JAY — Lenny Boucher was too young to draw retirement when he lost his paper mill job of 31 years in late 2008.

However, he soon discovered that life could go on after spending decades in a mill, at least for him.

He fell back on his musical talents and continued to buy, restore and sell antiques. He invested his severance pay and lives on that. He will be eligible to draw on his retirement in November.

Boucher, 61, who worked maintenance at the Jay mill, could have stayed after the first round of layoffs were announced, he said. But he felt he was too old to take a pay cut, learn a new production job and start at the bottom again. The mill closed for good in June 2009.

“At my age it was just a little much,” Boucher, of Jay, said. He now splits his time between Jay and Gouldsboro, and soon he’ll be performing in a band in Florida.

He planned for retirement — at least he thought he had — when he bought property on Route 1 on the coast in Gouldsboro in 2003.

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“I was hoping to be able to resell it and have some money for retirement, but then the market fell apart and then I lost my job,” Boucher said.

He decided to make use of the property on the coast and try to make a living there.

He has always restored antique automobiles and he has a history in the music business. He recorded a few record albums in the 1980s with his top hits of “Golden Girls in Maine” and “Crazy in Love” played on the radio, he said.

He grew up in Rumford and after serving in the military during Vietnam War, he settled in Vienna and began to play acoustic guitar and sing there before moving to Jay in 1996.

The music was just a hobby initially, but he was encouraged to form a band, which he did later, and it became the Lenny Boucher Band.

The applause he received during his initial performances urged him on.

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“When you’re playing on stage and hear the applause, that’s a high,” he said. “You feel like you’re playing from within.”

He had two booking agents and kept his job at the mill for three or four years but it became too much doing shift work. He took a break from music until two years ago.

“I decided to build my own stage and have open mic on the coast of Maine, which has proven to be quite successful,” Boucher said. He also built a replica of a hot dog stand he saw in a Norman Rockwell painting. Linwood’s Open Mic and Linwood’s Hot Dog Stand both carry the name his mother gave him at birth. Admission to the open microphone event on Sundays during summer months is free and the hot dog stand runs on donations, he said.

“It’s drawing a crowd,” Boucher said “People stop by from all different states.”

He even had a bicyclist from France drop in recently.

He’ll be heading to Florida this winter to play with the Al and Patty Howland Band, a couple he met at his open mic events. He’ll also be looking for antiques to bring back to Maine.

Though he’s not monetarily rich he does have more fun, fewer worries and good friends, he said.

“I was fortunate it happened at my age because I was closer to retirement age anyway, so it worked out well for me,” he said of losing his job. “There is life after Wausau.”

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