1930 – 2015

AUBURN — Richard Joseph Potvin Jr., 84, shoe industrialist, real estate developer, husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather, of Auburn and Miami Beach, Fla., passed away peacefully on Friday, June 12, at the Androscoggin Hospice House in Auburn, with his loving wife by his side. Richard fought off COPD and death with his “hard nose” determination for many months. Only after finally admitting to his immortality in front of family members did he allow himself to rest and find peace.

He was born Aug.15, 1930, in Providence, R.I., the son of the late Richard Joseph Potvin Sr. and Dorothy Francis (Lynch) Potvin of Brockton, Mass., and Golden Beach, Fla. His grandparents were Joseph Pierre Potvin and Claire (Chevalier) Potvin of Trois-Rivieres, Quebec, Canada, and Edmund and Lydia Lynch of Charleston, N.H.

Richard developed his strong will to succeed and independence at a very early age in life by attending Catholic boarding schools. The Sacred Heart Boarding School in Sharon, Mass., for grammar and preparatory school and then Mount Saint Charles Academy in Woonsocket, R.I., for high school, known to this day as one of the top hockey high schools in the country. He boarded there from 1946 through 1949 under the strong guidance and teachings of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart. Known as “Jockey” to his teachers and classmates at Mount Saint Charles, Richard excelled in varsity hockey and football. He was the starting quarterback for the football team and received many accolades in his yearbook and local newspapers, but hockey was his love. Richard started at defense, was co-captain and an “All State” selection for the state of Rhode Island in 1948 and 1949. The hockey team was state champion in 1947 and national champion in previous years. As a young athlete, he could remember taking long and cold road trips from the “Mount” to Lewiston to play against St. Dominic High School. All too often, he would run into former St. Dom players he played against while he resided in Lewiston-Auburn. Born with hockey in his blood, Richard continued playing in organized hockey leagues through his 40s. He was also co-founder and co-owner of the Maine Nordiques hockey team of Lewiston.

Richard attended boarding schools while his parents worked side by side as president and vice president, building a very successful shoe manufacturing company in Brockton, Mass., which would come to be known as the R.J. Potvin Shoe Co. of Brockton.

After graduating from Mount Saint Charles Academy, he attended The Babson School of Business. He then entered the United States Marine Corps in 1951 at Camp Lejeune, N.C., and served with honors under the rank of sergeant. While stationed at Camp Lejeune, he met his wife, Patricia Ann Dillon, at the USO in Swansboro, N.C. While they dated, Patricia would make Richard’s favorite dinner of pork chops and mashed potatoes several times a week for him at her Jacksonville home. In 1953, they married at the Catholic Chapel on the Camp Lejeune Military Base. With one year left in the Marines, Richard was transferred to Lorain, Ohio, along with Patricia for Marine recruiting duties.


After serving his country in the USMC until 1954, Richard moved to Brockton, Mass., to work alongside his parents in the family shoe company and to raise a family with his loving wife, Patricia. The company grew to employ over 200 people and was nationally known for its manufacturing of infant footwear, known as “Buntees.” All in a matter of five years from 1954 to 1959, Richard and Pat had five beautiful children together: Richard III, Jeanne, Catherine and the twins, Michael and Patricia. During the late 1950s and early 1960s, Richard and his family spent many summers at the family cottages at Monument Beach and Pocasset, Mass., on Cape Cod. On Cape Cod, he had an all-wood Thompson Boat with a 50-horsepower Evinrude named “NIVTOP I.” He loved to catch flounders and sharks after work and on weekends. If he wasn’t fishing with his cousin, Jimmy, or sons, Richie and Michael, he was catching horseshoe crabs on the beach with Jeanne, Cathy and Patty. As work became more demanding at the Brockton Shoe plant, Richard built a camp closer to work on Stetson Pond in Pembroke, Mass. It was there that entire summers and winter weekends were spent. Richard loved to waterski after work, fish for bass and play ice hockey with his friends and family. Saturdays at Stetson Pond were ski days. Since Richard had the only “ski boat” on that side of the pond he would pull his five children plus all of their friends around and around this small pond, all day long. Richard did enjoy some time for himself, both on the Cape and at Pembroke. Richard’s favorite pastimes included eating fresh quahogs and cherrystone clams, right out of the ocean with ice-cold Narragansett Beer — and a little Cutty Sark from time to time over a game of cribbage!

