For a salesman, Levi “Sonny” Chavarie, who died Oct. 13 at the age of 91, sure liked to give things away.

Generous to the end and beyond, Chavarie, owner of Sonny’s Museum and Rock Shop in downtown Augusta, left the contents of his store to his church, Manchester Community Church. While the details still need to be worked out, the Rev. Donald Davenport said Chavarie, an active and outgoing church member and an honorary deacon, made it clear to him it was his intention to leave to the church the contents of the store, which include a huge assortment of rocks, gems, minerals, fossils, figurines and other collectibles.

Davenport said he’s not sure what the church will do with the unique array of items, but would likely sell them in some way with the money going to the church in Chavarie’s name.

“There is a personal desire to use some of the money to help people, because that’s what he did,” Davenport said of Chavarie of Winthrop. “He was very generous. If I needed to get boots or a jacket or something for a child, he’s the guy I went to and he always came through. He was a compassionate giver. He helped a lot of people, including the church.”

Among his donations to the church was a new set of granite steps, which he donated in memory of his late wife, Priscilla.

Chavarie, in a previous interview, also indicated to a reporter and told his landlord Richard Parkhurst and others that his plan for the store’s inventory was to give it to his church, which those who knew him said was not at all out of character for him.

“He liked to give things away. He told me, ‘When you give things away, they come back to you double or triple,'” said Bill Pettitt, president of Kennebec Rocks and Minerals Club, of which Sonny and Priscilla were founders. “He was very generous to the club. He donated door prizes for (an annual club) show. And he always donated in Priscilla’s name.”

Janine Collins, of Winthrop, bonded with Chavarie after she came into his store about five years ago, for a time doing his financial books for him. She said he was like a father to her, and she was glad she could be with him when he passed.

“I just loved the man. He was like a father to me,” she said. “He had such a generous nature. He gave everybody who came into the store a wishing stone. He wanted them to smile, even if they didn’t purchase anything from him.”

She said she would love to see the Water Street store continue to operate, but doubts that will happen.

Chavarie had tried to sell the store and its contents for at least a year, but found no takers.

“It would have made him happy to see it go on, to see his legacy go on,” Collins said. “The thing that is sad, the stories that go with the stuff that is in that store, those will be gone.”

Parkhurst, whom Chavarie had said gave him a very good lease deal on his street-level retail space, said Chavarie was running the shop right up until about a week before he passed away. He said the two had talked in September about renewing his lease for another year, but had not yet done so.

He said he hasn’t heard anything about what is going to happen to the shop.

“I believe he left everything to his church,” Parkhurst said. “I haven’t heard from them. As far as I’m concerned, it’s their space as long as they want to keep it.”

Parkhurst said Chavarie “was a great guy. I loved him.”

He said if the rock shop never reopens and its inventory is moved out, he’s got other potential retail tenants interested in the Water Street space.

For many years Chavarie’s late wife, Priscilla, who died in 2010, ran the former Winthrop Mineral Shop on U.S. Route 202, first with her previous husband, Stearns J. Bryant, until his death in 1973 and then with Chavarie until the shop burned in 1988.

Priscilla was a rock collecting enthusiast and renowned expert in the field. Sonny got into rocks after he met her. They both shared their knowledge and passion for minerals with children.

“An era has gone by, that’s how I feel with Sonny and Priscilla gone,” said Pettitt, who knew them both for years and has his own small store, Pettitt’s Picks, in New Sharon. “They set the example about educating people about minerals. I try to do things I think Priscilla or Sonny would have done in my store. When I first met him, I was bringing rocks to show Priscilla, when she couldn’t walk to the mine anymore. They got along really good for such different personalities like that.”

In a November 2015 interview, Chavarie said Priscilla loved to buy rocks, fossils and related items, and he liked to sell.

He opened Sonny’s Museum and Rock Shop in 2011 and decorated much of the front of the store with photographs and newspaper articles about Priscilla.

However, in 2012 a lawsuit was filed by members of his late wife’s family, claiming he didn’t have the right to sell the items he was selling at the shop because they belonged to her estate, not him.

An out-of-court agreement signed by both parties about a month after the lawsuit was filed stipulates the inventory of the store was Chavarie’s to sell.

Services were held for Chavarie last week at Manchester Community Church. He will be buried at Maine Veterans Memorial Cemetery. He served in the Navy from 1942 to 1946, receiving an honorable discharge.

Pettitt said Chavarie used to tell him that after Priscilla died, he was just hanging on waiting to rejoin his wife.

“I’d talk to him and tell him, ‘Sonny, Priscilla would like you to keep doing what you love,'” Pettitt said of Chavarie continuing to run his shop. “The store kept him going until he could join Priscilla.”

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj


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