The Honorable Dr. Nelson Madore passed away at his home in East Falmouth, MA, on Christmas Eve. He was 77.
Born June 7, 1943, to proud parents Adrien and Odile (Deschaine) Madore in Winterville, Maine, Nelson grew up in a small town on his family farm surrounded by love from his parents, four brothers, three sisters and extended family. His early years in Aroostook County were spent without electricity or running water at home, but they were full of cherished memories such as picking potatoes in the annual harvest, working as a lumberjack, learning to cook alongside his mother, and fishing afternoons away with cousin, Don, on St. Froid Lake, and many fun times with the Potvin cousins.
Nelson would go on to be educated in Eagle Lake and graduate from Fort Kent Community High School in 1961.
What we can tell you is... Nelson went on to enter the Army following high school and used his French-language skills to help him become a Green Beret, Army Ranger/Paratrooper, and member of the 101st Airborne Division. Famously “not existing” for some time, Nelson did share his efforts on the first fact-finding mission to Vietnam prior to military involvement. With rumors abounding, including a frank sit down with Pres. John F. Kennedy in Washington D.C. to lay out the case for Vietnam being an unwinnable war, Nelson’s career in the military did not take the same path as many, but instead turned into an advisor on “classified” missions and military engagements. This would famously be proven when he told his then Thomas College students, “My ride is here…” as he proceeded to board a military helicopter that landed on the College’s soccer field one random afternoon. Incredibly proud of his service to his country, Nelson would continue as a staunch supporter of the U.S. Military and its efforts to honor and protect the United States.
Following attending University of Maine at Orono, where he graduated with a BA in History & Government (66), an MA in History (67), and a CAS in Social Studies (78), he subsequently earned a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) from Vanderbilt University (82) where he’d spend the summers of 1980 and 1981 taking classes with a cohort of close friends in Nashville, TN.
Nelson moved on to a life as first a teacher of French at Penquis Valley High School in Milo, Maine. He would then famously “flip a coin” between a professorship at Université Laval in Quebec, or his ultimate career path as a professor of History, Government, and Management at Thomas College in Waterville, ME; chance chose the latter where he would spend the next 40 years loving every second of his time in the classroom.
It would be categorically impossible to name the plethora of students and colleagues Nelson would come to open his ever-loving heart to. The classroom was his pulpit and held the attention of even the least-interested undergraduate or graduate student. Students would come to learn the ins and outs of the history of the United States government (all the good and bad that that includes); they’d be opened to modern world history where they were encouraged to understand their place in this microcosm, we call the world; students were made the most risque of examples in ethical dilemmas; and students trying to find their identities would be challenged academically and personally in manners they would not expect.
While at Thomas College, Nelson would be the academic advisor not only to hundreds of students but also his most loved student-led organizations, including J(udicial) Board, the Student Senate, fraternity Alpha Gamma Delta, sorority Epsilon Kappa, and many more. Nelson was proud to have the support of his colleagues as he served as Faculty Chair for a number of years. His close bond with students extended to the athletics fields and courts, where he and the Madore girls were a fixture on the sidelines throughout his time at the College.
Probably most importantly, he became the advisor to the fraternity Alpha Gamma Delta, and sorority (yes, you read that right) Epsilon Kappa. Alpha and EK, along with many other favorite Thomas students, would come to be viewed as members of the extended Madore family and they were often entrusted with the care of the Madore children while he and his wife Paula would be off teaching at all hours of the day in all corners of the State. These babysitting escapades lead to many precarious situations--one of the more notable being a short trip to the local jail for a student and the Madore family dog (and first-born son), Sage.
Nelson was a Life Member of the Waterville Elks Lodge #905; The American Legion, Waterville and Sandwich, MA, chapters; he was a faithful communicant of Notre Dame Church in Waterville.
As a member of the Waterville, ME, community, Nelson would carry his passion for education on to the Waterville School Board, both as a member for 18 years and Chairman for 15 years, where he helped to create the high standards of the public-school department. He loved the people and cultures of the Ward 7 community as he identified with the rich, deep, Franco-American heritage it displayed; this would-be encouragement for a book he would co-edit, “Voyages: A Maine Franco-American Reader.”
In 1999, Nelson successfully ran for Mayor of Waterville and served two-and-a-half terms through 2004. His time in office followed a period of challenge for the city and under his leadership the city was able to turn its focus back to the business of doing what was best for the city, including renewed efforts tied to economic development. He was a passionate voice for the common resident in his time in office and brought his strong education background into the position. He loved his time serving the community and working with the many colleagues who shared a vision for a better Waterville ahead. Nelson also enjoyed discovering where some of those pesky homemade campaign signs had disappeared to throughout the election...looking at you Thomas students.
Nelson wasn’t all that great at saying “No” to anyone. But that was part of his presence we all admired. We knew he would be our rock. The man who could swing that axe the way he did growing up and split a stubborn piece of wood in half without breaking a sweat, he was equally the giant teddy bear. Always ready with a hug and a cheek kiss or a bear of a pat on the back that could knock the wind out of you, Nelson loved deeply and publicly for such a modest man.
More important than any professional accomplishment, accolade or award, Nelson was a doting husband to his wife Paula for 43 years and the proud father of two daughters, Ginny and Maren. He cherished time with his girls and in retirement they became even more the center of his world.
Nelson was preceded in death by his parents Adrien and Odile, brothers Ervin, Reynold, Gilman, and Clayton. He is survived by his loving wife, Paula (Franzen) Madore, currently of East Falmouth, MA; daughter Ginny Madore, of East Falmouth, MA; daughter Maren Madore and son-in-law Eric Reddy, of Lynn, MA; sister Verna Madore; sister Greta Madore and Maureen LeClair of Albion; sister Mae (Madore) and brother-in-law Richard Landesman of Milford, NH; sister in-law Mary Madore of Corrales, NM; several much-loved cousins, godsons, and a host of extended Madore, Deschaine, and Franzen family members, including every single friend, student and colleague who had the opportunity to learn from and be loved by him.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to one of the following three: Dr. Nelson Madore Scholarship Endowment at Thomas College; Alpha Gamma Delta Leadership Scholarship Endowment at Thomas College. http://www.thomas.edu Please click the “Give” link; and Alzheimer’s Association at Alz.org, Nelson Madore Memorial Page; please specify Maine Chapter.
A proper celebration of life will be held at a later time in Summer 2021, we hope in Maine, so all people who loved Nelson can safely be together to share our personal anecdotes and celebrate this incredible man.