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LEWISTON - Hard work, loyalty, dedication, responsibility are values of our senior citizens, who continue to bring these qualities with them to their workplaces every day.

In 1936 at the age of 14, Bert Mathieu left school to work in a local shoe shop for 15 cents an hour. Twelve years later, 15-year-old Lorraine Bazinet began her career in a shoe shop on Park Street. Work continues to be a way of life for both of them – at Pamco Shoe Machinery in Lewiston for 90-year-old Mathieu and Falcon Performance Footwear in Auburn for Brown, who will celebrate her 80th birthday next year.

To spotlight the contributions made by so many of our longtime workers, Museum L-A felt it was important to recognize Brown and Mathieu as emblematic of their generation’s strong work ethic. The cities of Lewiston-Auburn as well as Maine’s Congressional delegation agree.

Museum L-A coordinated a special presentation on Tuesday at Pamco Shoe Machinery to honor Brown and Mathieu. They were presented with letters from Sen. Olympia J. Snowe, Sen. Susan M. Collins, and Congressman Mike Michaud as well as a Proclamation from the Cities of Lewiston and Auburn read by Lewiston Mayor Bob Macdonald. Representing the Congressional delegation were Diane Jackson from Sen. Snowe’s office, Carlene Tremblay from Sen. Collins’ office, Andrea Quaid from Rep. Michaud’s office.

“I am pleased to extend my most heartfelt congratulations to Lorraine and Bert on their tremendous and well-deserved recognition from Museum L-A,” Snowe said. “Throughout their entire lives, Lorraine and Bert have in word and deed demonstrated Maine’s timeless motto, ‘Dirigo’ or ‘I lead’ and exemplified our state’s hallmark work-ethic and can-do spirit. Their unparalleled dedication truly serves as an inspiration to us all.”

In her letter, Sen. Collins also citied Brown and Mathieu’s abilities to inspire: “Lorraine and Bert are an inspiration to us all,” Sen. Collins wrote. “Their superb work ethic reminds us of the countless contributions older adult workers continue to make to our communities, our state, and our nation. I want to congratulate Lorraine and Bert on this well-deserved recognition.”

Rep. Michaud noted: “The footwear industry is one of Maine’s oldest and proudest traditions. Throughout their long careers, Bert and Lorraine have experienced the industry in a way few others have. From their stories, it is clear that these are two extraordinary people who have touched countless lives throughout their communities.”

As a special honor and surprise, Quaid announced that Congressman Michaud will read from his letters and speak about Brown and Mathieu on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. This statement becomes part of the official record of the Congress known as the Congressional Record.

“We have been gathering oral histories of our workers – from the mills, shoe shops and brickyards and a theme that runs through them is hard work, dedication and humor,” notes Rachel Desgrosseilliers, Museum L-A’s executive director. “Lorraine and Bert are wonderful examples of a work ethic and are happy souls with a zest for life to be honored and celebrated.

“We ask local businesses to join us in acknowledging and thanking their elder workers as they have contributed so much to our community for so many years,” Desgrosseilliers continued.

Brown was born Lorraine Bazinet in 1933 and grew up in Auburn. After her first job at the Park Street shoe shop, she later worked at the Bleachery on Lisbon Street while raising her children. She remembers stitching pillow cases, 750 a day with a dozen in each package. She also worked at Libbey Mill for five years sewing blankets. After Libbey Mill, Lorraine did stitching at Knapp Shoe for 20 or so years. She’s now stitching boots at Falcon Performance Footwear in Auburn, where she’s been for a little over ten years. Brown has served over fifty years in the shoe industry having worked at Koss, Hammon, Eastland, LL Bean, Knapp and Falcon Shoes.

Roland Landry and Neil Hanley, co-owners of Falcon Performance Footwear think highly of their longtime employee, Brown. “Lorraine is one of the most inspirational persons that I have ever known in my life,” said Landry. “Lorraine’s work ethic and sunny disposition have made a tremendous contribution to the Falcon family for many years. Her smile really warms your heart and you know it is genuine! “added Hanley.

Bertrand David Mathieu was born in 1922 on Reservoir Avenue in Lewiston. His first jobs were at Venus Shoe and Lown Shoe where Barker Arms in Auburn stands today. When Mathieu turned sixteen years old, he was allowed to work on a machine in the shoe shop.

After services in World War II, Mathieu returned to work as a foreman at Lown Shoe for one dollar and twenty five cents an hour. While at Lown Shoe, being experienced with all the machines, he was approached by Compo Shoe Machinery and asked to work as a salesman and instructor. Mathieu worked 42 years for Compo Shoe. From 1949 until he turned 80, Bert also repaired televisions on the side which paid for his daughters’ schooling.

After Compo Shoes closed its doors on April 30, 1984, Mathieu was a salesman for Maurice Cote Attachments and continues to work part-time for Cote at Pamco Shoe Machinery, sorting and organizing parts. “We are lucky and grateful for Bert’s help,” notes Amanda Cote. “He enjoys being in the shop working with the shoe machinery parts and around the technicians. He’s valued here and always welcome,” she continued.