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Turkeys for eternity: Brunswick residents continue annual Thanksgiving dinner tradition

November 17, 2023

Shihab Moral
GOBBLE TIL YOU WOBBLE: Brunswick residents, faculty families and students all convene for the annual Thanksgiving dinner.

1,576 pounds of turkey, 30 gallons of gravy, 700 pounds of mashed potatoes, 252 pies and eight gallons of whipped cream set the stage for the annual Thanksgiving dinner—a tradition beloved both by students and less-seen members of the campus community. As students rushed into Thorne Dining Hall, attempting to save seats by scattered loose items across the long wooden tables, local families and Brunswick residents joined the fray all for this special meal. Bowdoin students come and go throughout the years, but these five Brunswick residents and friends have attended nearly every Thanksgiving and Holiday dinner together at Bowdoin for the past twenty years.

Brunswick resident Herbert Paris and his wife  Harriet Paris have lived in the town for forty-five years and have participated in Bowdoin traditions like Thanksgiving dinner for as long as they can remember.

“We try to enjoy it every year, and we come together as a group to try to make the Thanksgiving dinner and the Holiday dinner because it gives us an opportunity to stay in touch with students,” Herbert Paris said.

Serving on the Institutional Research Board for over twenty years, Herbert has always loved to engage with students and faculty at different colleges and universities and learn more about the topics that interest them through their research endeavors. He worked closely with Yale University and Brandeis University before moving to Brunswick to start the Cardiac Rehabilitation and Running Start programs at Mid Coast Hospital with Harriet. Herbert went on to become the President and Chief Executive Officer of Mid Coast Health Services.

“We feel quite at home here at Bowdoin and in Brunswick. It’s a wonderful school. I think the students that are here have a wonderful opportunity to be here and to walk away with a Bowdoin education,” Herbert Paris said.

Jerry Levasseur, former assistant track and field coach at Bowdoin, and his wife, Arden Levasseur, moved to Brunswick from Connecticut and have loved their experiences connecting with Bowdoin students and the local community. Arden currently sings with the First Parish Church and once worked as a card swiper in the Buck Fitness Center before the College eliminated those jobs during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It’s a very nice town. We moved up from Connecticut, and we have not wanted to move back. We love Brunswick. It’s laid back, and the people and students here are all very nice,” Jerry Levasseur said.

“The fact that it was a college town really drew us here. There’s so much to offer here that we can participate in,” Arden Levasseur interjected.

Although Jerry Levasseur was a cross country and track and field coach, he also developed an affinity for many of Bowdoin’s other sports and still attends a few of the women’s basketball and volleyball games each year. The five friends all eagerly expressed their excitement to watch the first hockey game of the season tonight.

“The thing we enjoy about being close to Bowdoin is that we get to talk to the students. When I worked with the track team and cross country, it was just fun to work with young people and try to support them and get our positivity across to them,” Jerry Levasseur said.

Clayton Zuker, the last of the lively quintet, lived in different places throughout New England his whole life before moving to Brunswick.

“My brother was a graduate of Bowdoin, but I was a graduate—I say very softly—of Tufts. My brother lives down in Virginia now, but being a Bowdoin grad, he lives vicariously and keeps tabs on what’s going on around here through me,” Zucker said.

The group originally was brought together by their interest in running, and twenty years later this shared passion maintains their strong connection.

“[The Levasseurs and Paris’s] moved here long before I did, but through running, I got to know them when I visited. I liked Brunswick and bought a place nearby,” Zucker said.

The friends also take advantage of Bowdoin’s facilities while the teams are not practicing to stay active. Zucker and Jerry Levasseur now hold several national and world records for running in their age range. They even organized a relay team for individuals in the 80 and older category that set five national records, one world record and are set to beat another world record in the upcoming year.

The group has faced a few challenges in their old age, but they still look forward to being on campus each year for the holiday season.

“We just try to keep active and doing things, and that’s why we’re still here. I’ve gone through chemotherapy three times. Herb has an eye deficiency and is over 80 percent blind, but we’re still here,” Levasseur said.

With the exception of the years during the pandemic when the campus was closed to outside visitors, the College has always welcomed members of the Brunswick community to join students for this celebration.

“While we design this meal to be celebratory for our campus community, we also recognize that there are those in the local community that enjoy the food and festivities as much as our students do,” Executive Director of Dining Ryan Miller wrote in an email to the Orient. “Dining at Bowdoin is about so much more than just the food though. The community bonds that are formed in our dining halls are truly something special, and even more so when you look at traditions like the Thanksgiving meal.”


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