Retired police officer and singer Maurice “Moe” Morin, 80, died Thursday
LEWISTON – Over and over, Maurice Morin pulled on his tuxedo and tails, slid on his white gloves and sang for Lewiston’s hockey crowds.
The 80-year-old singer known for his dapper appearance and deep, booming delivery of anthems before Lewiston Maineiacs games died Thursday.
“He brought a sense of class to the Maineiacs for the team’s first three seasons,” said Robert Mainville, the team’s marketing director. “We miss him.”
On Friday, the team marked his passing on its Web site with a photo and a small story beneath the headline, “Farewell Friend.”
“He became the face of the Maineiacs,” Mainville said.
His reach went far beyond hockey fans, though. Morin, whom everyone knew as “Moe,” spent 20 years as an Auburn police officer and later became a shipfitter at Bath Iron Works.
Morin was born in Lewiston and moved to Auburn when he was 4 years old. He was still very young when he began singing in church and at school. By 15 or 16, he was singing five nights a week on local radio, splitting his time between two stations, WLAM and WCOU. He crooned pop songs made famous by Bing Crosby and others.
In a 2004 interview with the Sun Journal, Morin talked about those early days. He was proud of his radio work, describing late nights in the studios and his love of music.
As a boy, he learned that every song should be sung like it’s a poem with a message, he said.
When he felt passionately about a song – he became that way about “The Star-Spangled Banner” – it showed. He found his love of the anthem while serving in World War II.
By his late teens, he was in the Pacific aboard a Navy freighter that supplied America’s island-hopping war against Japan.
His experiences there gave him a love of the flag and what it represents.
“I learned about what it all means,” Morin said in 2004. He wore the tuxedo as a show of respect for the flag.
And he tried to interpret the U.S. anthem as Francis Scott Key might have imagined, he said.
When the war ended, Morin returned to Auburn, married his sweetheart, Loretta, and went to work for the police department.
Even as an officer, Morin performed. He learned to sing in close harmonies with local groups and continued to develop as an interpreter of music.
After he retired in the 1980s, he spent his winters on Florida’s Gulf Coast. When the Tampa Bay Lightning team was formed there as part of the National Hockey League, Morin offered to sing.
“I figured nobody down there knew the Canadian anthem, not in French anyway,” said Morin, whose dad was from Canada.
Soon he was singing at several games each year. At least once, the crowd surpassed 33,000 people.
But other people took over the singing by the mid-1990s. He and Loretta stopped going to Florida.
When he heard in 2003 that a new team was being started in Lewiston, he showed up at the makeshift offices beside the arena, which was then undergoing a renovation.
He asked if he could sing, and someone jokingly requested a few bars of “O Canada.”
“He belted out ‘O Canada’ in full,” Mainville said. The team’s vice president and governor, Matt McKnight, was in the next room.
“He had heard his voice, which is all he needed,” Mainville said. McKnight never came out. He simply yelled back, “You’re hired!”
Morin’s reverential singing of the anthems – standing flagpole-straight on the ice – quickly became known throughout the league.
When his microphone went out before a 2003 game, he sang anyway. Folks said he could be heard across the arena.
“I just opened up and let it all out,” Morin recalled in 2004. “I guess I’m just a ham at heart.”
Age caught up with him, though.
Two years ago, Loretta died. They were married for more than 50 years.
“He loved and adored his family,” said daughter-in-law Debbie Morin. Morin and his wife had three children and several grandchildren.
As last season began, Moe grew weak, sometimes needing a walker to help him on the ice. He finished his singing at the end of the season.
“He was a fixture here,” Mainville said. “He was the face of the Maineiacs.”
Sheriff recalls encountering Morin
Androscoggin County Sheriff Guy Desjardins figured he was 5 years old when he first met Maurice Morin, who drove past him one afternoon in his Auburn police cruiser.
“I knew him as a beat cop,” he said because he grew up in the same New Auburn neighborhood that Morin once patrolled.
One day, the boy-who-would-be-sheriff chucked a rock at the police car. Morin wheeled the car around and chased Desjardins, who ran home and hid in a closet.
When Morin caught up with him later, he scared him, giving him a “be good or else” speech.
“He had this deep, raspy voice,” the sheriff said. “I’ll never, never forget that.”
As Desjardins grew up, the fear turned to affection.
“He was a good man,” Desjardins remembered.