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More in Community
Foster homes, foot-washing, and cats
SOUTH PARIS – Lucille Lawsen was born in Portland 47 years ago, and lived in numerous foster homes as a child. Although talking about herself, she is shy, she has a huge heart, a nurturing soul and a super sense of humor.
She recently took time to tell us about her life.
Q: When were you born and where were you brought up?
A: I was born in Portland and I was brought up in Portland too. I lived there until 1989 and moved to Waterford and then last year I moved to South Paris.
Q: Did you have many siblings?
A: I do. I had nine siblings. Hortence, Cindy, Dawn, Teresa, myself, Wilda, Tammyjean, Karen, Paul and Lisa. Lisa passed away from SIDS as an infant and Hortence and Cindy passed away from a childhood disease ... maybe scarlet fever or something like that. I wasn't born when they passed away.
Q: What did your parents do?
A: I never knew my father. And in fact, the day Lisa passed away I was sent to foster care. My sister Wilda and I went to foster care together and all the other siblings went to family members. I was six at the time and Wilda was four.
Q: What was it like growing up?
A: I was in so many foster homes, I couldn't even count them.
Most generally the foster parents had their own children. My sister and I were always able to stay together ... no matter how many homes we went to, so at least we had each other.
We did the normal kids things ... ice skating, bowling, movies and sliding. Wilda and I always stayed so close and I always protected her.
I had a dog named Hobo and I found her at the Eastern Prom, floating in a trash bag in the ocean. I saved her, but she really saved me by giving me something to care for and love every day.
I was just always a withdrawn child, always hoping and praying for my forever home. When I was 16, I found my forever home with myself. I just moved out and got a job; all on my own.
I went to school with a friend, Philip and his mom was very influential in my life. Mrs. Foley taught me how to cook and how to respect myself and got me to feel love and life. Most of all, she really taught me all about life. She was very nurturing and I really needed that. She was a wonderful, Irish woman.
My sister, Wilda also left and ended up in Oregon. She works at like a department of human services and she places children in forever homes. She never had children ... but her life was always about the kids and keeping them safe. She is very good at what she does.
Q: Was there anything you wanted to be when you grew up?
A: I wanted to be a nurse. I always wanted to help people.
Q: Where did you go to school?
A: I went through the Portland school system. I went to catholic schools until the seventh grade and then to public. I was spanked a lot because I was left handed.
Q: Did you get into mischief or play pranks?
A: Of course you had to egg cars on Halloween, but other than that I really didn’t get into trouble because I was a little shy and withdrawn. I especially never played tricks on my sister; I was always protecting her.
Q: What have you had for jobs?
A: I had a few summer jobs, like cleaning the school. When I was 16 I went out into the world on my own and got an apartment and a job working at Bentley’s. It was a little muffin shop.
Q: When and how did you meet your spouse?
A: I was 14. It was Philip, my school friend. We got married at the very young age of 18 and we had two sons. We divorced and I remarried in 1989 and my second husband and I had one boy. We were recently divorced and I am on my own once again.
Q: Did you work?
A: Yes. I worked at Hannaford in Portland and I worked in the customer service office.
Q: Did you live in Portland?
A: Yes. Until 1989 and that’s when I got remarried and moved to North Waterford.
Q: What did you do here?
A: I worked at the Hannaford here for a couple of years and got into the health care field. I worked at Androscoggin Home Care and Hospice and also at the Market Square. I took classes, which were all in-house and got my CRMA-PCA.
Q: Did you like caring for the elderly?
A: Oh yes. I adore older people and treat them with the utmost respect. My husband’s grandparents were such great people and I always just loved them.
Q: What do you do now?
A: Five years ago, I saw a sign that said Help Wanted at the Responsible Pet Care and I came in and I got hired. At first I was just cleaning the cages. Now I'm the manager, but it doesn’t mean I still don’t clean the cages! I just love my job and caring for the cats. I think getting a job here had a lot to do with getting close to that empty nest syndrome and I loved the idea of helping abandoned animals. They all need to be cared for and that’s what I do.
Q: What do you do at the shelter?
A: We educate the public, even going to schools and talking to the children and adults about pet care and especially teaching them about spaying and neutering their animals. It's sad when we have so many clinics for spaying and neutering at low costs, and people still continue to not care that they multiply ... . It's almost like people feel their cats are disposable. People abandon their cats if they have to move or if they get too many cats, just leave all of them. Many people will take their dog or find a home for it, but not so much with a cat.
