Restaurant patrons give heartwarming holiday gesture to Westbrook icon

Longtime resident Donald LaRouche examines donations collected for him by the staff and regulars of River’s Edge Deli on Main Street. LaRouche has become a staple in the community moving trash cans off the street on trash day, picking up trash and cleaning up for businesses. Chance Viles / American Journal

Donald LaRouche, 68, is an autistic man who loves his community. He can often be found in the River’s Edge restaurant on Main Street, where he has lived nearby for 30 years, or walking the Main Street bringing in the trash once it is emptied. He can also be seen picking up trash on the streets on his walks, after the annual town parade, or cleaning up debris after the Together Days festival in front of the restaurant. LaRouche has also been a strong advocate for the changes taking place at the Cumberland Mills intersection for decades, after losing his wife in a fatal accident there.

He often clears ice and snow for River’s Edge before they even open. In appreciation, restaurant staff and patrons donated $ 300 at a stocking in LaRouche’s name, along with a number of gift cards to local stores, which they presented to him at the breakfast on December 22.

“Around Thanksgiving, I thought of those Westbrook folks like Donald who don’t have families in the area,” said donor and co-organizer Jim Stultz. “In my house, everyone has a Christmas stocking with their name embroidered on the top. I decided to order one with ‘Donald’ on it.

LaRouche, still in his olive green winter coat with a mug of hot coffee in his hand, accepted the gift with a smile, but few words. He said he appreciated the gesture.

“River’s Edge is a good friend of mine; the coffee is good too, ”LaRouche said with a smile, the money spread out on the table in front of him.

LaRouche didn’t have many plans for the money other than saving up and maybe buying more coffee, but he was more than happy to see how helpful his friends had turned out to be.

“He does a lot for us and we never ask him to, so he deserves this token of appreciation for what he does,” said River’s Edge owner Steve Lampron.

“Westbrook is great to me, so I love taking care of the city,” LaRouche told the American Journal. “It’s a good community.

Stultz said they made a bottom not only to show appreciation, but also to give LaRouche a feeling of local family while on vacation.

“He cleans even after parades; he is definitely a local icon, ”said Mayor Mike Foley.

About 20 years ago, just after Stultz met him, Holly, LaRouche’s wife, died when she was hit by a car at the Cumberland Mills intersection. Subsequently, he advocated that lights be added as well as other modifications to the intersection.

Between 2016 and 2019, there were 81 crashes at the three intersections, according to Maine DOT statistics. On average, 15,275 vehicles are driven on Main Street per day, 9,783 on Cumberland Street, 16,467 on Harnois Avenue and 9,094 on Warren Avenue. The state considered this triangle with four intersections where Harnois Avenue, Warren Avenue, Cumberland Street and Main Street converge as a “high collision site.”

LaRouche is credited by restaurant patrons for helping to ensure the intersection has been improved. Foley said not a single period of time has passed in his last 20 years as a city councilor or mayor where LaRouche did not inquire about the status of the project from the Department of Transportation.

“Don played a vital role in defending these lights,” Foley said. “The lights added now are really intended for pedestrians before there was hardly any pedestrian infrastructure. He was jumping for joy when construction started [in May]. “

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