June 18, 2018
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Bangor Hydro linemen help 91-year-old customer with more than the power

By Andrew Neff, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — Bangor Hydro Electric Co. linemen Mark King and Randy Hastings helped hundreds of people while working a 13-hour shift to restore power during last weekend’s snowstorm.

But for one customer, restoring electricity to his home wasn’t the biggest service the Hydro linemen provided. They may have saved his life.

Edmund Brissette, a 91-year-old retired electrician living alone at his farmhouse in Otis, is used to doing things himself. So when the power went out and the temperature inside his home dropped to 50 degrees around 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 9, he decided to fire up the generator.

The fact that a snowstorm was raging outside and about 75 or so feet of ground covered by more than 2 feet of snow was separating him from that generator didn’t deter the World War II Navy veteran.

“He’s only about 5-[foot]-5, but he went out there to his barn to start it up,” said Mike Brissette, Edmund’s son. “He has trouble walking, so he used two crutches like ski poles to get out there.”

The elder Brissette, an Old Town native, discovered that the generator’s battery was dead. Since he was already there, he told his son he decided to fire up the snowblower and clear his driveway and walks. But with the power out, the electric-start option was out too, and he couldn’t get it started with the pull cord.

“So he worked his way back to the house on his crutches and got another battery,” said Mike Brissette. “But he can’t carry it, so he puts it in a 5-gallon bucket.”

The elder Brissette took the bucket with the battery in it, pushed it forward on the snow a few feet at a time, then pushed himself forward on his hands and knees, and so on until he got to the barn.

The effort almost completely wore Brissette out, his son said.

It was around this same time that Hastings and King were working on the power lines on Otis Road (Route 180) near Brissette’s house. Hastings was the first to spy Brissette.

“When I was booming down [on the bucket truck], I was looking around and noticed him crawling on his hands and knees in 26, 27 inches of snow with a bucket in front of him,” said Hastings, who has been with Bangor Hydro 13 years, the last seven as a lineman. “I couldn’t imagine what was going on and it really alarmed me, so I mentioned it to Mark and he watched him while I was working.”

King, a 26-year Hydro employee with 15 years as a lineman, said he kept his eyes on Brissette, but couldn’t tell for sure if he was in trouble or not.

“I went over to ask how he was doing,” King recalled. “I think he said he was doing okay, but he was on his way out to try to get his generator going, so I said ‘Well, you don’t need to because in about five minutes, we’ll have [the power] back on. He said ‘You’re kidding me!’”

King helped Brissette to his feet as Hastings came over to join them.

“We got him in the garage and set him down to get a rest,” King said. “He must have thanked us at least three times, because he said if we hadn’t come along, he’d have spent the night in the garage, and with the temperature about 10 or 12 and a 20-mile-an-hour wind, we figured he’d freeze to death.”

The two men helped Brissette get back to his house and got him settled into a chair. King decided to go out and start the snowblower up to make a couple passes and clear a space between the house and the barn while Hastings stayed to talk to Brissette.

“The whole time he was saying ‘I can’t thank you guys enough’ because there was no way he could make it back to the house again,” Hastings said.

Hastings began asking Brissette about his family.

“We were just chit chatting back and forth and I was asking him his address and his name a couple times,” Hastings said. “He mentioned his son and I kind of quizzed him about stuff to get info so we could get someone from his family to check on him and make sure things were alright.”

The widower and father of two mentioned his son and daughter — Mike and Donna — and Hastings was able to get enough information to relay it to Bangor Hydro dispatcher Kim Thayer in hopes of reaching Brissette’s family members to notify them.

“They thought we should let a family member know, so I went digging in our customer information system,” said Thayer. “He told our guys he had a son who lived in Bangor, but they weren’t sure of his full name and it didn’t show up in our system, so I searched the last name in Bangor and Mike’s also a customer of ours.”

Thayer called Mike, who called his dad Saturday evening and then paid him a visit Sunday, only to find that his dad had already cleared the entire driveway.

“He would never let me do anything for him,” Brissette said with a chuckle. “I couldn’t believe they called to tell me. That was really good of them to do,” said Mike Brissette.

Thayer, King and Hastings all said this was a unique incident for all of them.

“That’s the first situation like this that’s come up in my 10 years of dispatching,” Thayer said. “Both my husband and I have aging parents, so it’s a point of concern for me as it is.”

Both King and Hastings said it was a case of perfect timing.

“It was good that Randy was up in the bucket because I’m not sure anyone would have seen him from the road with all the snow,” said King. “We’re just happy we were there to be able to help.”

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