Richard Jr. became president of Potvin Shoe as Richard’s dad retired to Golden Beach, Fla. The shoe industry took Richard to major shoe shows around the country on a monthly basis (Boston, New York, Chicago, Detroit and Kansas City) and as the business grew, on to Europe (England, France, Germany, Italy and Greece) on a frequent basis. Richard was accredited with many shoe patents due to his industrious and creative work in the shoe business. Some infant and children’s shoes, to this day, particularly the soles, bear his last name in reverse, Nivtop, as a credit to his unique shoe patents. He also perfected and patented a corrective shoe bar that connected both infant shoes together while the child slept. With regular adjustments, it would help to correct any crooked feet.

Being a shoe manufacturer and from the hometown of World Champion Heavyweight fighter Rocky Marciano, Richard and his dad manufactured Rocky’s shoes worn in his fights. Rocky preferred these shoes because the soles were made with soft leather used for baby shoes which allowed him to better feel and grip the mat. They were big supporters of Rocky and he was always so proud to boast about all the champion fights he and his Dad attended. While still living in Brockton, just getting back from Germany and viewing 38 European shoe manufacturing companies, Richard took his ideas to brothers, Bob and Dick Verreault of Diamond Machine in Lewiston. Richard Potvin designed an electronic conveyor-belt system with individual work stations for manufacturing shoes. Richard’s company, The R.J. Potvin Shoe Co., was the first shoe manufacturing company in the United States to implement this high tech and fast way of making shoes, which is known in the auto industry as the “assembly line.” A video documenting himself and the equipment while in operation at the Potvin Shoe Plant is on display at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. Richard was a proud member of the shoe industry’s United Shoe Machine and Two Ten Associates.

After selling the R.J. Potvin Shoe Co. to the Stride Rite Shoe Co. of Boston, Mass., in 1964, Richard remained at the Potvin Shoe factory for five years to run its entire manufacturing operations for Stride Rite Shoe before moving himself and his family to Auburn. Richard came to Maine to become president of the Belgrade Shoe Co. and run its manufacturing facility in Auburn. With over 100 employees, Richard ran this company for many years until the majority of the industry went overseas and American shoe companies became but a few. He made many close friends in the Lewiston-Auburn shoe industry during those years, in particular, Roxy Strout, his right-hand person at the Belgrade Shoe Co., who always kept in close touch with him.

In the mid 1970s, as the shoe industry began to move overseas, Richard gradually invested in the real estate market of Lewiston-Auburn and Miami, Fla. He even owned a marina and boat yard with his dad in Florida. As the owner and manager of several large industrial mill buildings, such as the Knapp Shoe Building in Lewiston, the Lown Shoe Building in Auburn and former Seltzer & Rydholm Building, Richard was able to provide the local economy with inexpensive space at $2.00 per foot for dozens of companies to grow and prosper. Many companies later moved into the local industrial parks or acquired their own buildings in the community. Richard later expanded into buying land, houses, strip malls and office buildings. He could not have done it alone without the help of his son, Michael, and sons-in-law, Andre Levasseur and Rene Dupont, who gave many years of hard, devoted employment to him which insured the success of those mill buildings. Additional business ventures included owning Central Maine Charter Lumber with good friend, Larry Fournier, where they bought lumber from Canada and sold it throughout the New England States. He also owned and operated Twin River Footwear of Auburn, which specialized in making high-end women’s footwear.

In his childhood he loved to fish on Ten Mile River in Pawtucket, R.I., trap wild animals for pelts and raise homing pigeons in his garage for competitive racing. His mother often told the story when Richard used all of her house fans to keep his pigeons cool in the summer! Throughout his life, he continued to hunt and fish. With Dr. Tate and Dr. Freitas, he would fish for striped bass and hunt quail along the shores of Duxbury, Mass. With cousin Jimmy or son Richie, he would hunt for ducks and fish for largemouth bass in the cranberry bogs and ponds of southeastern Massachusetts. Pheasant hunts in Kansas cornfields with leather manufacturers. Duck hunting in Louisiana swamps with shoe salesmen. Or, trolling for sailfish in the Florida Gulfstream on his dad’s boat, The Dorimar. But, as the years went by, golfing became his favorite hobby. He was very competitive in golf and he took it very seriously, eventually attaining a 9 handicap and winning several private club championships.


