Diane and Bob Cyr were recently awarded the Spirit of America volunteer award from the Biddeford City Council and are shown here in their Biddeford home, accompanied by their cat Nugget. Tammy Wells Photo

BIDDEFORD — There are 32 Voice of Biddeford interviews available on the Biddeford Cultural and Heritage Center website. Many are the voices of people whose families have lived here for generations; some are more recent residents.

They have one thing in common — a story to tell. The BCHC board of directors wanted the stories to be told, and made available for others to hear, enjoy and learn about life in Biddeford over several generations, before  it was too late, and the voices fell silent.

At the helm of the nine-member board of directors is President Diane Cyr. Her husband Bob is secretary of the organization.

On July 19, they were honored at a City Council meeting with the Spirit of America Volunteer of the Year Award.

The couple is now retired; Diane from her job as a cardiac nurse and Bob from the trucking industry, though he has a number of part-time retirement jobs including his own business, growing wholesale vegetables and fruit. They have been volunteering their time over the years to help make life better for their city, and for the people who live here.

“The city government can’t really do everything, so it’s important we have people who are givers to the community and tonight we honor two people who give over and over and over again, in so many facets,” said Mayor Alan Casavant.


Casavant called Diane Cyr the “heart and soul” of the BCHC, writing grants, organizing committees, and creating programming. Bob is busy with the Knights of Columbus, West Brook Skating Rink, and other organizations and is often cooking behind a grill for various community events.

They’re both seen “everywhere” in the community, Casavant said, getting things done.

While the board of directors of BCHC is a committed group, Casavant said without Diane, he suspects the organization would have floundered a bit.

They are involved in a lot — Diane and Bob are avid genealogists and are members of the York County Genealogical Society of Franco Americans — and have found relatives and ancestors from the Acadia region of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia to Texas. They are members of the Lyman Historical Society — Diane grew up there; and of the Biddeford Historical Society. Bob has been involved in the St. Joseph’s Council Knights of Columbus for many years, is a member of the Downtown Development Commission. Diane homeschools their grandchild.

They are parents of four adult daughters, and there were any number of school and church events and activities as the girls were growing up.

They are proud of their family, they like cats, are enthusiastic about what is happening in Biddeford, and they finish each other’s sentences.


At BCHC, one of the Voices of Biddeford conversations features former Biddeford School Superintendent Sarah Jane Poli, conducted on June 4, 2019. Poli talks about being born at home, about her father’s decision, at 16, to move to America from Italy, the family grocery business, her school career, and more.

Poli passed away this year, on Feb. 10. But her words — and the words of the 31 other Voices of Biddeford will live on as well, because BCHC exists.

Hasan Jasim was interviewed on May 19, 2021. A native of Iraq, he was an interpreter for the U.S. Army and worked as teacher. He tells his story of coming to Maine with his wife and children and of making Biddeford their home.

As well as the voices project, the BCHC hosts the annual Biddeford Hall of Fame awards, recognizing people who have made a mark on the city. The organization also hosts Cultural Cuisine — at the recent LaKermesse Franco Americaine Festival, tastes from Iraq, Angola, Canada, Ireland, and Eastern European Jewish culture were prepared and offered for tasting.

“The city is growing so much,” said Diane from the couples’ rural Biddeford home on a recent day. Sometimes, she noted, items of cultural significance or family treasures get tossed away, because the history and culture are not known.

But there are bright spots. What is happening in Biddeford today is similar to what happened here in the mid-to late 1800s, when people from other countries moved to the city to work in the textile mills, Diane said. Biddeford is now home to a rich array of cultures, as it was at that time, and while textile manufacturing is no longer taking place, the mills are a hive of activity, filled with businesses and apartments.


The couple recently met with members of the Penobscot Nation for a future BCHC project.

And there is more to come.

As to the award, Diane said her husband is most deserving.

He credited her at the City Council meeting.

“They say behind every good man is a great woman,” he said. “This is one great woman.”

Casavant noted they are both committed to the city.

“Together, they’re so valuable to the community,” said Casavant of Bob and Diane Cyr. “And they never seek accolades, and they’re always under the radar. Tonight, what we are doing is putting them above the radar, so the public know who they are and how important we as a City Council feel they are to the community.”

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