Editor’s Note: The following is the first of two articles highlighting some of the top news stories from 2021. This article highlights events from January through June.
The year 2022 demonstrated the success and perseverance of St. John Valley residents. From students and staff who proved education was about more than a building to a high school secretary who fulfilled her dream to write books and a centenarian who still lived on his own, a review of news stories show that the people of northern Maine are strong and accomplished.
Firefighters remembered a former St. Agatha fire department chief who served as a volunteer firefighter for many years until learning he had cancer. Gerald “Ricky” Chamberlain was 72 when he died from the disease. He left the impression of being a man who genuinely cared about others.
With the first half of the school year in the books for staff and students of Dr. Levesque Elementary School, a new makeshift learning environment to replace their burned building proved that what makes the school successful is more about people than concrete.
Longtime Fort Kent Community High School secretary Cynthia Caron followed her dream to write children’s books, all with a positive message. “I want to write about values and subjects that every parent has to deal with,” Caron said.
A then 102-year-old Madawaska man proved accomplished at living on his own. Armand Martin could be spotted driving through town, buying his own groceries and going for walks up and down his street, returning afterward to his apartment.
Despite facing power outages, the Fort Kent Drama Club opened its show, “Cudas’ Last Ride” to the community. The students were met with the crowd chanting “Cudas” during the curtain call. The original one-act play was written by Fort Kent drama director Doug Clapp.
Battle of the Bands returned to Fort Kent Community High School after being paused for a year due to COVID-19. Student musicians from the freshman, sophomore, junior and senior classes formed musical groups and performed live in front of an audience of enthusiastic classmates, teachers and the general public in the high school gym.
Fort Kent voters passed all 63 articles of a proposed town budget with an estimated net tax commitment of $4.9 million during the annual town meeting on Monday, March 28. A record turnout at the polls demonstrated satisfaction with the current town council when they voted for incumbents Jacob Robichaud and Carroll Theriault to retain their council seats.
Walls of the new border crossing station were erected at the site of the International Bridge being constructed in Madawaska to replace the old bridge, which has been posted with weight limits for several years. Engineers reported the project was progressing on schedule.
Volunteer firefighters from three departments battled a fire that destroyed a Fort Kent residence housing two apartments and a local business. All occupants of the building, which also housed a large garage at 99 Charette Hill Road, escaped without injury,
Dozens of volunteers of all ages gathered in Fort Kent where they filled trash bags with garbage and debris uncovered throughout the town during the spring snow melt. Fort Kent Community Action Team and St. John Vianney Parish organized the event and supplied the trash bags, as well as plastic gloves and refreshments for the volunteers.
SAD 33 board of directors announced it would seek a state subsidy toward funding the construction of a new K-12 school building in the district. In order to qualify, the district would first need to be placed on the state’s major capital school construction list.
Rep. John Martin, then 80 years old, met at his home to discuss his more than half a century of service in politics. The veteran legislator retired in November due to term limits.
Frenchville Fire Department received a $3,000 grant from the Maine Municipal Association. The Ed MacDonald Safety Enhancement Grant Program is intended to improve workplace safety.
A collaboration between Van Buren and Caribou schools was approved granting a new superintendent, gifted and talented director and school lunch director for Van Buren. Upon merging, both schools would benefit from access to each other’s vocational programs as well as splitting the costs of the positions shared.
A St. John Valley Technology Center student who took home a gold medal from the Maine State Convention and Skills Championships in March showcased her health occupation skills on the national stage. With the statewide win, Hannah Albert, a Madawaska Middle/High School senior who attends the tech center as a health occupations student, advanced to compete at the SkillsUSA Leadership and Skills Conference the week of June 20 in Atlanta, Georgia.
A community’s effort to keep local tradition alive resulted in the distribution of a collaborative coloring book to area schools. The Acadian Coloring Book was researched and created over five years by the Greater Grand Isle Historical Society and celebrates the Acadian culture in the St. John Valley region of Maine and New Brunswick. A total of 2,500 copies of the book were made and primarily distributed to local schools in an effort to educate the younger generation about their family histories.
SAD 27 school board members voted to return music to schools after eight years without the program. The program in Fort Kent was dissolved in 2014 due to a lack of student participation, according to Superintendent Ben Sirois.