LEWISTON — Sadie Landry’s family moved from North Dakota to Lewiston when she was young for her father’s work, and it was tradition when each of the children turned 13 to go back there for the summer.
When she hit 13, she stayed with her grandmother, who worked in a bakery. It was a delicious few months.
“I ended up putting 40 pounds on over a summer,” Landry said.
Her mother, a nurse, worked with another nurse, Rich Pelletier, who was starting to teach karate lessons at the YMCA. To help Sadie get moving, she signed the whole family — mom, dad, three kids — up for lessons.
“I was really resistant,” Landry, 36, said. “I tried to find baby-sitting jobs (to get out of it). I thought I was going to have to beat someone up and somebody was going to beat me up.”
Over a year, the whole family earned purple belts and Landry found her calling — even if she didn’t know it yet.
“I started competing — that’s what pulled me — the competition,” she said. “By the time I was 15, I was helping him teach all of the classes. I would go every single day — I would go to the kids’ classes and stay for the adult classes.”
Today, she’s a frequent face in Lewiston schools, teaching karate and yoga and through that, she hopes, values such as integrity and perseverance.
“It’s this outlet to … help people to better their lives,” Landry said. “I feel like people used to get a lot of those virtues in church, but a lot of people don’t go to church anymore.”
After Pelletier’s death, Landry became one of three owners of Pelletier’s Karate Academy in Lewiston. She’s a sixth-degree black belt in Okinawa Kenpo Karate — the belts go all the way up to 10.
What does that mean, skill-wise?
“I just kind of let people use their imaginations,” she said.
There are applications for self-defense, form work and technique.
“It’s almost like when you learn to play piano,” Landry said. First you learn notes, then songs, then eventually, compose your own pieces, she said.
Each of her three children began ninja classes at 3 years of age, along with her husband, Jay. Two weeks after each birth, she was back teaching.
A fan of the book, “The Good Earth,” she said she flashed on one of the lead characters, the hardworking O-lan, who didn’t let childbirth slow her down.
“O-lan was out in the fields!” Landry said.
If O-lan could go back to the fields, she could go back to the dojo, she figured. Students’ waiting parents would hold the baby while she taught classes.
In that busy spirit, Landry also runs a book club. “Black Boy” by Richard Wright is the current pick. She also volunteers at Franco Center events such as Octoberfest, where she dresses as a barmaid and serves beer.
“When I was a kid, I always wanted to be a waitress,” she said.
And she baby-sits for family, tag-teaming with her mom.
“None of my nieces and nephews have ever been to day care, and I have 11,” Landry said.
Her family loves to head outdoors, going camping, cross-country skiing and whitewater rafting. It’s in her personalty to go, go, go, Landry said. While it took time to transition from North Dakota, she now firmly considers Lewiston to be her home.
“I could never go back and live on the flat inland with no mountains and no ocean,” she said.
Know someone everyone knows? Contact staff writer Kathryn Skelton at 689-2844 or [email protected]