FORT KENT, Maine — A 25-volume set of scrapbooks detailing the social, cultural, political and current events of the St. John Valley from 1920 through 2004, have been donated to the University of Maine at Fort Kent.
The donation, made on behalf of the family of Justice Elmer Violette and Dr. Marcella Belanger Violette, includes photos of prominent national and state politicians such as John F. and Jacqueline Kennedy, Edmund Muskie, Jimmy and Rosalind Carter, Lyndon B. Johnson, Joseph Brennan, and John L. Martin.
“This donation represents a glimpse into 80 years of life in the St. John Valley. Not just the major events that make state or national news, but daily events that shape families and are often overlooked as insignificant,” said Lise Pelletier, director of the UMFK Acadian Archives/Archives Acadiennes.
Elmer Violette, who died in 2000, was a Van Buren attorney who served as a state representative and senator, a Maine Superior Court justice and a justice on the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. He also was the Democratic candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in 1972 and was a major proponent of the Allagash Wilderness Waterway.
Marcella Violette’s passion and advocacy for UMFK, education, civic responsibility, the Catholic religion and preserving the French language and heritage are well documented, according to the UMFK press release announcing the donation Monday.
The volumes are filled with photographs, newspaper articles, letters, cards, telegrams, postcards, brochures and other artifacts. Along with the scrapbooks, the collection includes 15 gallery posters, audio CDs, and portraits of Elmer and Marcella Violette.
The Violettes raised five children — Dennis, Paul, Mark, Thomas and Louise.
When Marcella Violette died in 2005, she left 25 volumes of scrapbooks with information about the St. John Valley from 1921 to the day she died. That collection was donated to the UMFK archives on behalf of the family by Dennis and Holly Violette of Orrington.
“Judge Violette’s role in the Allagash Waterway and his wife’s speeches to state officials about the importance of keeping UMFK open and to Franco-Americans about preserving and transmitting their French heritage are selfless examples of how much one person speaking for an entire community can affect a profound difference,” said Pelletier about the collection. “The scrapbooks lovingly created over so many years reflect the Violettes’ unfailing devotion to the St. John Valley and have much to offer us, their successors.”
Both Elmer and Marcella Violette received honorary doctoral degrees from UMFK, in 1974 and 1991, respectively.
The scrapbooks that have been donated were the subject of an exhibit, “Contributing a Lifetime to Public Service,” at UMFK from the fall of 2007 through spring 2008. The exhibit closely mirrored the five major themes of Marcella’s scrapbooks — UMFK, cultural preservation, civic responsibility, Allagash Wilderness Waterway and education/family/women.
To mark the occasion of the exhibit, a DVD titled “Remembering the Contributions of Marcella and Elmer Violette” was created.