NORRIDGEWOCK — When Alice Emery saw two burned-out lots on Main Street – eyesores since an arson fire burned the buildings there more than a decade ago – were for sale, she bought them.

And now she has donated the lots to the town.

“I just wanted to clean up downtown,” said Emery. “I’d like people to know that there are things we can do to clean up our community and make a difference.”

Emery, 78, worked for 46 years as a housekeeper for the late shoe company owner and philanthropist Harold Alfond. She said he instilled in her the importance of charity and community involvement, and she wants to continue the legacy.

She recently paid about $14,000 to buy the two demolished buildings, donating the space to the town, with the stipulation that it be turned into public green space or be resold for economic development purposes.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to go into an area and clean it up,” said Norridgewock Town Manager Michelle Flewelling. “It’s unsafe and it’s been an eyesore for quite some time.”


Emery, who lives with her twin sister, Avis Emery, began her working career at the Norrwock Shoe Co., founded in 1940 by Alfond, who died in 2007, and his father. It was later sold to New Balance.

She learned to save money while she was young, putting away $1 out of the $26 per week that she made working at the company in the 1950s.

One day, Alfond was looking for someone to drive his young son to camp in Belgrade, and turned to the shoe factory.

“My boss recommended me and I never left,” said Emery, who was a housekeeper, driver and, in their later years, a companion, for Harold and his wife, Dorothy, who died in 2005. The couple lived in Waterville and spent summers in Belgrade Lakes.

The Alfonds founded a charitable foundation, and during their lifetimes contributed millions of dollars to athletics, education and community organizations around Maine.

The Harold Alfond Foundation provides grants for health care, education and other causes. Alfond partnered with MaineGeneral to create the Alfond Center for Cancer Care in 2007 and the MaineGeneral’s regional hospital, the Alfond Center for Health, which opened in November.


The organization reported awarding $28 million in grants to organizations, mostly in Maine, in 2013.

Emery, whose mother was a housekeeper and whose father worked at the Diamond Match company in Oakland, said Alfond was like a second father to her.

“He taught me what I know,” she said. “He helped me earn a good living and taught me how to take care of it.”

The two Main Street buildings were destroyed in a 2003 fire that was found to be arson. Foundations and rubble, including broken glass, weeds and bricks, occupy the lots. A loosely constructed fence of boards stands between the sidewalk and the large holes, across the street from the What’s For Supper? diner.

“I had the money and I just wanted to see it done,” said Emery, whose favorite charity at the moment is the Pine Tree Camp in Rome, which serves disabled children and adults. “What’s the sense of having money if it isn’t used wisely? I think charity is the best way to spend your money, as long as you choose wisely.”

Emery, who is also a member of the Norridgewock Village Improvement Society, has always tried to help and support the town in small ways, said Flewelling.

“She’s always been very supportive, although it was never anything of this size,” said Flewelling. “I know this is something she’s wanted to do for a long time and her goal has been to not attract a lot of attention to herself in doing it.”

Rachel Ohm can be contacted at 612-2368 or at:

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