cancerous cell growth, as well as a lump that needed further examination.
"The lump is going to have to come out; they're going to do a biopsy," Boland said. He chose not to elaborate on the diagnosis, saying it was a private matter.
Boland's situation only got worse: Soon after, he was laid off from his job. Since then, the employees haven't seen much of their friend.
"I hope he does come in soon; he's an all-around great guy ... It kills me that someone like that has had that stretch of bad luck in
Boland said that with everything going on, it's been difficult to find the time to make it to Townsend recently. He said his wife is preparing for surgery on Aug. 27.
"We'll know more then. Everything seems to be all right right now," he said. "Hopefully, everything goes good. That's all we can pray for right now."
As for the sign, it is likely due to be changed soon, according to Nash.
"At some point, the district manager will ask us to change it. We might put up a special or something," said Nash.
Luckily, Boland did at least get the chance to see the positive message from his friends at Citgo and was deeply moved by the sentiment.
"I just want to say how much Mike and Scott mean to me," he said. "It just shows me some people do care in this world ... It's a really special store. There were people I was working with who weren't even asking me (about my wife), then you go to the store and they show love and it means a lot."
This isn't the first time the employees have made such public declarations of goodwill toward their customers, nor will it be the last, they said.
"One of our other regulars had back surgery ... we put up a sign for him that said, 'Good luck, Randy,'" said Nash. "One of our regulars just passed away of cancer. We'll probably put up a sign for her."
"We're so customer-based, that's how we do things around here," said Connolly.
That's because to the Citgo employees, customers are more than just customers, they said.
"In my eyes, customers aren't just money. It's a small town. Everybody knows everybody," said Connolly. "We put [the signs] up as a way to say we're thinking of them."