In honor of Veterans Day, Maine Veterans’ Homes has announced its six Veterans of the Month for November from each of its homes in Augusta, Bangor, Caribou, Machias, Scarborough and South Paris. Two of the veterans have ties to Central Maine, Paul Austin and Robert Ouellette, according to a news release from the Maine Veterans’ Homes.

Paul Austin Gary Verver collection

Paul Austin, a resident at Maine Veterans’ Homes — Augusta, grew up in Thorndike, the oldest of three siblings. He took care of all the farm chores — milking cows, cutting wood, and anything else that needed to be done. His mother was a housekeeper and his father was a bridge builder for the state.
He graduated from Freedom Academy in 1951 and afterward, studied accounting and bookkeeping part time at the University of Maine. A year later he enlisted in the Air Force. Austin attended basic training in New York and was then stationed at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He served in the military for four years as a records specialist.
He married a girl from his hometown just before entering the service, she lived with him on base in Wyoming and they went on to have four children.
After the military the Johnson family moved back to Maine. Paul worked for Bath Hydewindliss Co. in those early years after his service; he later established himself as a repair person, performing carpentry, electrical and other odd jobs until he retired at the age of 75.
Austin lived in Florida during retirement, and at that time married his current wife, Marilyn. He came back to Maine to live with his son who lived in Nobleboro. He was happy to use some of his free time to serve American Legion Post 66 in Lisbon Falls.

Robert Ouellette Gary Verver collection

Robert Ouellette, a resident at Maine Veterans’ Homes – Caribou, grew up in Waterville, the youngest of 13 brothers and sisters. Nicknamed “Frenchie,” he left school before graduating to help support his large family. He worked in maintenance at an area grocery store and at a chemical plant in Farmington.
At the age of 20, Ouellette enlisted in the military and served two years, most of the time stationed in Alaska.
After the service, he came back home to live with his parents. He worked at Lockwood Cotton Mill, also in Waterville. He loved to attend dances and auctions for veteran functions. Soon after coming home, he met his wife Sylvia.
They went on to raise two daughters, Michelle and Tammy. They have two grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Earl Sassaman Gary Verver collection

Earl Sassaman, a resident at Maine Veterans’ Homes — Bangor, is a New Jersey native and joined the Navy in 1974. After completing basic training in Orlando, Florida, he went to the Great Lakes region and then to Pensacola, Florida. He was then sent to Winter Harbor. The seaman’s next stop was Diego Garcia, an island south of the equator in the Indian Ocean. From there, he went to Adak, Alaska, where he spent  a year.

Sassaman was sent back to Winter Harbor, where he met his wife Debbie Cotton on a blind date. Together with her daughter they traveled every time the Navy reassigned him, and at one point, they moved to Scotland. Washington, D.C., was the family’s next home. Sassaman was stationed at the Naval Research Laboratory, where he worked in the research and development of electronic equipment as a CTM-1 or cryptologic technician. They were married for 15 years, but sadly, she passed away at a young age. He adopted his stepdaughter, and eventually they settled in Gouldsboro. He retired from the Navy after 20 years of service and then worked for many years at the Ellsworth Walmart mixing paint.

Ronald P. Hall Sr. Gary Verver collection

Ronald P. Hall Sr., a resident at Maine Veterans’ Homes — Machias. is the youngest of five siblings, grew up in Eastport. From a young age, he fished the coastal waters of Downeast Maine, not only as a hobby but to provide for his family. They ate well, as he brought home different types of fish, lobster, and clams. “We really did live off the land and sea,” he said. Hall attended Shead High School in Eastport, where his favorite subject was science.

