AUGUSTA — City Police Chief Robert Gregoire sold the motorcycle that almost killed him in a crash last September. Unable to use his arms and legs, Gregoire figured he’d probably never be back up on a bike again.

Now he’s not so sure.

“There was no idea at that point whether I’d ever have the opportunity to do it again,” Gregoire said, a big smile creasing his face. “I think I will.”

Those changes have brought movement to every extremity. From a starting point 10 months ago that was limited to small movement in one thumb, Gregoire now has the arm strength to push around his own wheelchair — he keeps the motorized model for getting around outside where there are steeper inclines and declines — and can lift both legs, and move his feet, on command.

“Everything is moving now,” Gregoire said. “I can lift up my knees. I can move my hips. Everything is just, comparatively speaking, weak compared to someone who walks around every day. I just want to get up and move around, no matter how slow. I’m optimistic that’s going to happen.”

If Gregoire needed any more motivation, he has found it in the ongoing support from his family, his co-workers and the community.


“It’s one of those things you feel very thankful for, that people still keep you in their thoughts even though it’s been a matter of months,” Gregoire said. “For people to still be thinking about me is very nice. Those are the types of things that just keep you going — the family support, the community support. People don’t forget about you, which is great.”

The chief will get another shot of community support later this month when Western View Golf Course hosts a nine-hole benefit golf scramble for him. Augusta’s Tom Connors, who is organizing the event with friend Jeff Kendall, said he began arranging it after having breakfast with Deputy Chief Jared Mills, of the Augusta police.

“The chief has done some wonderful things for us,” Connors said. “He and Jared have been so supportive, it’s amazing.”

Connors recalled an evening when Gregoire responded to a report of suspicious activity because the other officers were busy. Connors was impressed that the city’s top police officer would take the time to respond to a generic complaint.

“Bob just seems to go above and beyond,” Connors said. “I just wanted him to know that Augusta hasn’t forgotten him.”

The scramble is set for 1 p.m. July 19 at the club at 130 Bolton Hill Road. The scramble is $30 per person for each team of four. The scramble will be capped at 18 teams. Ten teams already have registered, Connors said.


“You don’t have to be a golfer to play and have fun,” Connors said. “It’s not a PGA event. You don’t have to be a professional golfer.”

Connors has been making the rounds to find people and businesses to sponsor specific holes. He has been overwhelmed by the response, particularly from the city’s small-business community.

“It really has opened my eyes and made me appreciate Augusta even more,” he said. “It’s been really rewarding.”

Connors said he has heard from a number of nongolfers who plan to attend just to support Gregoire, who will be there with his wife, Cathy Gregoire. Connors said there will be some prizes for the scramble, but that’s not what the day is about.

“The object is to raise money and show Bob that we’re there for him,” Connors said. “We set a small goal of $1,500. Hopefully we’ll get there.”

Gregoire suffered a spinal cord injury in his neck in September when the motorcycle he and his wife were riding during a charity event crashed in Jay. Cathy Gregoire suffered a broken ankle. Neither of them was wearing a helmet.


Robert Gregoire, 50, spent several weeks recovering at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston and Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston. He returned to Augusta at the end of November and went back to work in January.

Gregoire’s life now is marked by conquered challenges and those that still stand before him. When he first came back to work, he used a motorized chair that would allow him to sit at a slight recline. His core strength was not enough to hold him upright. Gregoire now can sit upright, and even lean forward, without the worry of falling over. His hands at one time lacked the strength to turn a doorknob and his arms couldn’t push open a door, but now he moves freely from room to room.

“There was a lot of things I was not doing when I came home. I wasn’t moving from here down,” Gregoire said, pointing to his upper chest. “It’s the small things, like turning the doorknob and getting into your office and doing things at home that I couldn’t do a week or two before. I keep trying and I finally succeed. Those accomplishments seem small, but they’re really big to me.”

Gregoire continues to have physical therapy twice a week, but his work is hardly limited to those few hours. Working at his desk, reading or writing documents, is spent exercising his core and his extremities to build up strength and endurance. Part of the reason he uses a manual wheelchair is to build up his strength and cardiovascular system. He is constantly looking for the next challenge to overcome, such as using the mouse on his computer, which he has mastered, or moving his legs.

“Everybody wants to help you,” Gregoire said. “Let me try it first. If I can’t do it, I’ll let you help me.”

Gregoire has been trying for some time to open his own bottle of water, but he lacked the hand strength. He always wound up handing it off to someone else.


“My wife would give it to me, or my daughter would give it to me, I tried every time first until one day it snapped. Of course my wife said, ‘Oh, by the way, I loosened all the water bottle caps,'” Gregoire said, chuckling again at Cathy Gregoire’s joke. “It’s one of those things I do on my own now. It might take several attempts, but I get it every time.”

Progress has come quickly in recent months as Gregoire’s therapy has included standing in a pool and using braces.

“My body is responding to it,” he said. “It seems like in the last two to three months things have changed a lot.”

As much as he hopes to rise up out of it one day, using a wheelchair has been a learning experience for Gregoire. He used to attend meetings and functions without thought, now he has to ask whether the building is handicapped-accessible. Traversing the brick sidewalks in Hallowell can be a jarring experience, and many of the historic buildings have a step in the entryway that make it impossible for Gregoire and others in a chair to enter. He recently had to attend a funeral and had to find out whether it was accessible.

“Those are the types of things you never really thought about until you get into a wheelchair,” Gregoire said. “Another person’s idea of accessible, and my idea, a handicapped person’s idea, are two different things.”

Doctors have told Gregoire that the first year after the accident will go a long way to determining his future mobility. Ten months after the accident, Gregoire is hopeful that the significant progress he has made will continue. If he can get to a point that he is walking, regardless of how slowly or haltingly, Gregoire thinks, the improvement will come even faster.


“You just keep going,” Gregoire said. “You have to keep at it and keep confident that things will change. There might be a time that it slows down, but I’m thankful that I’ve gotten this far.”

Craig Crosby — 621-5642

Twitter: @CraigCrosby4

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