The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, September 30, 2005

Features

"Uncle Ed" Lemire says goodbye to Carlisle

Chef Lemire (Photo by Susan Evans)

Some people around town know him as "Uncle Ed," while those who have sampled his exquisite cooking refer to him as "Chef Lemire." But certainly anyone who has come into contact with 90-year-old Ed Lemire of Carlisle Village Court would consider him an instant friend, a man of faith, and a neighbor who embodied what is best about living in a small town.

Lemire, who has lived in Carlisle for the past 20 years, is moving to New Jersey this week. He will be missed. Although he looks forward to being closer to his three sons and seven grandchildren, it is clear that the thought of leaving Carlisle is hard for him. Sitting in the gazebo at Carlisle Village Court on a warm afternoon recently, he took in the trees, the birdsong, and the sound of children playing outside at the nearby Carlisle School. "I'll miss everything. This is a sanctuary. It's quiet, with fresh air. This is God's country," he said. "If I had my way, I'd have my family move here."

Lemire is well-known in Carlisle as the chef for the monthly Council on Aging (COA) luncheons and Men's Breakfasts at the Sleeper Room, as an enthusiastic volunteer and member of the COA, and as a proud veteran of World War II, riding in the head car for every town parade. Although Carlisle would like to claim Lemire as its native son, Lemire has "only" been here since 1984, when he came to the Boston area for bypass surgery, stayed with his brother Fred in Carlisle, and "liked it so much, I never left."

Edmund R. Lemire was born on November 11, 1914, in Harrisville, Rhode Island. While still in junior high school, Lemire started down the path that would lead to his life's work: he worked at a restaurant. As one of 11 children, Lemire said one reason he chose restaurant work is because, "I was looking to eat!"

He rose up through the ranks, excelling at every turn, and finally ended up with Marriott Hotels in New Jersey, where he worked his way up to the role of executive chef.

Cooking for 500

"I was in charge of all the cooking for the hotel; about 500 or 600 people," he said. His specialty was slow-cooking prime rib of beef on a rotisserie, something he did so efficiently (at such a savings of money) that he earned the attention of Marriott executives. In time, Lemire was sent around the country to teach other chefs his considerable skills.

Lemire served in the Army for four years during World War II, and keeps the statistics of his war years on a laminated card, where it is available to show anyone who inquires. The figures are impressive: 567 combat days, seven battle stars, three bronze invasion arrowheads (for invasions in France, Germany and Italy). He cleared the road to make way for General George Patton in Sicily, working as a heavy machine gunner and small arms expert. He was awarded 14 medals.

Although he is proud of his service in the war, and is often seen wearing the VFW cover (hat) from his days as past commander of his VFW post in New Jersey, Lemire was clearly shaken by the experience.

"It was terrible, when I think of it," he said. "You'd think after all that, the world would come to peace, but we've had all these wars and the terrorists since."

It was especially difficult to internalize the concept of war when he'd come from such a peaceful family, Lemire says. Five of his brothers also served in the war. One didn't make it home.

Shortly before he left for WWII, Lemire became engaged to a woman named Elina, whom he'd met when she worked behind the counter of a restaurant where he also worked. They were married for 25 years and had three sons, Edmund, Francis and Daniel. Seven years after Elina died, Lemire married again, but after just eight years of marriage, he lost her as well.

"I gave up on getting married again," said Lemire. "I decided God wanted me to teach cooking."

Keeping a positive attitude is one of Lemire's defining qualities. He attributes this to a Dale Carnegie class he took years ago, to being a natural extrovert ("you won't find me sitting in a corner," he says), and the adage he says he strives to abide by, every day: Love your neighbor. "You must give to humanity or you cease to exist," says Lemire. "You have to contribute to the livelihood of man."

Father Thomas Donohoe of St. Irene Catholic Church has brought communion to Lemire the first Friday of every month ever since Lemire found it too difficult to make it to church every Sunday. Donohoe calls Lemire "a devout manwith a sense of spirituality." Lemire is also a man who keeps busy and involved. "He uses his talents to do things for other people, and he takes great pleasure in this. His involvement has kept him young at heart," Donohoe says.

A COA enthusiast

Another passion of Lemire's has been his participation in the COA. "I joined the COA the minute I came here," he says. "I'm a lifetime member. The only one they've ever had." One's mouth waters just to hear of the monthly COA Men's Breakfasts he prepared. "I made my own coffee, made scrambled eggs with chopped onions, peppers and bacon, and homemade biscuits," he said. "And everyone went nuts."

"Ed was one of the first volunteers I met, and he has always been actively involved, one of the most dedicated volunteers we had," says Liz Jewell, former director of COA, and still a good friend of Lemire's. "He has a great, positive outlook. He's always optimistic and always sees the best in people."

Failing vision, however, has made it necessary for Lemire to curtail most of his cooking, as well as another passion: painting with acrylics. "Painting is about self-expression. You name it; I've painted it, because I wanted to know how I felt about things."

But in spite of the limitations that have come with age, Jewell points out that Lemire "kept helping as much as he could. He has been an inspiration for anyone who has met him." In addition to becoming a good friend to her, "I've enjoyed having my children see someone like him; someone older who has a good outlook and is productive."

Lemire has made his mark on Carlisle, and it is clear he will miss it. "When they see me in town, the police salute me," he says. "I know everybody here, and I'm going to miss everybody. When you've spent 20 years with people you like, it's not easy to leave."

And Carlisle will miss Ed Lemire. "He was a part of our lives here," says Father Donohoe. "That's a good legacy to leave behind."


2005 The Carlisle Mosquito