County Face: David L. Stevens of Ludlow
LUDLOW, Maine — A love of the great outdoors drew David L. Stevens to northern Maine, but it is the kindness of the people who call Aroostook County home that has kept him here.
Born in Waterville, Stevens, 70, has lived in Ludlow since 2004, when he moved to the area from Connecticut. He became actively involved in the Maine Snowmobile Association and also served on both the SAD 70 Board of Directors and the town’s Board of Selectmen.
At the tender age of 13, Stevens became orphaned when his adoptive mother passed away. He then attended Good Will-Hinkley in Fairfield for a couple of years before venturing out on his own.
“As a youngster in the early 1960s, there was no real work to be had,” Stevens said. “So I joined the Marines.”
He did two and a half tours in Vietnam, where he was one of the self-named “mud Marines.” He was part of the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines unit that sustained one of the highest casualty rates in Marine Corps history, earning the group the nickname “The Walking Dead.”
“Ho Chi Minh swore he was going to wipe us out,” Stevens said. “I went all the way from the Maycon Delta to about 12 miles south of the DMZ.”
Stevens said to this day he does not like to speak about the things he witnessed or the friends he lost while in Vietnam.
After his tours were complete, he spent a short time at the Marine base in New London, Connecticut, and after his discharge took a job at a power company in Connecticut. He worked his way up from a laborer shoveling coal to eventual plant manager before retiring after 30 years with the company.
In 2003, Stevens met the woman who would become his lifetime companion, a Montreal woman named Therese Lussier, during a singles dance. The two immediately hit it off and have been together ever since.
One year later, the couple decided to move to Maine.
“I would come back to Maine for a couple of weeks each year so to me, this was my home,” he said. “It was a difficult place to make a living, but definitely the place to retire, especially if you are into the outdoors, like I am.”
Stevens made his way to Ludlow in December of 2004, moving in during a snowstorm, he recalled. “We had two moving vans full of stuff,” he said. “Only one of them was able to make it because of the storm.”
He chose Aroostook County based on the visits he made to the area with his adopted father as a small child. Hunting, fishing and snowmobiling were all part of what drew him here. He became quite involved with the Maine Snowmobile Association, serving for two terms as the group’s president.
“My dad was a deputy Game Warden, so we came to Aroostook many times,” Stevens said. “Gary Pelletier was the one who got me involved with the MSA. I started out as a trails inspector and eventually became the president.”
Stevens said the trail system in Maine is one of the largest in country, which is one of the reasons why the state is ranked as one of the top 3 destinations for snowmobilers. The MSA represents 288 clubs statewide who groom and maintain 14,500 miles of trails.
“The bulk of the work is performed by volunteer labor, supporting local clubs,” he said. “The trails in the County are top-rated and our trails are some of the best in the country.”
He said the sport pours about $500 million into the state each year, through gasoline, restaurants, hotels and sales of new machines. Last year, there were about 82,000 sleds registered in the state, with 18,000 of those coming from non-residents.
“It’s a huge economic boost to our state,” he said.
Snowmobiling has become his sport of choice because of the serenity that it offers.
“I love the solitude,” he said. “You are able to go places and see things that you are otherwise unable to any other time. Those who snowmobile are truly a family. It doesn’t matter who you are, if you are on the trail and something happens, others are there to give assistance. And all of us are striving to increase the sport.”