“I was raised by nuns,” explains Marie Labrecque of her childhood. “My father was very sick when I was a little girl, and my mother worked. She did not want me to be home alone with my brothers so she sent me to catholic school when I was very young.” At the age of twelve, Marie’s mother moved the family to Biddeford and Marie began working at the Stella Maris Convent helping the nuns teach younger children. “It was something I enjoyed very much.” Marie remained with the convent after finishing school herself. “For a long time I thought I wanted to become a nun,” she remembers. Just before her final vows though, she changed her mind.
“I hadn’t done anything in the real world before.” After spending the majority of her life devoting herself to the Catholic Church (she would remain deeply involved with the church her entire life), Marie decided she would venture into the secular world, a world she hardly knew. She rented a room in a doctor’s office and lived on her own for the first time. In her mid-twenties, Marie met Raymond, the brother of one of her friends. “At first he didn’t mean a thing to me,” Marie smiles when she remembers the man who would one day become her husband and then laughs. “But everybody loves Raymond.” Raymond was too scared to ask Marie out on a date, so he begged his sister to ask Marie to join various family functions in hopes that he might get the chance to speak with her. Eventually the two fell in love, married, and had their first of four children (and their only daughter) less than a year later.
Raymond told Marie when their daughter was born that she no longer had to work. He would work up to three jobs if they needed in order for her to stay home and raise their children. For a long time Raymond had to do just that. “Raymond was a worker. He was very shy, he didn’t talk too much, but he was proud in his work.” It wasn’t until their fourth son was in high school that Marie began working again. She worked on call overnights at a jail, served court papers, and drove a bus as well. Though they never owned a home, Marie and Raymond found a way to put their children through the Catholic school system they revered so highly.
Early in 1978 Marie returned from the grocery store in a hurry to make her shift driving a bus. The road to her home was blocked, a truck had crashed and the officer at the road block told her it was a severe crash that the driver was not expected to survive. “I was allowed down the road after I told him I was just returning groceries to my house. I had all of our license plate numbers memorized, and when I drove past I knew it was Raymond in the accident.” Raymond had fallen asleep on his way back home from one of his jobs; the strain of overworking had taken its toll. “We were friends with the officer closest to the crash. I asked him if Raymond would live, he said ‘Marie, Raymond is a fighter. He will be okay.’” Raymond did survive that crash but suffered many burns.
Very soon after Raymond’s accident Marie slipped and fell on a patch of ice while working her job serving papers. Both she and Raymond were unable to work until the following September. “Whatever small amount of money we had was gone,” Marie says. Raymond was never able to work the same way again. His body would be in constant pain for the rest of his life.
Still Marie and Raymond found a way to make ends meet and remain in Biddeford for the next 12 years. They worked, and with all their spare time they volunteered at their church. Raymond would paint or fix things for no charge at all “That’s the type of guy he was. If there was something that needed to be fixed, he would go and fix it, most of the time for free,” Marie says.
Then Raymond was diagnosed with cancer. “I told him we have to apply for subsidized housing. I knew it hurt his pride, but he couldn’t work anymore and we didn’t have any money. We simply couldn’t stay.” So Marie and Raymond applied to Avesta in 1990 and received housing very soon after at the Golden Park Village apartments. In their new life Marie took care of Raymond, bringing him to his treatments and helping him around the house.
Even still Marie found great ways to become involved with the community at Golden Park Village. She and a few friends created the “Sunshine Club”, a group that would meet once a month and celebrate holidays or a resident’s birthday with a festive meal (which Marie often purchased the ingredients for herself) and social interaction. She and Raymond had many friends within Golden Park Village.
In 2009 Raymond passed away. “He was in so much pain.” Marie says. “He was a very sick man. It’s a part of life.” Marie’s eyes are incredibly alert. She remains stoic but her memories of him are so vivid it is clear she thinks of him all the time. She tells the story of her life with Raymond as though she was remembering something that had happened to her earlier the same day, yet somehow she remains active in this new stage of her life. She still has friends living in Golden Park with whom she socializes, and she remains an avid Red Sox and Patriots fan. To this day Marie will still drive the other residents to the store, pharmacy, or any doctor’s appointments they might need a ride to. “I tell them if there’s ever anything I can do for them or any way I can help them, please, let me know! I love helping people. It’s just what I naturally love to do.”
Resident, Golden Park