LEWISTON — Just about everyone who has spent time in the area knows that Emile Jacques used to be mayor of the city. They know he spent time on the City Council and that he served in the Maine House and Senate.
But did you also know that the man used to race motorcycles professionally? Or that he was a pilot? Or that he once got a Christmas card from Elvis Presley?
Jacques, known to his intimates as Bill, died Thursday at d’Youville Pavillion. He was 87.
Jacques was one of those men whose name is synonymous with public service.
He was mayor of Lewiston in the early 1960s. He also served in the Maine House between 1955-1960. He served in the Senate from 1961 to 1966 and then, in 1973, he went back to the Maine House and served another seven years.
Jacques, a World War II veteran, traveled all over the world, staying often in condominiums in St. Martin and Mexico with his wife, Mildred Clark Jacques, and their nephews. But he never strayed from Lewiston for long. Near the end of his career, he served on the City Council and also as an Androscoggin County commissioner.
“He gave a lot,” said Larry Gilbert, former Lewiston police chief and mayor. “He was always a very active guy in the Democratic party.”
Gilbert said he visited Jacques recently at D’Youville. While he was there, Jacques produced a number of photographs dating back decades. Photos of a younger Jacques posing with a variety of politicians. Photos of Lewiston back in the day.
And motorcycles. Lots of motorcycles.
“He had his albums right there with him,” Gilbert said. “He was very proud of them.”
Back while Jacques was deeply involved in city and state politics, he also ran a motorcycle shop on Hines Alley where he would give rides to neighborhood children. He also sponsored several international motorcycle races at the Lewiston Fairgrounds.
It was the speed he liked.
“He enjoyed riding motorcycles, snowmobiles and water skiing,” according to the obituary, “and anything else that involved speed and danger well into his 70s.”
In fact, before he became mayor of Lewiston, Jacques was a professional motorcycle racer in the U.S. and Canada and won several Canadian National titles.
In 1961, Jacques, and those who knew him, were bemused when the mayor received, from Los Angeles, a Christmas card from Elvis. On the card was a photo of The King and the word “Aloha.”
Was he impressed?
“No,” Jacques told a news reporter. “I’m not a rock and roll fan.”
Those who worked with him — or simply knew of his legacy — couldn’t help but note the long political career which spanned five decades.
“It takes a special kind of person to survive in the public eye and be of service to the community in politics,” said Kaileigh Tara, who served as mayor in the late 1990s. “Mr. Jacques had all of those unique qualities. We need more people who have them to step forward and serve our country in this way.”
Jacques leaves behind his wife, two sons and a daughter.