1921 – 2015

LEWISTON — Denis A. Blais, 94, longtime labor leader of the textile industry in Maine, passed away peacefully shortly after midnight on Wednesday, Nov. 18. It was his 94th birthday.

Denis was born the youngest of 12 children on Nov. 18, 1921, in a small town outside of Quebec, Canada. When he was 3, his father was ill and was advised to move to a milder climate, so the family relocated to Rhode Island. His father passed on a couple years later and at 14, Denis quit school to work in the textile mill in order to support his infirm sister and non-English-speaking mother.

From that point on, Denis led a life of compassion and generosity, always happiest when supporting or advocating for others. He served in 110th General Hospital Unit as a surgical technician in the U.S. Army during World War II before enjoying a successful career with the Textile Workers of America. During his long career, he was state manager and director of the textile union, as well as secretary for the CIO, and later secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO. He would later go on to become the New England director and a regional vice president of the union.

Denis was also active in the Democratic party in Maine, serving as an adviser to several well-known state politicians, including Frank Coffin and Ed Muskie, as well as being elected to the executive counsel to Gov. John Reed in 1965. Denis served as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1952, ’56 and ’68. In 1968, he was also appointed the political action director for the textile union and managed all union-related campaign activities for Muskie east of the Mississippi. In addition, his political service also included being appointed to a governor’s commission for postwar development while in Rhode Island, a committee on education beyond high school for Gov. Muskie, the Employment Security Commission, Advisory Counsel and National Planning Association.

Denis was an avid golfer and built and repaired golf clubs after retiring from the union. He put a pool in at his house and delighted in the time that family and friends spent swimming there in the summer. From his work life to his personal life, Denis impacted many people with his kind and compassionate ways.

In his later years, Denis was fortunate and proud to be a great-grandfather of four, Julie and Sarah Mathieu and Avery and Oliver Hamlin. He is also survived by a daughter, Denise Mathieu of Lewiston; and two grandchildren, Ben Mathieu and his wife, Michelle, of Hooksett, N.H., and Amy Hamlin and her husband, Patrick, of Wales, as well as the four great-grandchildren.

His wife, Lorraine, passed away in 2001.

Online condolences and sharing of memories may be expressed at www.lynchbrothers.com.

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