Since he loved to socialize, Richard became a member of many organizations: Thorny Lea Golf Club of Brockton, Mass., Martindale Country Club of Auburn, The Elks Lodge of Lewiston, Indian Creek Country Club of Miami Beach (past treasurer), La Gorce Country Club of Miami, The Surf Club of Miami Beach and The Bal Harbour Club of Bal Harbour, Fla.

In 1982, Richard and his wife retired to Surfside, Fla., at the Surf Club on Miami Beach. As a resident of the Surf Club and member of Indian Creek Country Club, Richard enjoyed 30 years of retirement playing golf, boating, socializing and attending huge events and galas with his wife, Pat, at the Surf Club, the La Gorce Country Club and Indian Creek Country Club in Miami Beach, Fla. His biggest retirement adventure was owning a 42-foot yacht, which he called the “Nivtop II.” He moored it in Bal Habour, Fla., and would sail it back and forth from Miami Beach to Freeport. Richard loved taking his time and stopping at all the ports along the Atlantic Coast. But, his summers in Auburn were always his best, because he could enjoy time at the family camp on Taylor Pond, holding barbecues with his many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

At the end of his life, he worked very hard, as he did throughout life, to not let death defeat him. It took his body, but he left behind his tough spirit, his courage and kind heart with all who knew him. He refused life support and fought hard with the assistance of some very special caregivers with kind hearts: Crystal Gurette, RN of Andoscoggin Home Care and Hospice; Kim Getchell, his personal care assistant for many months; and, Hillary Hartford, CNA; Sarah Kay, RN; Lindsey Dostie, RN; and Erin Cain, RN.

During his life, Richard was always very grateful to his daughter, Patricia Dupont, for assisting him with his business and personal needs. And, Van Costis, UBS, Stanley Eckstein, CPA and Jill Checkoway, Esq. for many years of friendship and professional advisement.

He leaves his wife of 62 years, Patricia Ann Potvin of Auburn; son, Richard J. Potvin III of Auburn and his loving partner, Joyce A. Banville; granddaughters, Elizabeth F. Potvin, and Lauren M. Potvin and companion, Abram Frangoulis; grandson, Michael R. Potvin; great-granddaughter, Avery Goyette; his daughter, Jeanne M. Levasseur of Auburn and her husband, Andre; grandchildren, Andre Levasseur and companion, Melanie Maynard, and Amy Cercone and her husband, Richard; great-grandchildren Abigail Leavasseur, Emily Leavasseur, Matthew Levasseur, Rosemary Cercone, and Dominick Cercone; his daughter, Catherine A. Bouquet of Big Pine Key, Fla., and her husband, James; grandson, Curtis Bateman and his wife, Nancy, and Nick Bouquet and his fiancée, Allie Astarita; great-granddaughter, Penelope Bateman; his daughter, Patricia A. Dupont of Auburn and her husband, Rene; grandchildren, Emily Doucette and her husband, Emile, Alison Dupont and her fiancé, Lance Hamilton, and Sarah Stretton and husband, Kyle; great-grandchildren, Gabriel Dupont, Lucas Hamilton, Maleah Stretton, Norah Stretton and a soon-to-be 12th grandchild, thanks to Emily and Emile.

He is also survived by his first cousin, James Mullen of Auburn, Ala., and his wife, Sarah Ann. “Jimmy” grew up with Richard like a brother. Together, they worked at Potvin Shoe, fished, hunted and spent summers on Cape Cod and in Brockton, creating some of the best years of their lives!

Richard is predeceased by his father, Richard Joseph Sr.; his mother, Dorothy Francis; his sister, Theresa Marie; and his son, Michael Joseph Potvin.

You are invited to offer condolences and pay tribute to Richard’s life by visiting his guest book at www.thefortingroupauburn.com.

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