AUGUSTA — This Thanksgiving was a painful one for Joe Violette: Priscilla, his wife of 35 years, died in April.

He thought of going to a stepchild’s home for dinner, but changed his mind, staying at Chateau Cushnoc, the Townsend Street housing complex for seniors and disabled people that he and Priscilla moved into together about 13 years ago.

“I feel down in the dumps today with my wife not here and all that,” said Violette, 71, a Vietnam War veteran. “I don’t know if that’s a good excuse or not, but I just feel down.”

On this holiday, Tony Lewis and Kat McKechnie, a Bowdoinham husband and wife, were delivering free meals to Violette and other Chateau Cushnoc residents.

“This is fine for me,” Violette said.

The Lewises started the morning at the Red Barn, the Riverside Drive seafood restaurant that hosted a free dine-in and delivery community Thanksgiving meal on Thursday in partnership with the Green Street United Methodist Church and area businesses, putting more than 100 volunteers to work preparing, serving and delivering food.

More than 200 delivery orders, made in advance and headed to Augusta, Belgrade, Mount Vernon and Hallowell, left the restaurant Thursday, while 270 meals were handed out by the end of the four-hour, dine-in meal, said Alicia Barnes, the Red Barn’s business manager.

Lewis and McKechnie were charged with 43 of the delivery orders, headed to Chateau Cushnoc and the adjacent John Marvin Tower.

By the time they left the Red Barn, the back of their Jeep Wrangler was freighted with paper bags holding the modular meals: turkey, mashed potatoes, squash and peas packed hot, in microwavable containers, with a roll and two plastic ramekins of cranberry sauce and gravy on the side, along with six pies.

On the way to Chateau Cushnoc, Lewis and McKechnie said they’re often looking for opportunities to volunteer.

“I saw this and just really wanted to be a part of it,” said McKechnie, an Augusta native.

Once at the senior complex, they put the food on a cart given to them there, taking two trips to get everything into a common dining area — with some carrying help from a reporter.

There to receive and dole out the food was Gloria Farrell, a 12-year resident of the complex who talks more like an employee.

She drops off newspapers at residents’ doors in the morning, calling herself “the jack of all trades and master of none,” keeping things organized at the complex. If a resident’s name wasn’t on Farrell’s list, that resident wouldn’t have a meal, she said.

Farrell’s an Augusta native with family around, so she stays at Chateau Cushnoc through lunch and goes to her oldest son’s house later in the day. The meal, she said, “means a lot to a lot” of residents.

“Some of them have families, some don’t,” she said.

Violette has stepchildren around, but he’s still with and without family.

He calls himself an alcoholic, but he said he hasn’t had a drink for more than 20 years. The main reason for his success, he said, was Priscilla, who went to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings with him. He said he doesn’t much like living at Chateau Cushnoc, but his wife “liked it here, so I’m staying here.”

“After 35 years, I have to accept that she’s gone,” Violette said. But it’s “getting better, though,” he added. “Getting better all the time.”

By the time Lewis and McKechnie returned to the Red Barn and left for their own celebration, a handwritten note had come back to the restaurant from a man in another part of Augusta, thanking volunteers for the “delicious meals and the warmth and kindness behind them.”

The ending line read, “May your holiday be as joyous and memorable as you have made mine.”

The note was brought back to the kitchen, where the Red Barn’s owner, Laura Benedict, there most of Thanksgiving day, read it.

“She cried when she read that,” Barnes said.

Michael Shepherd — 370-7652[email protected]Twitter: @mikeshepherdme

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