JAY – Joe Nemi was remembered Tuesday as being family oriented, hard working, stubborn to a degree, tough but fair, confident in what he wanted to do and optimistic even in the face of death.
He also was remembered for what he set in motion for young football players years ago and his efforts to capture and share community events in the newspapers he owned before he founded Franklin Printing in Farmington.
Nemi, 75, died Sunday at his Jay home after battling cancer for 14 months, his son Greg Nemi said Tuesday.
The elder Nemi had worked in the production side of newspapers as a linotype operator for The Rumford Falls Times, Portland Press Herald and Kennebec Journal before he bought the Livermore Falls Advertiser in Livermore Falls and The Franklin Journal and Farmington Chronicle in Farmington.
He increased the size of his newspapers and filled them with local news and advertisements and eventually moved all of the production of both papers to his property on Route 4 in Farmington, which later became Franklin Printing.
In the late 1980s, Franklin Printing started doing more commercial printing and Nemi decided to sell the newspapers.
He expanded his business, added on to the building and upgraded his equipment and continued in the commercial printing business that flourished and is now known as a state-of-the-art operation run by sons Greg and Richard.
Though the elder Nemi semi-retired when he sold the newspapers, he still came to the office until Feb. 24 and had planned to go back but illness got in the way.
“He liked coming up and seeing the people,” Greg Nemi said.
One thing Nemi learned about his father as he fought the illness that would eventually kill him was that he was more optimistic than he knew, he said.
He lived for today and was always thinking about what he would do next, Nemi said.
“He didn’t give in; he was always a fighter,” he said.
One of his father’s early successes was after he saw some young kids playing football in Farmington, he wanted to bring that Little League-type venture to Jay, Livermore and Livermore Falls.
He approached Roland Ouellette and Joe Grimaldi, both of Jay, with the idea and asked them to help start a football league for young players. Four football teams were organized and games became quite a weekly event, Greg Nemi said.
That idea eventually blossomed to include baseball and basketball and other sports and became the Area Youth Sports program.
Richard Jackson of Jay, who started Western Auto in Livermore Falls shortly after Joe Nemi bought the Livermore Falls Advertiser, said both he and Nemi were struggling back then and Nemi made his business a success.
“He did it all by himself. He was a hard worker,” Jackson said.
He also really supported the area and shopped locally, he said.
Barry Romano of Livermore Falls said Nemi worked his way up to become a pretty wealthy person.
“What he had was yours,” he said. “If he liked you, he would do anything for you.”
He also was comical, Romano said. He used to say he liked to hang around with younger guys between their 30s to 50s because they were more exciting and people his age were dying.
Phil Cote, who worked with Nemi off and on first worked with him in 1956 in Lewiston and then became general manager of Nemi’s newspapers.
“He was tough but he was fair,” Cote said. “Things had to go his way, but I guess when you’re in business that’s the way you have to be.”