2018-06-22 / Community

Family hopes new roof to serve as legacy

By Abigail Worthing
Staff Writer


Left, in the kitchen at Marie Joseph Spiritual Center in a prayer card for Robert Huot. Huot recently died during heart surgery and his family and his family have made it their goal to raise money to replace the roof at the Biddeford Pool center. Below, the roof and some siding at the center, located on the coast of Biddeford, was damaged this winter duirng winter storms, in addition to being in poor shape. (Molly Lovell-Keely photo/ drone image courtesy of Brian Keely) Left, in the kitchen at Marie Joseph Spiritual Center in a prayer card for Robert Huot. Huot recently died during heart surgery and his family and his family have made it their goal to raise money to replace the roof at the Biddeford Pool center. Below, the roof and some siding at the center, located on the coast of Biddeford, was damaged this winter duirng winter storms, in addition to being in poor shape. (Molly Lovell-Keely photo/ drone image courtesy of Brian Keely) BIDDEFORD – Just seven weeks after the death of their patriarch, the Huot family of Saco has chosen to honor their father by fundraising to bring a special goal to fruition: replacing the roof at Marie Joseph Spiritual Center in Biddeford Pool.

A Biddeford native and St. Louis High School graduate, Bob Huot, 74, was a cook for Marie Joseph Spiritual Center for 10 years prior to his sudden death on April 20 due to complications during heart surgery.

“He loved working there. We would go on vacation and he would buy souvenirs for the sisters,” said Priscilla Huot, Bob Huot’s wife of 48 years.

“He always wanted to put a fence up around the statue of Mary, but knew it wouldn’t make sense to build a fence when the roof needs so much work. This is our way of honoring him,” said daughter Elizabeth Huot Nadeau.

Nadeau has been the driving force for the fundraising events that will take place over the next few months.

Replacing the roof will cost $275,000, and from a combination of grants acquired by the Congregation for the Presentation of Mary in correlation with a Clynk account and various donors, they are almost half way to the goal, but still have a long way to go.

“It’s a lot of money,” Nadeau said. “We’re trying so hard to fundraise.”

The Mary Joseph Spiritual Center was built in the late 1800s as the Ocean View Hotel. In 1948, the center became Mary Joseph Academy, a boarding school for young women that ran for 30 years before transitioning into a spiritual retreat center in 1978. The center was dedicated as Marie Joseph Spiritual Center in 1979. Owned and operated by the Congregation of the Presentation of Mary, it offers a variety of programs, from weekend programs and silent retreats, and can accommodate up to 70 people at a time. There are 12 nuns who live at the center, whose ages range from 50 to 89.

“We all do a little bit of something. We used to do everything, but there aren’t enough young nuns anymore. Now we keep a staff of about 20,” said Sr. Sue Bourret, administrator for the center.

According to Bourret, while the center is run by nuns, its programs are open to anyone of any denomination who wants to grow their relationship with God.

During the last 10 years, Bob Huot was a dedicated member of the community at the center, often dropping everything at a moment’s notice when the sisters needed him to come in and work.

“He was just a joy to have on staff. He had a marvelous sense of humor,” Bourret said. “This has just been such a shock. He is greatly missed.”

In his absence, the sisters and staff have kept his photograph in the kitchen as a memorial to his memory, and compiled a scrapbook with letters for the Huot family following his death. Huot was a Vietnam veteran and a father to six children and their families, which includes 11 grandchildren.

“We just didn’t expect it,” Priscilla Huot said. “He was so strong. He has beaten cancer and survived another heart surgery. I never thought this would happen.”

“Everyone deals with their grief differently. We needed to do something,” Nadeau said.

The family will host a series of events during summer and into fall. The first event will take place from 5 to 7 p.m. Saturday, June 23 at Champions Sports Bar on Thornton Street in Biddeford and will include a services/ labor auction, where attendees can bid on items such as house cleaning, lawn work and window washing. Champions has donated the space for the evening, so all proceeds from the auction will go directly to the roof replacement.

The second event will take place all day Sunday, July 1 at Smitty’s Cinemas in Biddeford and Topsham, where donors can purchase a special ticket for $10 and half of proceeds will be donated to the cause. On Saturday, Aug. 25, two events will be held in Biddeford. The first will be a craft fair at York Country Veterans Alliance on Bradbury Street from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., followed by a free spaghetti dinner at St. Joseph Church Hall, where donations will be accepted for the cause.

The final event will be a dance held at Duffy’s Tavern and Grill in Old Orchard Beach from 6 to 10 p.m. Tickets are $35 for dinner and dancing, and there will also be a silent auction and raffles.

Those who wish to donate bottles and cans can either bring them to any of the aforementioned events to be collected, or visit Coastal Discount Beverage and Redemption Center on Elm Street and specify it is for “Team Huot.”

“The community has really reached out. People were lined up outside for his wake,” Nadeau said. “I think he would be really pleased to know this is happening.”

Return to top