By Jeffrey D. Wagner / The Herald-News (Fall River)
WESTPORT, Mass. — He was from Fall River. She was from New Bedford.
They met at a place in the middle of the two cities — a teen hangout in Dartmouth known as Lincoln Park.
The couple later settled in the middle of their home cities. They built a home on Robert Street in Westport, and built a family and a great life on a former dirt-road neighborhood powered by three generators.
Sixty-eight years later, Fernand Lavoie, 91, and his wife, Alberta, 86, are happily married and Fernand still likes to surprise Alberta. This time, he persuaded local and state officials to name a brook near his house after her.
As of Monday, Nov. 13, state and town records recognize a small brook near 179 Robert St. as Alberta Brook. The brook flows into Sawdy Pond.
When asked why he wanted the brook named after his wife, Fernand Lavoie laughed at what he considered a no-brainer question.
“The more people do for their spouses, the happier and longer their lives will be,” he said.
Still sharp at 91, Fernand Lavoie did his research and then turned to state representatives and the selectmen’s office for additional help. Lavoie and the officials learned that on a federal level, a natural feature cannot be named after a person who is alive.
Luckily, the state has no such restriction in place.
“The Massachusetts State Names Authority lies with the state geologist at UMass Amherst. This is the last stop in the ... process,” according to Lucy Tabit, the selectmen’s administrative assistant, who researched details for Lavoie.
“The state geologist makes the final recommendations based on his local research. He stated that the person for whom the natural feature is being named had to have made some significant contribution to the community. There has not been a public meeting process involved in naming cases.”
Lavoie realized all this and marveled at the uniqueness of his quest.
“An event like this happens once every 100 years,” he said.
Tabit and officials found that Lavoie has made a great contribution to his community. A resident of Robert Street since 1952, he has been measuring the water level and precipitation weekly on Sawdy Pond since 1975 as a courtesy to the City of Fall River. The pond is part of the city’s drinking water supply.
“He enjoys an exemplary character throughout our area and region and I believe this would be an extraordinary act of love on his part. Mr. Lavoie has been committed to this task for quite some time and approached my office four years ago,” State Rep. Paul Schmid wrote in a letter of support.
The letter was read by selectmen on Nov. 13 and the Lavoies were given an official proclamation by the board.