We do a lot of fundraising because we are non-profit and we have great volunteers and staff and of course we are an adoption agency. We also find people foster care.
Q: Why foster care?
A: Some are more difficult to find a forever home for. A cat could be pregnant and the foster family will care for them until they are old enough to be adopted. Some other cats may be sick or even just too old to find a home for.
Q: Why just cats?
A: Actually, right now we are trying to raise money for the facility to house dogs as well. Right now with this bad economy, people are finding they have to surrender their dog as well as their cats.
A: Oh ya! Philip is 28 and he works for Pike Industries. Seamus is 23 and works at KBS and Brandon is 21 and works for Lucas Tree. I have two wonderful grandchildren and if they want to do something ... I’m there!
Q: Anyone said you look like someone famous?
A: Heck, nooooooo.
Q: Did you do much traveling?
A: I have gone to the Dominican Republic and St. Maarten for two visits. I've been to Florida, New York, Virginia and all the states in between. Obviously I’ve been to Oregon to see my sister.
Q: Which place was the most fascinating and why?
A: St Maarten was just incredible. Just to go there ... I really need to go back, that’s how incredible it was. The island life and being so laid back is so refreshing. The ocean was as blue and crystal clear as could be and the sunsets make you think you must be in heaven. It was just great.
The Dominican Republic was devastating to visit. Of course I stayed in a nice resort, but I just had to go out and see what life was for the people who live there; what they did, what they ate. There were just strays everywhere. Dogs were running down the streets with puppies hanging all over them and other puppies running to whatever other dog they could to get milk from.
The children were amazing ... they wore rags, but when it was time for school, they had on uniforms and you would never know it was the same child. They would beg to wash your feet for a dollar. You just had to let them do it, you felt so bad for them, but after a while, you would just hand them the dollar ... how many times can you get your feet washed in a day?
Q: Did anyone influence you to the point of changing your direction in life?
A: Mrs. Foley. She was an awesome woman and she passed away from ALS. She taught me everything I needed to know to exceed in this life and definitely to be independent.
Q: Do you collect anything or have a hobby?
A: My first hobby would have to be my grandchildren ... they never have to ask me twice to go see them.
And even though it's a job I want to care for and rescue cats, so if anyone was to call me, even if it's at home, and they live with 40 cats, I will go trap and help them.
I like to read and I do get to read a lot.
I also love to cook and I love to feed people. I also love to garden.
Q: What is your favorite meal to cook?
A: As far as a particular food goes, I really don’t have a favorite. It’s more the getting together for a big meal ... with a house full of family. So I guess my favorite would have to be like a big Christmas or Thanksgiving meal.
Q: What is the last book you read?
A: The Saints and Sinners of OK County, by Dayna Dunbar.
Q: What is the one thing you could not give up?
A: Other than family, I could not give up love for and capability of caring for the cats. This is just good for the soul here. Although I don’t have to come in that early, I usually come in around 5 a.m. and do a once-around and get things started.
I like the people and animals I see every day and I try giving gifts of kindness every day.
Q: Do you have a hidden talent or a talent you wished you had?
A: I would love to learn how to play the piano. I can only do Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and Mary had a Little Lamb and it would be nice to play something other than that.
I will go anywhere, where someone is playing the piano.
Q: What is the one thing you would happily do over again?
A: The births of my grandbabies. I have seen plenty of births, but that was just something else.
Q: What would you like people to know about you?
A: That I am a giver. When it comes to Thanksgiving and Christmas ... I don't want gifts ... I just want family around and to be able to cook and have the day surrounded by the ones I love ... although, I could use a new camera, boys!!
Q: Last day on earth; what would you do and who with?
A: Taking all my boys and their babies to St. Maarten and spend the day there ... on the beach being waited on by cabana boys.
Q: What scares you the most?
A: Snakes ... I am totally horrified by snakes. But my biggest fear is that this shelter will not continue.
Q: If anyone could walk in right now, who would you most want to see?
A: A cat shelter Sugar Daddy. I'd say 'Sugar Daddy? We need a bigger shelter' and he'd be able to blink his eyes and it would all appear.