County Faces: Bob Tweedie of Westfield

6 years ago

Bob Tweedie of Westfield has some advice for aging baby boomers: Stay active and learn from elders past and present.

“So long as you can walk, you should be doing something,” Tweedie said during an interview at his home in Westfield looking out on Route 1. “Every doctor I’ve ever seen, says, exercise,

exercise, exercise, don’t ever stop.”

Tweedie, 83, is part of a generation who grew up spending a lot of time working, often outdoors, and learning lessons to last a lifetime while experiencing one of the most rapid technological evolutions in human history.

Tweedie grew up on the family farm working with horses, picking potatoes by hand, trapping troublesome wildlife and, in winter, occasionally skiing to the one-room schoolhouse across the road from where he now lives.

“I remember one fall, we got a snowstorm in the fall and we picked potatoes for a farmer down the road,” Tweedie recalled. “It looked like they were going to lose them so he was paying 25 cents a barrel,” more than double the prevailing 10-cents-a-barrel wage at the time.

Born in 1935, Tweedie watched as military bases opened in Aroostook County amid World War II and spurred development and greater connectedness with the rest of the country and the world. After serving in the Army in the late 1950s and travelling around the country, he returned home to work on the family farm and start his own enterprises.

In 1964, he started Mars Hill Shippers and ran it until the 2000s — sometimes skiing at Bigrock Mountain during his lunch breaks in winter.

“I wanted to do something on my own, and it didn’t take as much money to start a truck brokerage as it did a potato brokerage,” Tweedie said. “I started the trucking business in 1964 and it kept growing and growing. Over those years, I met an awful lot of people from all walks of life.”

In the 1980s, he started planting Christmas trees on the family farm fields, becoming part of a wave of Aroostook County Christmas tree growers. Though he’s been phasing out that business, there are still some to sell.

“I didn’t expect to cut any more trees, but there’s about 400 ready there,” he said.

Tweedie credits his father with leading by example through hard work and community ethics.

“I’ll never forget how hard that generation worked,” he said. “They never complained.”

Tweedie recounts the story of his life and many stories of central Aroostook County’s place in the world in his self-published book, “Events.” Among the unique history stories he recounts in the book is that of the German prisoners of war during World War II who were taken to Aroostook County and placed as laborers on area farms, including his grandparents’ farm.

He is also active on Facebook, sharing historical observations and musings of Aroostook County and beyond, as well as connecting with his community of extended friends and family.

Tweedie said he was inspired to write the book as he entered his seventh decade of life.

“I always think that every time people pass on, a lot of the folklore and so forth goes with them. In my mid-70s, I had a heart attack, and thought, ‘I better get this taken care of,’” he noted.

Most Saturday nights, Tweedie and his wife Joan can be found enjoying music and a meal at Camper’s Paradise in Westfield. They’re also members of St. Joseph’s Church in Mars Hill, a church built in 1928 with wood cut from his family’s forestland.