Betty Goulette is a colorful storyteller, drawing you in with her enthusiasm and passion.

She makes all sorts of connections as she speaks, taking you on a fascinating journey and getting more and more excited along the way.

Ultimately, you are left with a wealth of ideas and information to ponder.

It was no different Wednesday morning, as we met at Selah Tea Cafe in downtown Waterville.

Goulette, 78, was eager to tell me about her latest venture — naming a seat at the Waterville Opera House for her mother, Blanche Dubord, who passed away 30 years ago, but who is very much on her daughter’s mind right now.

For a number of reasons.

You see, her mother as a young woman played the piano for silent films at the Opera House in the early 1900s, learning a new musical score each time another movie arrived.

“The score would change with the movie every week,” Goulette said. “She was an incredible sight reader. She could play ragtime or Chopin.”

Taking after her mother, Goulette also learned to play the piano — and later became an actress, performing on the Opera House stage for several years in the 1980s.

That personal connection to the Opera House, the facility’s ongoing renovation and expansion and a silent movie, “The Artist,” having been nominated for six Golden Globe Awards, it all prompted Goulette to action: She decided to honor her mother by naming a seat for her in the Opera House.

As part of the renovation and expansion project, people may “buy” a seat to help fund the project, and have a name placed on a plaque on that seat. The price for buying an orchestra seat is $1,000; side orchestra and center balcony seats are $500; and side and rear balcony seats, $250.

Goulette knew there was no way she could afford $1,000 for an orchestra seat, which is what she felt would be most appropriate for her mother, who sat in the orchestra pit when she played piano for silent films.

So, Goulette enlisted her children and nieces and nephews to pitch in, and they did so readily, garnering a total of $1,000.

She is delighted they were so quick to honor their grandmother in this way.

“They all got the nice thank-you notes from the Opera House, but I wrote them thank-you notes, too. They were very thrilled to do it. It’s just a wonderful feeling, you know? It’s something that will immortalize a very unique woman.”

Goulette’s brown eyes, framed by wire-rimmed glasses and a thick head of curly white hair, beam as she tells the story.

It’s obvious she loved and admired her mother — as well as her father, F. Harold Dubord, a prominent lawyer, judge and a former mayor. The family lived on Burleigh and Silver streets.

“I’m telling you, she was quite a girl,” Goulette said of her mother. “She played the organ in the Catholic church in Bangor when my father was going to University of Maine Law School and then she went across the street and played in the Protestant church, all to make money to help put my father through law school. He grew up on Water Street in Waterville and went to college and became a state supreme court judge.”

Family is important to Goulette, a widow of less than a year and mother to three grown children. She is passionate about maintaining connections and making sure those who have passed are remembered.

Diane Bryan, executive director of the Opera House, said opera house officials are touched by Goulette’s efforts.

“This is another example of the wonderful memories the community has of the Waterville Opera House,” she said.

And Goulette said her mother would be tickled to think she is the subject of so much attention.

“She was one character,” Goulette said, smiling. “She was equally at home at a lunch at the White House with Franklin D. Roosevelt (Goulette said her mother indeed attended a luncheon with the president there), as she was on the deck of the boat out at North Pond in Smithfield, putting her own worm on a hook. She’d sit there and fish by the family camp. She could sit and play poker with the rest of them — or bridge, with the ladies.”

Recalling those times, Goulette positively glows.

And that’s how you’ll likely see her when the Opera House reopens, sitting proudly in the front row, in that seat bearing her mother’s name.

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 24 years. Her column appears here Saturdays. She may be reached at [email protected]

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