BANGOR, Maine — Five years ago, a spider entered Larry Payeur’s life. That spider put a new thread into his days.
The spider was brought to him by his daughter who had acquired it at a craft fair. It was made of twisted wire and and what appeared to be several roundish, smooth pieces of glass.
“I was just sitting there minding my own business,” Payeur, 82, said of the day he saw the spider. His daughter asked him to make one like it. Payeur went one better than that. He come up with his own version of a spider and gave away most of what he made.
Soon, seated at a small work table illuminated with a gooseneck lamp, he also began handcrafting dragonflies, butterflies and ladybugs to wear on a shirt or sweater.
Though Payeur has no special interest in insects, he recalled how as a boy growing up in Sanford in the 1930s, a neighbor woman would hire him and his brothers to catch dragonflies for which she paid them a penny apiece.
“That was big money for a kid,” he recalled. He even has a large toy spider as a mascot, which hangs around the sunroom.
One thing led to another, as things usually do, and Payeur came up with the idea of using his dragonflies to generate money for charity. Organizations benefiting from dragonfly sales are Penquis, the Bangor Humane Society, Furry Friends, the Levinson Center and Manna.
The process Payeur uses to make his “creatures,” as he calls them, involves a bead for the body, wire and duct tape for wings, painting, sanding and glueing on a pinback. Beading of the legs and body of each insect is left to family member Betsy Norton.
“She’s my elf,” Payeur said. “She has a better color sense than I do. Between the two of us we produce the dragonflies.”
Payeur enjoys giving his creatures to people he meets when he’s out and about with his wife, Lorna. At a restaurant in Hampden recently, he gave a pink dragonfly to a little girl having breakfast with her grandfather.
“You should have seen the smile on her face,” he said. “That’s why I like to do it.” Not to mention the great conversations he ends up having and the interesting people he meets. He also confided that he gave creatures to the waitresses at the restaurant and to the cook.
“I used a creature to barter for a doughnut, too,” he laughed.
Payeur’s creatures really get around — they went on Lorna’s class reunion cruise to the Caribbean last year. Lorna, who met Larry at a dance when he was stationed at Dow Air Force Base in the early 1950s, is a 1953 graduate of Bangor High School.
“People really loved them,” she said of Larry’s creatures.
Payeur also makes whirligigs and music boxes he gives to children in need.
“I enjoy doing things for children who have nothing,” he said.
Payeur, a veteran of the Korean War and the Vietnam conflict, retired from the U.S. Air Force in 1968 after serving for 22 years in the USAF office of special investigation.
“I enjoyed the work,” he said. He also is a member of the troop greeters at Bangor International Airport and is a U.S. Bowling Congress 2012 Hall of Famer.
The sale of Payeur’s creatures also allow area businesses to generate funds for charities of their choice, including Lougee-Frederick and One Lupine in Bangor, and Sticks and Stones in Brewer. Maine Savings in Hampden uses proceeds from the sale of Larry’s Creatures to benefit its Ending Hunger in Maine Campaign.
But for Payeur the payoff is greater than the proceeds they generate.
“It’s nice to know that people get such satisfaction out of them,” he said.
Payeur’s creatures are part of the American Veterans Arts and Crafts Gallery display on exhibit through Labor Day at Bangor City Hall.