His most loved hobby was music. He learned to play the guitar at age 12, and this love for music followed him throughout his life. He had his first job at 16 years old in a local sardine factory, where he worked until his high school graduation in 1954. Not long after, he joined all four of his brothers in the Navy.
After basic training, Hall took several classes, including welding. He served at Naval bases throughout the world, including New Zealand and Cuba — his favorite assignments. Everywhere he was stationed he found a band to join, where he played guitar. His service ended in 1957, so he returned home to Eastport, where he fished for a year and played in local bands. He soon married his wife, Judy, and they had one son, Ronald Jr. In 1958, he joined the Coast Guard and again traveled all over the world. He was discharged in 1976 and once again returned home to Eastport, this time to his wife and son. He also pursued music once again and became the lead guitarist and singer in a band.

Joseph Paquette Gary Verver collectionJoseph “Ray” Paquette, a resident at Maine Veterans’ Homes — Scarborough, was born in Lewiston, the baby of the family with two older brothers. As a Lewiston High School student, he played hockey and football. “I was fast,” he boasted, adding that his nickname was “Flash,” according to the release. Shortly after graduation, he enlisted in the Air Force, where he served from 1958 to 1961.  He was assigned to a post in Bermuda, where he was an information officer and in charge of the military newspaper. He also spent time in New York and New Jersey before being assigned to the Bermuda post for the second time in his military career.

In 1961, Paquette returned home and earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of Maine at Orono. He worked for many years as editor of his hometown newspaper. It was fate and a bout with food poisoning that led him to meet his wife, a nurse at an area hospital. She treated him during his stay, and as they say, the rest is history. They raised four boys, and after retirement from the newspaper, he taught tennis, hockey and baseball.

Max Ashburn Gary Verver collection

Max Ashburn, a resident at Maine Veterans’ Homes — South Paris, was born in Stony Point, North Carolina,  the oldest of four children in the Ashburn family. His parents were loom fixers in area cotton factories and as he got older, he worked in the cotton fields, which was very hard work, he said. In his youth, he was a member of the local 4-H Club and Future Farmers of America.

His hobbies include music and art – he played guitar and mandolin in a bluegrass band and loved to draw. “Drawing used to get me in trouble,” Ashburn said, adding that his desire to create art was so strong that he used to draw on the walls, according to the release. “Then my parents started giving me paper to draw on,” he said, laughing. In high school he worked at a furniture factory where he graduated from installing mattress springs to doing upholstery work.

In 1954, he enlisted in the Marine Corps and earned his General Education Diploma while in the service. He served as a radio operator and trained at Parris Island, Camp Lajeune and Camp Pendleton. “We did a lot of cold weather training in the mountains of California because of the Korean War. Peace talks were happening, but the government still wanted to make sure we were trained,” he said. Ashburn shared his musical abilities when in the service and toured with Bob Hope’s USO shows. He played at hospitals, orphanages and even a leper colony. He visited many different areas of the world during his four years of service. His favorite place was Japan.

After his service to our country, Ashburn enrolled in art school in Treasure Island, California. A local detective inquired to school officials in search of a student who might be able to complete some witness sketches, so he volunteered. “It turned out well. They caught the guy and I kind of got the bug for police work,” he said, according to the release.

He found himself traveling to Maine to visit a buddy from the Marine Corps. At the same time, he looked for openings in area police departments. “I applied and did well. I was able to combine police work and artwork because they wanted me to do their composite sketching. I was fortunate to have been able to do this,” he said, adding that he worked for Lewiston Police Department, the Androscoggin Sheriff’s Department and even the FBI. He was often “loaned out” to other towns by the police organization he worked for to do composite sketching.

Eventually, he said, computers took over his job. “During my last five years in law enforcement I took transparencies and built composite faces with those. That was interesting, but I preferred drawing,” he said. When Max worked for the Sheriff’s Department, he was in charge of the youth bureau, which offered him the opportunity to go to area schools. He did puppet shows, karate, drawing and other kinds of entertainment to help educate children on the department’s role in their community. “I had a great time,” he said. After he retired from law enforcement, he volunteered at children’s hospitals where he would sketch for the young patients waiting for treatment. He also sketched cartoons for area newspapers and wrote poetry.