When Paul LePage is sworn into office today as Maine’s governor, Maurice “Moe” LePage will be there, a witness to his big brother’s remarkable escape from an impoverished and abusive childhood.
“I will be the proudest person there because of what we’ve been through,” said Moe LePage, a tile floor installer who lives and works in Deltona, Fla. “Trust me on that.”
Moe LePage, 56, grew up with Paul LePage and their 15 brothers and sisters in a four-room house on Lisbon Street in Lewiston.
Their only hot water came from a pot on the wood stove in the kitchen. Their toilet was an outhouse for much of their childhood. Their parents, Teresa and Gerard LePage, slept downstairs on couches while the children slept in the two bedrooms upstairs, four or five to a bed.
But those material hardships, Moe LePage said, were nothing compared to the terror that sprang from their father’s violent temper. A heavy drinker, he once slammed Moe’s head against a table so hard that he was taken to the hospital for stitches.
His father also beat Paul. Moe LePage recalls that when Paul was 11, his father sent him to the hospital with a broken nose. Paul ran away from home and never came back.
Moe LePage said he stayed behind and tried to protect his brothers and sisters from his father. He said his mother, a good woman, wasn’t strong enough to stand up to her husband. He said she often asked her children to kneel with her and recite the rosary in French.
Moe LePage said he wouldn’t go to bed at night until he was sure his father was asleep, because his father – when he was angry and drunk – would sometimes stuff newspapers into a slipper and douse it with kerosene. He would put the slipper under the family’s old television, light it with a match and then leave the house.
“My father was an evil, evil man,” Moe LePage said.
Moe LePage has remained close to Paul, the oldest boy, but he has lost track of most of his other siblings – three of whom have died. (Prior reports have indicated that Paul LePage had 17 siblings; that count included a half-brother from his father’s previous relationship, according to Moe LePage.)
A brother, Roland LePage, 60, and a sister, Diane Saindon, 55, also live in central Florida. Though they have stayed close to Paul, they can’t travel to Maine because of serious health issues.
Saindon, who suffers from liver failure, is a former nurses aide. She said she will call her brother Paul today to congratulate him.
She said her older brother’s success is due to his determination and work ethic, character traits that were evident in him when he was a teenager.
There often wasn’t enough food in the LePage household because their father was too busy drinking, she said.
After Paul ran away and was taken in by another family, he worked at various odd jobs, such as shining shoes and delivering the local newspapers, the Lewiston Daily Sun and the Evening Journal. He would use some of the money to buy food, and for his brothers and sisters.
The family lived in a French-speaking section of Lewiston called Little Canada, and the children didn’t learn to speak English until they were teenagers. Paul was admitted to Husson College only after he was allowed to take an achievement test in French. He eventually received a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Maine.
Paul was the only one of his siblings to complete college.
“He always wanted to go to college,” said Roland LePage. “That was his dream. And he did it.”
Paul’s niece Nikki Saindon said his success encouraged her to move to California and realize an ambition of becoming a filmmaker.
Saindon, 36, who lives in San Francisco, owns a small production company that does special effects for films and television commercials.
“Looking at what he went through as a child inspired me to pursue my dreams,” she said.
Paul LePage’s mother died two years ago; his father died in 2005. Both died in Florida.
Before his father died, Moe LePage went to another sister’s house in Florida to move his father out because a hurricane was approaching the area.
He hadn’t seen him for several years and was startled by what he found.
“He was a big, giant man in my mind,” he said. “But here was a tiny, frail, little old man. I picked him up like a little baby in my arms.”
Moe LePage cared for his father for several months, until his father died from cancer. Moe said he hoped that his father would one day tell him why he beat his own children. His father never spoke of it.
MaineToday Media State House Writer Tom Bell can be contacted at 699-6261 or at: [email protected]