LEWISTON — A woman called, howling.
"What do I do? I have a pencil in my eye!"
She had dropped something while she was at her desk. As she leaned down to grab it, her eye caught the pencil laying on the edge of her desk just right. Or just wrong.
Even though it was a Saturday morning, Roger Bergeron told her to come on down to his optometry office. Fortunately, the graphite chunk came out easily.
Another happy patient, one of 17,000 he's seen over nearly 36 years.
Bergeron is retiring in March, a slow transition he started in September when he sold his Main Street and Lisbon Falls practices to Maine Optometry. He's beat cancer twice. It's time to be healthy and relax, he said, but it's bittersweet.
"I've gotten more hugs the past six weeks than I know what to do with," Bergeron, 61, said. "Good, hardworking people of Lewiston-Auburn are some of the best patients you can have."
"It's like leaving your child," he said. "It's very difficult in that sense. But they'll be well taken care of."
Bergeron and his five siblings grew up on Prospect Hill in South Auburn. When he graduated from St. Dom's in 1969, he had decided to be a chemist. But working in the labs gave him second thoughts about his career choice.
"I wanted to be more involved with people," Bergeron said. "I got tired of sitting in a room, boiling."
His roommate during his junior year at Bates College was considering optometry. After Bergeron also looked into the field, he decided that was what he wanted to do. After graduating from the Pennsylvania College of Optometry in 1977, Bergeron went to work in the basement of 25 Ash St. with his childhood optometrist, Gilman Bouchard. He bought that practice and went solo in 1985.
After a yearlong process, Bergeron moved to his current location on the corner of Main Street and Brooks Avenue in 1999.
For decades, Bergeron worked 50 to 55 hours a week and gave himself one week off a year. Ten years ago, he started allowing himself a second week of vacation. He shrugged and said he liked his patients too much to work less.
"I have actually treated patients that I saw their grandparents as teenagers," he said. "I thought to myself the other day, that's impossible, how could that be? It can be. It is. It makes you feel real good."
Over his career, Bergeron once helped a 5-year-old who'd battled chronic headaches for two years. His parents feared the worst, but medical tests turned up nothing. Bergeron diagnosed him as farsighted.
"He comes back in a week, his headaches are gone," he said.
The optometrist once helped another woman who had accidentally dropped a hot curling iron on her eye, burning her cornea.
"She passed out in my chair, the pain was so severe," he said. "Even I was going, 'Ouch!'"
With medicine and time, she healed, too.
Until March, Bergeron will work one day per week in Lewiston and one day per week in Lisbon Falls. After that, it's the open road. He'd like to visit all the national parks.
"I think I want to see the United States," Bergeron said. "I already have a fifth wheel on order. Take my time and just park it, follow the good weather. Where is it going to be 75, 80 degrees? That's where I'm going to be."
Know someone whom everyone knows? Contact staff writer Kathryn Skelton at 689-2844 or firstname.lastname@example.org.