André E. Benoit ’43 died on October 3, 2016, in Yarmouth, Maine.
(The following was published in the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram on October 6, 2016:)
Andre Eugene Benoit, 95
YARMOUTH, Cape Elizabeth and Cliff Island – Andre Eugene Benoit, of Yarmouth, Cape Elizabeth and Cliff Island, died Oct. 3, 2016, after a brief illness. He was 95.
The son of R. Eugene Benoit and Josephine (Joey) Formanns, and husband to Nancy Ryan Benoit, he was born in Melrose, Mass., and moved to Portland at a very young age. His family later moved to Cape Elizabeth in 1930, where he received his early education. He was a graduate of Kimball Union Academy in New Hampshire, and received a B.S. degree from Bowdoin College, Class of 1943.
One of the most enjoyable and memorable periods of his life was his youth in Cape Elizabeth. His parents’ home was next to what was then called the Old Casino. Just over the fence from his parents’ house was Fort Williams and the Goddard Mansion. At that time it was the living quarters for some of the noncommissioned officers’ families.
Many of his young friends were sons of the soldiers of the 5th Infantry (“Red Diamond”) Regiment garrisoned at the fort. He helped organize a baseball and football team called the Red Diamonds because they were able to purchase the red diamond insignia at the fort P.X.
He watched the 240th Maine National Guard Coastal Artillery fire the huge 21-inch cannon at targets miles off in the ocean. He would run to the P.X. to get the soldiers sodas and candy for nickels and dimes. He could remember buying hot loaves of bread at the fort bakery for 2 cents a loaf. One of his friends was the lighthouse keeper’s son at Portland Head Light, where he spent a great deal of his time. He watched many semipro football and baseball games at the fort made up of army personnel. This was just before the days of the Portland Sagamores.
During World War II, while still in college, he volunteered for the ski troops. He trained with the 10th Mountain Division at Camp Hale in Colorado and served in Italy, ending the war at the northern end of Lake Garda close to the Brenner Pass.
After the war, in 1946, he joined A. H. Benoit & Co., the family-owned clothing business founded by his grandfather in 1889. For many years he managed many departments, including Prep Hall, the Boys and Boy Scout departments. During this period he became a buyer and a vice president, and added a ski department, one of the first in Maine. He retired in 1986 after 50 years of service.
In 1950, he was introduced to Nancy, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. George B. Ryan of Newton, Mass. They were married Feb. 3, 1951, and settled in Cape Elizabeth where they started their family.
Throughout his life he was an active and passionate volunteer. He was chairman of the first Cape Elizabeth Recreation Committee, with a budget of $500. He was involved in Scouting, serving both in the district and later on the board of the Pine Tree Council. He served many years on the annual United Fund and United Way drives. After retiring, he became a volunteer at the Maine Handicapped Ski program, where he became an icon after serving for 25 years.
He also was a leading advocate in designating Route 302 from Portland through Fryeburg as the 10th Mountain Division Highway, and in naming the 10th Mountain Lodge at the Maine Center for Winter Sports in Fort Kent, where its association donates annual ski trophies.
Andre was an early ski enthusiast. His first experience in downhill skiing came in 1936 at Jockey Cap in Fryeburg. It was nothing more than a huge ledge covered with snow that included a rope tow. When he got to the top, it looked like a bobsled run with three well-banked turns. He would tell everyone you didn’t have to turn, you just let your skis run and automatically the turns pulled you around. He skied at Pleasant Mountain (Shawnee Peak), before the days of lifts.
After the war, as Pleasant Mountain was developed, the Benoit family skied there during weekends and vacations, no matter the conditions. Andre and Nancy taught their children to ski, putting them between their legs on a rope tow and down the slope, instilling a love for the sport that continues with the family today.
After retiring, he joined the Washingtonians, a ski group that travels to Europe to ski. Over several years he skied in France, Switzerland, Austria and Italy. He remained dedicated to the 10th Mountain Division by joining an alumni group that skied annually in Colorado. Andre’s involvement continued until the age of 91. Each year the group made it a point to spend two days at Ski Cooper, a Colorado ski area between Leadville and Camp Hale, where the 10th Mountain Division Memorial Monument is located. Andre was inducted into the Maine Ski Hall of Fame in 2012.
Andre also loved spending his summers with Nancy and his children and grandchildren at their cottage on Cliff Island, where he enjoyed family time, playing golf on Chebeague Island, community activities, gardening and maintaining and improving the cottage.
He was a communicant at Holy Cross, St. Bartholomew and Holy Martyrs churches during his life. He served on the church council at Holy Cross and St. Bartholomew.
He is survived by his loving wife, Nancy, of 65 years; a son, Andre Jr., of Boothbay Harbor; a son, Peter, of Wasilla, Alaska; a daughter, Joan, and her husband Scott Samuelson, of Freeport; a son, John, and his wife Holly, of Scarborough; eight grandchildren; sister, Joan Graham, of Cohasset, Mass.; and many nieces and nephews.
He was predeceased by his sister, Marie Louise (Mitzi).
The family extends its deepest gratitude to the entire loving and professional staff at Bay Square in Yarmouth, and the Hospice team at CHANS, for its thoughtful and compassionate care.