Some of this column’s best news leads over the past 21 years came from recently retired newspaper journalist Don Levesque.

Levesque retired last January as publisher and managing editor of Maine’s St. John Valley Times weekly newspaper in Madawaska, after working for 25 years at almost every job in the organization.

Although retired from his day job, his work to support Acadian and Franco-American culture continues. Levesque’s popular weekly commentary, titled “Mon 5 Cents,” will carry on.

In the colloquial column, Levesque blends his French-English fluency into a special commentary about Maine’s St. John Valley and news of other places.  His particular style of writing includes phrases that are commonly known to those familiar with the French spoken in the St. John Valley.  He even published two small volumes of an unusual dictionary where he defines the words and phrases in his writings.

Francoise Paradis, an educator and native of the St. John Valley, says Levesque’s contributions to the Acadian and Franco-American culture have made him a living legend.

“He earned the title of ‘Culture Keeper,’ ” says Paradis.

I still count on Levesque to provide interesting story leads accompanied by often funny commentary whenever I inquire about cultural activities in the St. John Valley.  He especially enjoys talking about Acadian music. He is a performer and songwriter with the musical group Les Chanteurs Acadiens.

Levesque grew up in the tiny town of Grand Isle, located in Aroostook County between Madawaska and Van Buren. In 2009, the population of Grand Isle was 487 people, down by 6 percent from the number counted in the 2000 census.

“I am truly a product of the St. John Valley,” he says.

Prior to journalism, Levesque moved around a lot after he was drafted by the military and served in the Vietnam War in 1969.  He graduated in 1974 from the University of Maine at Fort Kent, thanks to tuition assistance from the Veteran’s Administration.

“The GI bill saved my life,” he says.

Levesque was named the 2010 UMFK Alumnus of the year.

He became hooked on journalism the first time he entered a newsroom.

“I love news people. They like to read, enjoy politics and enjoy the absurdities in life, just like me,” he says.

Levesque is vice president of the Maine Regional Coordinating Committee for the 2014 Congres Mondial Acadien (Acadian Congress). This international conference could bring 30,000-50,000 Acadians and Franco-Americans to the St. John Valley.  The purpose of the Congress is to reconnect displaced Acadians, who are the descendants of the French who settled Acadie (Nova Scotia) in the 17th and 18th centuries. Most Acadians are the descendants of the families who were expelled from their homes by the British during the brutal 1755 Les Grand Derangement.

He is vice president of Le Club Francais, an organization dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the French language and culture.

“I’m finally learning to relax,” says Levesque about retirement.  “I don’t drive as fast. I don’t listen to music as loud as I used to and I’m eating breakfast every day, which is something I’ve never done before,” he says.

Tessie Dubois stepped into the publisher position in January prior to Levesque’s retirement.  She is an Acadian and Franco-American.

She marvels at Levesque’s ability to celebrate the French language in his own style.

“Don’s commitment to the Franco-American cause, and to the preservation and celebration of the Acadian patois still spoken in the St. John Valley is beyond compare,” says Dubois.  “He is one of the Valley’s great cheerleaders.”