Among those to be inducted into the Biddeford Cultural and Heritage Center Hall of Fame for 2020 are the Droggitis brothers – Jimmy, Archie, Charlie and Alex, who established the Wonderbar restaurant – a “must stop” for those campaigning for elected offices. Courtesy Photo

BIDDEFORD — One man who made his mark on Biddeford was a longtime mayor who knew how to be thriftyA second walked 200 miles to settle and work. A third, who first worked in Boston, peddling linoleum, became a political figure keen on helping working people and seniors. A fourth Biddeford resident had been present at the inauguration of George Washington as the nation’s first president. And then there were four brothers who opened a restaurant that became a political hangout — and served pretty good food.

The Biddeford Cultural and Heritage Center recently announced the Third Annual Biddeford Hall of Fame Award Winners for 2020, bringing attention to those who have made significant contributions to the city or to the world at large. The ceremony will be held Oct. 3, but organizers say it won’t be open to the public due to COVID-19 restrictions. 

Inducted to the Hall of Fame for 2020 will be the Droggitis brothers Jimmy, Archie, Charlie and Alex, who established the Wonderbar; longtime Mayor Louis “Papa” Lausier; Israel Shevenell, recognized as the city’s first permanent French-Canadian resident; Benjamin Stern, who fought for the old age pension in the Maine Legislature; and George Thatcher, who was a member of the convention that established Maine’s first Constitution. 

After the presentation ceremony, banners honoring the recipients will be placed on light poles in downtown Biddeford and plaques will be added to the display of past recipients in Biddeford City Hall Council Chambers. 

“BCHC is pleased to be able to recognize various icons of our great city in a public place, where citizens may be reminded of the accomplishments of the award recipients,” said DCHC President Diane Cyr.

Denis Litalien, who chairs the nine-member selection committee, said the group reviewed 30 nominations, some carried over from the prior year. Committee members take two weeks to read the nominations and then they‘re scored, he said. 

He said presenters and those receiving awards on behalf of the winners will be present at the ceremony — BCHC was able to find family members of all but Thatcher, he noted. 

“This is one of our feature activities of the year and it’s important for the city to recognize some of the people who have made a difference here,” he said.

“This is a very important program to us, and we’re hoping to generate excitement in our community,” said Cyr. “Biddeford is changing growingit’s a great place to live, and it’s still a community. People should be proud and excited about being part of it.” 

The 2020 inductees are: 

The Droggitis Brothers; Jimmy, Archie, Charlie and Alex were Americanborn sons of Greek immigrants who helped sculpt the political atmosphere in Biddeford while serving a good meal at a reasonable price. In 1935, after 14 years as a shoe repair business, they converted the shop to a small tavern called Charlie’s Café, serving sandwiches and beer. After Archie bought a 35-foot mahogany bar in Boston, the restaurant became known as The Wonderbar. A political hangout, it would become a campaign stop for state and national candidates. The Droggitis brothers were active in the Greek community and Biddeford as a whole. When asked about the success of the business as the Wonderbar was about to be sold in 1982, Jimmy Droggitis was quoted as saying “That’s because Biddeford was a kind-hearted place to an immigrant Greek family 70 years ago.”

Louis B. “Papa” Lausier was a longtime Mayor of Biddeford. Courtesy Photo

Louis B. “Papa” Lausier was mayor of Biddeford for an unprecedented 15 consecutive terms from 1941 to 1955. A lawyer, banker and businessman, his true love was politics and he served in the state Legislature and, locally, as city alderman, city auditor and city solicitor. In 1948, he captured the Democratic nomination for Governor, one of the first Franco-Americans to run for statewide office in Maine. One of his noteworthy achievements was leaving the City of Biddeford debt-free, one of the few cities in Maine that could make that claim in 1955. Mayor Lausier will be remembered for steadfast devotion to his party ideals and the interest he maintained in furthering the progress of his city and state.

Israel Shevenell is the the Quebec man who walked 200 miles to Biddeford to find work – and became the first French Canadian resident of the city. Courtesy Photo

Israel Shevenell, 19,  left his home in Compton, in the Eastern Townships region of Quebec, Canada, in 1845 and walked 200 miles to Biddeford looking for work. A brick maker, he saved his money, walked back to Canada, and convinced his parents to move the family to Biddeford. He was known as Biddeford’s first permanent French-Canadian settler and first French voter. Shevenell built many homes that stand today and helped organize and build St. Joseph’s Church on Elm Street. Shevenell Park on Main Street recognizes his walk with a plaque and, in 2015, his great-great grandson Ray Shevenell, celebrated the 170th anniversary of the walk by recreating the journey. 

Benjamin Stern fought for workers and the elderly in the Maine Legislature. Courtesy Photo

Benjamin Stern was born in Kovne, Lithuania, on July 14, 1885. After a brief stay in London he arrived in Boston; peddling linoleum from a wagon, then laboring in the window-cleaning and property maintenance business until moving to Maine in 1920. Ben and his wife Rose felt that the mill town on the banks of the Saco River would be a good spot for his property maintenance business.  Appalled at the working conditions of men, women and children in the mills, Stern was elected to the Maine House of Representatives as an IndependentHe fought for passage of the old age pension bill, signed into law on March 31, 1933. He returned to Biddeford to concentrate on his family and business but will be remembered for his courage, independence and integrity as he sought to advance the causes of workers, the poor and for the passage of social legislation. 

George Thatcher observed the inauguration of George Washington as the first U.S. President and later worked on the constitution of Maine. Courtesy Image

George Thatcher (Thacher) was born in 1754 in Yarmouth, Massachusetts, and elected to the first U.S Congress in 1789, was a representative of the District of Maine and witnessed the inauguration of George Washington as the first president of the United States. Before he resigned in 1801, he had been elected 12 years in a row to the U.S. House of Representatives. In 1819, he was a member of the convention that created the new Maine constitution. Thatcher and other citizens cherished their right to worship by their values and beliefs and left the First Parish Congressional Church on Pool Road and started the Second Congregational Church on Crescent Street in in 1797. As an Unitarian, Thatcher helped sponsor the creation of Bowdoin College so Maine would have its own institution of higher education, and donated a large collection of books to the college library. 

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