FORT KENT, Maine — When Ralph Theriault returned to his hometown this weekend for the official launch of his historical book “Destination: Madawaska,” he was pretty sure he’d find a receptive audience.

What he wasn’t expecting was an impromptu school days reunion.

Halfway through Theriault’s presentation Saturday afternoon at the University of Maine at Fort Kent describing his French-English book’s coverage of life in the St. John Valley during the 19th century, one member of the audience had a sudden realization.

“I recognize you,” former Maine Rep. Ross Paradis of Frenchville said. “I knew you at the seminary.”

Turns out, the two men were classmates at St. Josephs Seminary High School in Bucksport 55 years ago.

“When he started talking about his father Theodule Theriault and growing up in St. Luce in Frenchville, I knew who he was,” Paradis said. “I haven’t seen him since school.”

The two men have fond memories of each other and their days at St. Josephs.

“I remember Ralph as the strongest kid in school,” Paradis said. “He was a gentle giant [and] we all called him ‘Jumbo.’”

Paradis said it was a thrill to discover his old classmate had gone on to write his book.

“A lot of our alumni went on to do great things,” Paradis said.

Published by the Societe Historique du Madawaska, Theriault’s 75-page work uses maps, photographs and family histories to describe the life of Theriault’s ancestor Charles Theriault, the first Acadian settler on the lower Madawaska River in 1821.

Also included are accounts of other founding families like the Plourdes, St. Onges and Morneaults and their contributions to building communities in the St. John Valley.

“Destination: Madawaska” is available through the Societe Historique du Madawaska by calling 506-735-4582.

Julia Bayly

Julia Bayly

Julia Bayly is a reporter at the Bangor Daily News with a regular bi-weekly column. Julia has been a freelance travel writer/photographer since 2000.