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Community honors late letter carrier with book tribute

Net proceeds from the sale of "Our Ribbons for Liela" will be donated in Liela Jandreau’s memory to the Friends of St. Francis community organization. (Contributed photo)

Net proceeds from the sale of “Our Ribbons for Liela” will be donated in Liela Jandreau’s memory to the Friends of St. Francis community organization. (Contributed photo)

ALLAGASH, Maine — More than two years after Liela Jandreau passed away from a heart ailment at the age of 63, the Allagash community continues to show their love and respect for the longtime mail carrier who was a single mother of four grown children and purported friend to all.

When Liela fell ill in early October, 2014, author Cathie Pelletier, a patron on Liela’s mail route, tied a ribbon to her mailbox to express her support. She posted word of her sentimental act on Facebook and another Allagash resident, breast cancer survivor Carie O’Leary, followed by placing a pink ribbon for Liela on her own mailbox.

“It escalated from there. People were putting ribbons on mailboxes all over Allagash and St. Francis,” Pelletier said at the time

Unfortunately, Liela passed away, but left in the hearts of those who knew her the memory of a hardworking and kind woman who went out of her way to help others. The Facebook page “Our Ribbons for Liela” was soon established, with members posting photos of their mailboxes decorated with bows in assorted fabrics and colors.

Pelletier has since compiled those photos into a keepsake book, entitled “Ribbons for Liela: A Book of Memories by Family and Friends.”

More than $1,800 was spent to print 200 of the books at Creative Print Services in Bangor. The books sell for $15 each and after the initial investment is recovered, all money raised from book sales will be donated in Liela’s memory to the Friends of St. Francis community organization. 

Colleen McBreairty described her best friend Liela as “a very strong woman who loved her family beyond measure.”

“From the first day we met, it was like we had known each other for years,” McBreairty said. “She made me laugh more than anyone. She was always upbeat and happy. She never let life get her down for long.”

The two were single mothers who attended UMFK at the same time.

“We both liked to dance, so we went dancing often. We also liked to walk, and we did that almost daily when I lived in Saint Francis. We also played Scrabble on Sunday afternoon. We mostly just visited each other’s house and chatted over tea,” McBreairty said. “It really was a blessing to have had her in my life. I will never live long enough to have another old friend again.”

Pelletier said that, although she did not know Liela well, she felt connected to her.

“Growing up in the 1960s, I’m from a generation who placed a lot of importance on the presence of a country mailbox standing by the road. Before computers and cellphones, that mailbox connected us to the outer world. It was our 1960s version of Facebook,” Pelletier said. “Seeing the mail car coming up the road could mean a surprise was about to be delivered. Or it could mean a wave of disappointment if that letter you’d been waiting for didn’t arrive yet. … Liela Jandreau grew up just a couple miles down the road from me.  I’m sure she felt these same sentiments since we were almost the same age.  Liela understood the social importance of her job, even in the new millennium.  And she did it so very well.”

Books are available for purchase at Two Rivers Lunch in St. Francis and at the Acadia Federal Credit Union in St. Francis.

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