Media Archive

Reuben Lancaster: a pleasant man on Pleasant Street

Article from The Piscataquis Observer, Wednesday, September 18, 2002

By Lauren Gabourel
Special to the Observer


MILO – With his sky blue parakeet Missy comfortably perched on his shoulder, Reuben Harrison Lancaster takes a break from his busy day of volunteer work and community events to share some stories of his eventful life. Reuben is a recent widower who has two children, six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren to pass on his famous jokes and stories to.

At 82, living at Pleasant Park, the Milo resident has countless tales to tell and friendly conversation to offer all whom cross his path. Reuben wears many hats in the community and keeps in mind the words his father, Reuben Lancaster Sr. told him, "Don't bite off more than you can chew, but when you do, chew it!"

Reuben always takes "big bites" for his community. For the past 12 years, he has served as president for the Brownville Historical Society. He is passionate about the preservation of the railroad towns and is constantly coming up with new ways to raise money for his causes.

One of his creative ideas involves giving out books he authored in exchange for a donation to the Historical Society. The books entitled, "Reuben Reminisces" and "Reuben Lancaster's Autobiography and Short Stories" are filled with clever poetry and anecdotes bringing to life the history of the area and it's residents.

Reuben is often recognized for his outstanding commitment to the community. In 1998 he was nominated for the Jefferson Award and in 2001 he was awarded the Royal Arts Mason's Distinguished Community Service Award. He is an Honorary Member in three divisions of the Masonic Organization. He also serves on the Advisory Committee for the Rainbow Girls, which his great-granddaughter attends.

As satisfying as public recogition can be, perhaps a greater satisfaction comes from touching the lives of others in a positive way. Reuben has touched many lives during his time and will continue to do so. "I love talking to people. I make friends everyday," he says with a laugh.

The former Grand Master of Masonry, Walter MacDougall remembers back to 1960 when he and his family were moving to Boston and all their belongings were packed including kitchen utensils to make dinner. They headed down to Reuben's store and were surprised to find an entire roasted chicken dinner waiting for the entire MacDougall family.

"Reuben is constantly doing things like that," says Walter. "He is much respected and loved. Reuben has a fabulous way of remembering people÷who they are and what they need. He always makes people feel better than they did before talking to him."

Reuben is a graduate of the Brownville High School, which in 1944 had its last graduating class. It makes sense that this people-loving man would take part in the refounding of the school's Alumni Association in 1987. He served as president of the Association from 1991 until it was ended in 2000 when the number of classmates became too few. The Association's remaining $2000 was donated in equal parts to the Brownville Elementary School and Historical Society.

As a young man, Reuben held numerous jobs lumbering and working for the railroads. According to Reuben, when diesel trucks came around many men were no longer needed. In 1944, unshielded from the draft, he was sent to Florida to train as an infantry soldier. Soon, he was assigned to the 45th Infantry Division, 180th Regiment Company and shipped off to France.

Remembering that painful time Reuben says, "War÷that's hell. I don't want to see it again now. You can never get used to it." After four months of battle time, his division was rerouted from the original destination of China, Burma and India, to the U.S. "When we came by the Statue of Liberty, we almost upset the whole boat. We were so happy to be back." He promised himself he would climb the Statue one day and finally did so in 1987.

Today, Reuben is a service officer for the American Legion" and attends ceremonies often.

Reuben is an active senior and great role model. He visits the Hibbard Nursing Home in Dover to speak about the history of the railroads, and share stories with residents.

Patti Pearce, the activities director at Hibbard, knows Reuben as "a very pleasant and very warm person to know. We have a men's group here and many of them used to work on the railroads in Brownville, so they really enjoy talking with Reuben."

Reuben also wears the president's hat for the Three Rivers Katahdin Senior Group where his neighbor, Eva Spear, serves as secretary. "The group gets together a few times a month to play cards, have potlucks and celebrate birthdays," she said. "Reuben is such a busy guy. He's always helpful." They also attend and help organize the Meals for Me twice a week at the Milo Town Hall.

The following is an excerpt from "Reuben Reminisces" :

If you are traveling north from Bangor
and haven't got a date,
Take the Milo exit and leave the interstate
Also as a conversation piece
to let all the people know
Reuben's is the place to stop and shop,
and find out where to go.
Now, Reuben is well acquainted
with all the local folk
He also has a vast supply
of all the latest jokes.
When out-of-staters
would ask how to find him
down at Kittery 's tollgate,
The answer always came back the same,
"Take the Milo exit
and leave the Interstate!"
And once you are inside
and have lots and lots of time,
Just ask him for a true experience,
and hear the "Story Teller" unwind.

NOTE - This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of the TRC Alliance Team.