It’s a gorgeous day on the riverfront. The rain has stopped, the sky is blue, a balmy breeze is blowing off the Kennebec River and Patrick Lavoie is holding court in the park at Two Cent Bridge in Waterville.

“I’m a widower,” he says. “A lot of us have been coming down here, us older guys, every day. People come by. They panhandle. This is not the place for that. It’s a family park.”

Wearing a green John Deere cap, dark glasses and a black fingerless glove on his right hand so it doesn’t slip on his cane, Lavoie, 63, is sitting on a metal park bench, enjoying the fresh air and company of friends.

“I moved here three years ago from Lawrence, Massachusetts. I got tired of picking up syringes in the yard and kicking the hookers off my street. I lived in the same house 54 years and one night two crack-heads came in. My little dog started growling. I picked up my head and there was three people in my house, so all hell broke loose.”

Lavoie pulls down his T-shirt to show me a stab wound, all healed now, on his chest.

“She stabbed me right here and one of them stabbed me in the forehead. They cut me open here.”

He stretches out his left forearm arm, where a scar runs from his wrist to his elbow.

“I moved to Winslow and I like it. I walk down the street at night, I don’t have to worry about people shooting people. People say hello to you here. In Lawrence, you get killed if you look at somebody the wrong way.”

Lavoie tells me proudly that he is of French-Canadian descent. He lived with his parents in New Sweden, in Aroostook County, until he was 6 years old and they moved to Massachusetts. When he got older, he worked with his father, who had a sheetrock installation business, and he spent his entire life doing that until he had a motorcycle accident and injured his leg.

“And I fell down an elevator shaft, which didn’t help. I’m all broke up, sweetheart. I shattered my ankle when I hit the railing on the first floor, broke three ribs, screwed up my hips. I was in the hospital for eight weeks and had a heart attack in the lobby when my wife picked me up. I was 51.”

Lavoie’s life got sadder. He had a son, also Patrick, who at 33 years old was killed in Florida in a road rage incident.

“Patrick got shot September 15, 2010. By the time we got his body back to Massachusetts, the day of his funeral, September 28, I woke up and my wife, Sandra, died of a broken heart.”

He moves his dark glasses off his face and wipes his eyes.

“Patrick, he put windows in high-rises. He had two girls and a wife, Joanna. Joanna got married again. I don’t blame her. I stay in touch with them. I text them and message them on Facebook.”

Lavoie says he tries not to think a lot about Patrick’s death and looks toward the future instead, but sometimes it’s hard.

“I found this place here in Winslow and it’s quiet. I live next to the police station now and I don’t hear no sirens. It’s not like Lawrence. In Lawrence I can tell the difference between police sirens, ambulance, firetrucks and state police. They all have different sounds, and you hear them every five minutes. I love Maine. I lived in Florida, Texas. I was a sheetrocker like my dad. I got a pretty good pension, so I can afford to live with myself.”

Lavoie is wearing a black T-shirt with green four-leaf clovers all over it.

“I was born on St. Patrick’s Day. That’s why they named me Patrick.”

He talks about his cats, Evil, who is 5 and all black, and Mama, a 2-year-old gray-and-white feline. They are his steady companions, though he has to get out of his apartment and socialize to break up the monotony. He spends all day in the park, he said.

“I got nothing else to do and I get bored at home, and the cats don’t talk; and if they do, I’m in trouble.”

Sitting beside Lavoie on the bench is Michael Foster, 51, of Waterville. They have become friends because they are of like mind about keeping the park a good place for families to visit.

“You just meet a variety of people down here from all walks of life,” Foster says.

Foster was homeless for 12 years, but the people at Kennebec Behavioral Health helped him get an apartment, he says. He grew up in Waterville, married and had a job but lost all that because he got into trouble with drugs and alcohol, he said.

“I just got a lot of issues with my neck. I got into KBH and they got me an apartment, and then my stepmother died and I got an OUI and did two months in jail. Somebody broke into my apartment and stole everything and I became homeless again, which is a chronic thing with me.”

But, he said, he is doing better now, and he and Lavoie and others try to avoid the troublemakers who come to the park.

“I don’t like to hang around the people that attract the police,” Lavoie says.

As they speak, an older couple comes by and sits and a man approaches on a motorcycle with his tiny brindle-colored dog, Lucky Me, strapped loosely to the seat with a bungee cord.

“Here comes Jim and Lucky,” Lavoie says as the dog lets out a high-pitched howl.

Jim, who doesn’t want to give his last name, says Lucky Me is a 3-year-old Cairn terrier and is part schnauzer.

“He loves to ride. I can’t go anywhere without him.”

Foster, Lavoie and another man who has arrived, Vincent Nelson, 33, chat about a robin’s nest on the bridge that they and the others have been monitoring since the mother bird had babies. They say all the baby birds finally flew out of the nest. Lavoie says “the girls” were worried about the birds because one of the babies fell out of the nest a while ago.

I ask who the girls are, and he explains they are two teenagers who often come to the park and have befriended the older people.

“They think I’m their grandfather,” Lavoie said. “They don’t drink, they don’t do drugs and they don’t smoke cigarettes.”

The men talk about the flowering crab trees that line the park, which abuts a parking lot on one side and a large grassy field on the other where people picnic and let their dogs run free. It’s kind of like a home environment, except it’s outdoors.

“If you’re a regular here and you’re a decent person, we look out for each other,” Nelson says. “We watch out for every living creature down here.”

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 29 years. Her column appears here Mondays. She may be reached at [email protected]. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to centralmaine.com.