WATERVILLE — If a young mother is alone with her children and her husband is off to war, expect to find Gil Pelletier snowblowing her driveway — for free.

If a neighbor’s lawnmower breaks down, Pelletier is the first one there offering to mow the lawn.

And if a terrible snowstorm buries the fire hydrants near his house, Pelletier shovels them out.

At 74, he has a perfectly sound explanation for his charitable actions.

“I’ve been doing that for 13 years,” he said. “When I do my driveway, I do the hydrants because the firemen don’t have time to do all of them, and if there’s a fire in my neighborhood, I want them to get to the hydrants.”

It’s no wonder Pelletier, of Waterville, is being honored with the 2011 Distinguished Community Service Award, to be given March 28 at the Mid-Maine Chamber of Commerce’s 49th annual awards dinner at Waterville Elks Banquet & Conference Center.

Pelletier is well-known in the city for his good deeds, and they are many.

He has delivered Meals on Wheels for 27 years, takes absentee ballots to shut-ins and nursing home residents, drives people to the polls on election day, helps families of those serving in the military, cuts firewood for neighbors in need, assists his priest at funerals and is a lector for Corpus Christi Parish.

Beyond that, he is a member of the Franco-American Heritage Society and helps organize the city’s annual Franco-American Family Festival, recruits people to become members of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars and recently helped the Alfond Youth Center with its new ice skating rinks.

In typical fashion, the tall, slim, white-haired and modest Pelletier expects no praise.

“I believe if there’s something that needs to be done and I can do it, I don’t need to be asked — I just do it.”

Kimberly Lindlof, the chamber’s president and chief executive officer, is quick to affirm that Pelletier is well deserving of the accolade.

“Gil is the kind of person who has incorporated giving back into his daily life and into who he is,” Lindlof said. “He does so much for so many — without a lot of fanfare. If Webster’s Dictionary had a photo next to the word selflessness, it would be Gil’s.”

Cheryl Gifford, director of Spectrum Generations’ Muskie Center, agrees. She nominated Pelletier for the chamber award, not only because he has volunteered many years at the Muskie center and other places, but also so that young people can see how one person can make a difference through volunteer efforts.

“Gil’s commitment and dedication exemplify how keeping active and being involved is good for oneself and the community,” Gifford said. “He is a role model to all — one I hope younger generations will look up to and mimic. He is genuine, warm, friendly, trustworthy and a welcome part of the Spectrum family.”

Ask Parks and Recreation Director Matt Skehan about Pelletier, and Skehan smiles.

“Every time I see him, he’s such a pleasure just to talk to,” Skehan said. “He’s always willing, always asking what’s going on and if he can help with anything.”

Skehan said Pelletier frequently asks if there are any trees in the city that have fallen during storms.

“He’s always asking if he can cut trees up and get them to people who can use them to heat their homes,” Skehan said. “I’ve seen his truck loaded with trees he has cut.”

A family man, Pelletier notes that his wife, Marilyn, volunteers as much as he does. They grew up together in Caribou, in Aroostook County, where everyone helped everyone else, he said. They married in 1965 and are the parents of three grown daughters, Susan, Debra and Kimberly.

The third in a family of eight children, Pelletier said he watched his parents give to others when times were tough in the 1930s.

“My parents were agrarian, so to speak,” he said. “My father was a carpenter. In the summer, we had a pretty good garden and he always had a cow or a pig, chickens. We went to church and my father helped people build houses. Those were hard times in the ’30s. I guess we all helped each other, especially in potato-digging time.”

Pelletier is a 1956 Caribou High School graduate and holds an associate degree in management from Thomas College.

A 25-year veteran of the U.S. Army, he was a lieutenant colonel who served in Vietnam and worked at the Pentagon. He received a Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal and National Defense Service Medal, among others.

Last year he was named the Bourque-Lanigan American Legion Post 5 Legionnaire of the Year for outstanding leadership and given the Commander’s Appreciation Award for devoted service. He also won the “2 Those Who Care” award for volunteerism, given by WLBZ Channel 2 and United Way of Eastern Maine. In addition, the city honored him with the 2011 Spirit of America Volunteer Award for selfless service.

He is a former member of the city’s planning and zoning boards and Waterville Sewerage District and served on many committees having to do with youth. Gov. Paul LePage appointed him last year to the We Support Our Troops Advisory Board.

The chamber award is given to someone who for more than 10 years has helped to better the community; has demonstrated leadership, resourcefulness and unselfishness toward the economic betterment of mid-Maine; initiated creativity; and has been involved in community service at least three years.

Pelletier said he is grateful and honored to be chosen for the award, but counts himself among many others who volunteer.

“I’m not the only one,” he said. “There are a lot of people that do a lot of good for others. I guess I got picked on this year, so to speak.”

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

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