LEWISTON — An 83-year-old store proprietor was back at work Friday night, nearly a week after her arm was broken during a scuffle with a shoplifter.

At Speaker’s Variety on Spruce Street, Patricia Speaker was behind the counter, working alone in the store she’s run for nearly four decades.

“I’m sorry I can’t make any hot food tonight,” she said glumly, holding up her right arm to explain why she was unable to use the ovens.

Speaker’s arm was broken last Saturday night while she was trying to break up a fight between her grandson and a pair of shoplifters. She was taken to a hospital by ambulance and may require surgery to repair the damage to her arm.

Speaker said she and her grandson, Matthew, had spotted a pair of boys stealing from the store early Saturday night. When her grandson confronted the boys, he was attacked by one of them.

“The kid shoved Matthew onto the ground, choked him and was ready to hit him right in the face,” Speaker said.

She rushed across the room hoping to prevent her grandson from being more seriously hurt, she said. When she tried to grab the attacker, he flung her back and knocked her to the floor.

Speaker felt the pain in her arm at once. The shoplifters fled, she said.

Police are investigating the attack. Speaker turned over footage from store security cameras to aid in the investigation. No arrests have been made.

Speaker has been running the store next to Kennedy Park and across the street from the police station since 1982.

“It’s been 36 years this month,” she said Friday.

Since news of the attack began to spread, longtime Speaker’s customers have been rallying around the proprietor, whom they describe as generous.

“A hardworking lady with a giving and caring heart,” said Lin Bourque, who said she got to know Patricia while living on Knox Street around the corner from the store. “So many times, she helped me when I didn’t have enough cash for what my family needed. I always made sure I went back to pay what I owed. The best thing about that was that she trusted me. I went to see her a few years back and she remembered me, and even though she looked tired and aged, she gave me the same warm smile she always did.”

Speaker said she is scheduled for more X-rays next week before it’s determined whether her arm will require surgery.

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