We’re often reminded to enjoy the small things in life: the beauty of our natural surroundings, the taste of good food or the company of those we love. Maurice Bouchard, 102, of Lewiston, spends his days enjoying moments like these after a life of hard work.
This interview is part of our series of conversations with Maine centenarians.
Ninety-seven years ago, when Bouchard was 5 years old, his father made a decision that would shape the rest of his life. He moved the family from Canada to Concord, Vermont, to run a small grocery store. The family lived above the store, which would be at the center of Bouchard’s world well into adulthood.
“Worked in it all the time. Sometimes I’d fill up the meat case, make sure the grocery rack had the vegetables and fruit,” he says.
Bouchard says he would also pick up the bread delivery, which arrived by train. In the winter, he’d ride his sled down to the station and haul the loaves back up.
After high school, Bouchard went away to college to earn a business degree, and then bought his own grocery business in Vermont. But after 10 years, he sold it and returned to help his aging father run the family store, which, as Bouchard tells it, then became a local legend.
“We sold hardware and grain besides a complete line of groceries and meat,” he says. “We had a good store. People told us, and salesman would tell us, we had the best store in the Northeast Kingdom.”
They donated food to local causes and made deliveries to homebound residents. Bouchard and his father’s reputation, he says, were built on their generosity and their relationships, not only with their customers but with each other.
“Did things together, everything together. Sunday we were closed. We’d go out with our dog rabbit hunting or something, always together. Great friends,” he says.
They worked together up until his father passed away. When he died, their store did, too.
“When my father died, I didn’t want the store anymore. Because I didn’t have him,” Bouchard says.
He was in his 60s at that time with a family of his own. He went on to serve as town clerk for more than 20 years, retiring after his wife was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. He lost her, and a few years ago, their two daughters, to that same disease.
Bouchard moved to Maine in his 80s. He’s had a lifelong love of horses, riding them as a boy, then owning racehorses as an adult. For decades, he traveled to Lewiston to watch harness races, where he met a woman named Polly. She sold tickets, and he would always go to her booth. They’ve been together for about two decades.
“There’s the one nobody can take her place,” he says.
Polly is 83, and the two like to take long drives in the country or, if the weather’s nice, go for a walk. Bouchard still mows the lawn every week, and sits in a chair in his garage afterwards to admire his work. It’s a wonderful, old person’s life, he says.
“Cause she tells me she loves me,” Bouchard says with a laugh. “So that’s the best thing. Puts up with me. I’m not the easiest fella to put up with.”
“You’re pretty easy,” Polly says.
At 102, Bouchard says he wishes he could remember the past a little bit better. But he doesn’t think much about the future.
“Don’t have to,” he says, laughing again. “I just have her. I want her to see me out. It’s got to be close at my age. I’m not going to say, ‘10, 15 years from now I’m gonna do this or do that.’ I can’t say what I’m going to do tomorrow.”
“Nobody promises tomorrow. That’s what we say. So live for today,” Polly says.
Which, she says, is how her husband has always approached life. When each new chapter begins, he doesn’t look back. He’s happy with what’s next. And that may be why, she says, he’s lived more than a century.