Alice Buck, once named Hallowell’s Citizen of the Year, in a June 2002 file photo. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

HALLOWELL — Alice Buck, a longtime shop clerk in downtown Hallowell, had unrelenting kindness and pride in her family.

That is how friends described Buck, who died Sept. 23. She was 80.

Buck was born Alice Ballard in Augusta on June 22, 1940, and a lifelong resident of Hallowell, according to her obituary.

She was a descendant of Martha Ballard, a notable Maine midwife, and graduated in 1958 as the valedictorian at Hallowell High School, later attending nursing school and working at Maine hospitals.

Buck was perhaps best known as a friendly face behind the counter at Boynton’s Market for two decades. She was so beloved that she was named Hallowell’s Citizen of the Year in 2002, an honor that earns the recipient a prominent place in the city’s Old Hallowell Day parade.

Buck’s daughter, Patricia Welton, said her mother served as the city’s public health nurse, provided in-home care and also worked at a bowling alley and a pharmacy in Hallowell. She also worked at Hallowell’s polling locations during elections, Welton said.

In 2011, Boynton’s Market, once at the corner of Water and Union streets and owned by Buck’s daughter, Karen, closed for renovations but never reopened at the same location after plans with another operator fell through. In July 2011, Karen Buck died of a brain aneurysm in an apartment above the shop.

When the market was brought back by Ruth and Don Lachance, Alice Buck was brought back as a clerk.

Alice Buck works at Boynton’s Market in this June 2002 file photo. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

Buck’s longtime friend Dawna Tregembo said the pair met in first grade at the school formerly at the corner of Academy and Middle streets. Tregembo said after school, she would often walk with Buck to the Buck family farm on Winthrop Street.

“I can remember walking to school with her every day from first grade,” she said. “I used to go home with her after school and we would play school.”

Tregembo said she remembered Buck attempting to learn how to ride a bike using her bicycle. She said Buck went down a hill and was unable to stop, eventually toppling over a bank.

“I don’t think she ever did learn how to ride a bike,” Tregembo said, laughing.

Tregembo said she left Hallowell for 27 years. And when Tregembo came back, Buck helped her find a house and their friendship resumed easily.

“She exemplified how people should treat one another and how people should get along,” Tregembo said. “She didn’t care about your background, religion, politics or anything. She would help anybody, even her worst enemy.

“She never changed from the time from the time she was young until the day she died. We all seem to change. She was always that way, through school, through everything.”

Tregembo also said Buck was proud of her four children and many grandchildren, and often attended school events.

“She was a good influence on them,” Tregembo said. “She encouraged them with no browbeating. She was proud of anything they did.”

Jeanne Langsdorf, director of the Hallowell Food Bank, said Buck volunteered at or sat on the food bank’s board of directors for several years. In recent years, Langsdorf would take Buck shopping with her and have to budget half an hour more for each trip because Buck knew everybody at Hannaford.

“Everybody always went out of her way to talk to her,” Langsdorf said. “We would go to The Liberal Cup for lunch, and it was like we were at the VIP table.”

Langsdorf, who operated a market in downtown Hallowell briefly, said Buck had an incredible memory, often remembering what brand of cigarettes a certain customer preferred and putting them on the counter when they walked in. After her daughter died, Buck advised Langsdorf on what brands of cigarettes to stock at her market.

“She was really absolutely brilliant,” she said. “They say elephants have great memories, and I used to tease her and call her an elephant.”

Langsdorf said a number of stories she had about Buck were too personal to share. Langsdorf said her mother lives in Texas and is unable to travel, so Buck became her “adoptive mother.”

“She would check in on me and I would check in on her,” she said. “We kind of had this special bond.”

Alice Buck in an old yearbook photo. Photo courtesy of Patricia Welton

Rick Morrow, another volunteer at the food bank, said Buck and her husband would always come to his downtown home to watch the Old Hallowell Day fireworks. He said Buck used to travel and help out with fireworks displays when she was younger.

Morrow, who was diagnosed with skin cancer seven years ago, said Buck advised him to go to the doctor after noticing a black mark on his skin.

“I had this black ball on my back,” he said. “I went over to Boynton’s and told her about it. We went to the back room and I pulled up my shirt. She said: ‘No, no, no! Don’t you wait.’ It was stage 3 at the time.”

Morrow also recalled how Buck spoke often of her family, remembering her beaming about her son, Chris, who is Hallowell’s Public Works foreman.

“She got talking about Chris, talking about ‘my boy, my boy,'” Morrow said. “Goodness, she loved her family.”

John Lambert of Farmingdale said he and Buck regularly planned the Old Hallowell Day cribbage tournament. Lambert said he came to know Buck through her husband, Charles “Hap” Buck, when Lambert and Hap Buck drove school buses.

“She would do anything for you, do anything for anybody,” Lambert said. “She, especially at Boynton’s, a lot of people just came in there to see her.”

Welton said Buck would have loved a big sendoff, but family members were unable to gather due to COVID-19.

“She wanted everybody in the front lawn,” Welton said, adding that is how the family gathered when Hap Buck died.

City Councilor George Lapointe, who posted about Buck’s death on his mayoral campaign’s Facebook page, said she was always friendly during their interactions at Boynton’s Market, but was never shy about sharing her opinion on city matters.

“She had a great laugh,” Lapointe said. “She was pretty direct when she wanted to relay her opinion, but in a good way.”

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