March 18, 2010

Waterville's Robert Maheu never lost touch with home

BY SCOTT MONROE Staff Writer

It was April 1984 and Norman Boulet, 47, of Winslow, was on vacation with his wife in Las Vegas. While there, he had a heart attack.

One of Boulet's family members contacted Robert Maheu, originally from Waterville, and told him about Boulet's situation. Boulet and Maheu had known each other through family connections, but they were not close friends. That would soon change.

Maheu found a top-notch doctor within a few hours to perform open-heart surgery on Boulet. Maheu and his wife visited Boulet in the hospital several times after that, and Maheu later drove Boulet from his hotel to the airport.

"He knew high-powered people and when he talks, something moves," Boulet said in an interview this week. "That's how come I got close to Bob. I got to know him pretty good, and then every time he came to Maine we had lunch together. I was very grateful to him. He was very a nice gentleman, as far as I'm concerned."

He was a lot more than that. Maheu was well known as the chief aide to billionaire businessman Howard Hughes, engineering his business empire and changing the face of Las Vegas. Maheu had also been an FBI agent and a spy for the CIA, involved in international dealings and plots.

Maheu, who died Aug. 4 at age 90, was born and raised in Waterville. And although he went on to world renown, Maheu never lost his love of central Maine, and he frequently returned to Waterville to be with friends and family, according to those who knew him.

"His love was Maine and that was Waterville," Robert Maheu's son, Peter Maheu, said in an interview this week. "It was always his home, despite all his travels and all his adventures. That was his cement. That was his rock."

Peter Maheu is a managing member of Global Intelligence Network of Nevada, a company that assists in the business decisions of gaming manufacturers and suppliers, hotels and casinos, Indian nations and others.

Asked to describe his father, Peter Maheu recalled what one of his brothers said in a eulogy at the funeral: "'He was a gentleman and a gentle man,' which I thought was fairly accurate description."

Humble roots

Robert Maheu, the son of French-Canadians, had an upbringing that was a far cry from the wealth and power he would later achieve.

Maheu grew up on Summer Street and attended Notre Dame Parochial School. He helped out in his father's grocery store on Water Street and his grandfather's bottling company beside the grocery store, delivering soft drinks.

Wilfred Chamberlain of Beaumont, Texas, said he grew up with Bob Maheu in Waterville in the 1930s.

"I remember Bob Maheu being, not a snob, but he was on a higher education level," Chamberlain said. "Bob was very friendly, but still he was a very different person. He was very, very smart. I remember that he was on a debating team (in high school) and he won honors for the state of Maine."

Chamberlain said he knew that Maheu would become a prominent lawyer someday because he "always talked about it."

"He was, I wouldn't say a loner, but he was a little bit aloof. He was a thinker and would concentrate on different things," Chamberlain said.

Maheu was a member of the Knights of Columbus and his family attended St. Francis Catholic Church, Chamberlain said. Once, Maheu attended a field days event and demonstrated his skill with a pistol, Chamberlain said. "He was amazing, the trick shots he could do with a mirror and all kind of things," Chamberlain said.

Maheu even learned to fly a plane at the Waterville Airport prior to college, Peter Maheu said.

(Continued on page 2)

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