County Faces: Richard Nadeau of Presque Isle

Throughout Richard Nadeau’s office at A & L Construction in Presque Isle, it’s hard not to notice the Victorian carriage figurines, the antique 1930s radio and even a black-and-white photo of Presque Isle High School’s Class of 1903.

Step into the front entrance of the building and you’ll see an old barometer shelf holding hundreds of antique items, including toy dump trucks, a late 1800s policeman’s lantern and a periscope used in the trenches of World War I. And in another office sits a 1930s-era Challenger toy, a small game similar to the popular ping-pong ball machines of 1970s arcades.

“History has always been something that my wife and I were interested in. We got most of the antiques from friends who are collectors,” Nadeau said, about how he began collecting. “We probably have a few thousand of those type of items. I’m drawn to anything that’s unique and unusual.”

Studying the history of the world and of Aroostook County, as a member of the Presque Isle Historical Society, is just one of the many ways in which Nadeau has strived to contribute to his community. After graduating with a degree in carpentry from Northern Maine Community College, known then as Northern Maine Vocational Technical Institute, in 1974 he hoped to find work in his chosen field. Instead, at the advice of his instructor, Nadeau began work in project management at General Supply Co. in Limestone.

After 10 years Nadeau became the vice president of the corporation. Although his first career move had been an unexpected one, he said the work gave him the skills he needed to later start his own construction business.

“It taught me how to run construction projects and everything I ever needed to know about running a business,” Nadeau said. “Without that experience I wouldn’t be in the field I’m in today.”

Nadeau’s tenure at General Supply Co. ended in 1992, when the corporation’s president retired and the company closed. He decided to start his own company called A & L Construction, named after his two daughters Amanda and Lindsey. His wife, Marilyn, is the vice president of the company.

Some of Nadeau’s most rewarding construction projects over the years have been those with great community impact, such as the conversion of the former IGA store on North Street in Presque Isle into North Street Healthcare and the recently opened Aroostook House of Comfort in Presque Isle. But he has also used his talents to help people outside of his professional work.

As a volunteer for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Nadeau built “dream playhouses” for the organization to raffle off, displayed at both the Bangor Mall and the Aroostook Centre Mall. Some of his favorite themed playhouses were The Caboose, the Victorian Charm and the Crayola House. After several years building the houses, he helped create a program called “Kids Helping Kids,” in which students in Presque Isle High School’s carpentry class turned the chosen playhouse, designed by art students, into reality.

Nadeau also volunteered as a “wish granter” for Make-A-Wish Foundation and won the organization’s Mike Williams Award, the highest honor given to volunteers. He said that he likely helped Make-A-Wish raise over $200,000 through the playhouse project and granted at least 20 to 30 wishes to children.

“When you see a child look you in the eye and say ‘thank you’ for granting their wish, that’s always inspiring,” Nadeau said.

For 10 years Nadeau was a part-time construction management instructor at NMCC and now is a member of the college’s Foundation Board. He was inducted into the Northern Maine Construction Hall of Fame in 2008. As an instructor he had much advice for students who wanted to follow a career path similar to his.

“I’d always tell them that if they wanted to start their own company they should work for somebody else first and learn as much as they can,” Nadeau said. “In my own work I tried to learn as much as I could from others.”

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