Cynthia Murray-Beliveau of Hallowell, was recently recognized for her leadership advocating for Maine’s women and children by the Maine Irish Heritage Center located at St. Dominic’s Church in Portland. 

Murray-Beliveau’s life story is an example of the melting pot Maine became when the Irish and the Franco-Americans lived in their respective close knit ethnic neighborhoods.

Franco-Americans and Irish-Americans often worked side-by-side in the state’s industrial towns and cities, but they usually lived in separate cultures.  Franco-Americans preferred to live in French speaking small ghetto communities. They clustered their homes around the French Roman Catholic churches, similar to the Sand Hill section of Augusta and St. Augustine’s Church 

Irish communities usually built their own English speaking Roman Catholic churches, sometimes located just around the corner from the French.  Nevertheless, the two cultures often melded in inter-ethnic marriages.

“Both cultures had a lot in common,” says Murray-Beliveau.

She spoke at the awards ceremony about growing up in Bangor in a family where her father Robert Emmett Murray was Irish and her mom was French.  Her mother’s name was Laura Guite.  Likewise, her husband Severin Beliveau, an Augusta attorney and the Honorary Consul of France in Maine, grew up in Rumford, ME, where his father Albert was a Franco-American judge and his mother was Irish.  His mother’s name was Margaret McCarthy.

“So, of course, our four sons have French last names and Irish first names, because they are just as much Irish as anything else. Their first names are Emmett, Devin, Conor and Liam. Each of our sons has a part of my father’s name,” she says.

Murray-Beliveau credits her Irish and Franco-American ancestry for supporting the caring values she learned growing up in Bangor’s safe and ethnic neighborhoods, where everyone knew one another.  “We grew up knowing how to help one another,” she recalls.  Her family home on the corner of Maple and Mount Hope Avenue is still owned by her brother, she says.   Her remarks at the Claddagh Award ceremony began by reciting the names of 20 families who she recalled by heart, that lived on her street. 

“Our old neighborhood families are still connected,” she says. In fact, on Halloween, she says her brother gave out 1,000 pieces of candy to the children who were Trick-or-Treating.

Beliveau is the first woman to receive the Claddagh Award from the Irish Heritage Center.  

Victoria Murphy, co-owner of Pan Atlantic SMS Group in Portland and a friend of Believeau’s for 26 years, spoke at the award ceremony about Beliveau’s devotion to her family.

“Cynthia’s devotion to her family is part of her Celtic core,” said Murphy. “She loved and cared for both her own children as well as many young people who lived with her family from other countries as far away as Africa and China,” she said.

Beliveau was recognized for her volunteer work with the United Way of Kennebec County, as the Councilor-at-Large on the Hallowell City Council and as a member of the University of Maine and the St. Joseph’s College in Standish Board of Trustees.  In May 2010, Beliveau received an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from St. Joseph’s College.  She was a founder and the first chair of the Maine Women’s Lobby.  In 1977, she was a Maine Delegate to the International Year of the Woman in Houston, TX.  She was just appointed to the board of the Maine Arts Commission. 

Maine’s Irish Heritage Center supports programs to protect and preserve Maine’s diverse communities through shared cultural experiences. A genealogical center and library are located at the St. Dominic’s Church located on Gray Street.