ST. ALBANS CITY — People like to say they’ve been around a time or two. If that’s the case, Norm Blouin has been around three or four times, at least.
Blouin turns 90 years old on May 27. But you’d never know it to meet him.
He rises to shake a hand, despite his age. The smile never leaves his face, just simmers down to a happy grin.
“I must have taken myself seriously,” Blouin said, with that grin. “Because I’m still here.”
That came after Blouin quoted Dean Martin, a line the King of Cool dropped upon turning 70: “If I’d known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.”
Blouin said, “If I’d known I’d be 90, I would have taken better care of myself.”
He doesn’t seem like a person filled with regret, though. Or even touched by regret.
In fact, Blouin glowed reciting what he called his life story — an effect the woodstove, to his right, admittedly helped.
He sat in an armchair in his High Street residence, legs crossed, sipping water from a bottle and wearing a “Barcelona” sweatshirt.
Blouin’s father initially ran a store on Elm Street, here in the city. When the senior Blouin expanded the business, his sons — including Norm — went to work for him.
The Blouins ran three Blouin IGA grocery stores across Franklin County, in St. Albans, Swanton and Richford, employing 100 people at the height of their business.
They ran a store near the switchyard, off Lake Street, for years. Food City eventually took that store over.
Blouin said he worked the stores “until he got sick of it.”
The way he tells the story, with equal weight to each time period and a sense of fun and interest driving the whole thing, gives the sense that Blouin’s career lasted just a matter of years.
But he didn’t retire from the business until 2007, when he was nearly 80 years old.
Blouin said he enjoyed the work. “It’s all I’ve ever done.”
He also enjoys retirement.
“You get up in the morning, you got nothing to do,” Blouin said. “That ain’t hard to take.”
Blouin doesn’t even mind being 90.
“I feel pretty good, you know,” he said.
He spends his days with Rita, his wife, who he said he “found” across the border. Rita hails from St.-Alexandre, Quebec.
They have four children, Pierre, Richard, Jo Ann and Louise. The latter is organizing a 90th birthday party for Blouin at his summer camp, down on Maquam Shore, this coming Saturday.
The Messenger asked if Blouin had any words of wisdom for those looking to live a long life.
“I was not a very wisdom-y kind of guy,” Blouin said, and chuckled.
But he still managed to cook up a few.
“Work hard every day,” Blouin said. “Take your job seriously.”
One gets the sense Blouin enjoys living more than telling others how to do so. He could only manage those two pieces of advice before, grinning again, he had to share an anecdote.
Potatoes came in 100-lb. bags when Blouin and his siblings were in grade school. Potatoes didn’t come pre-bagged, like they do now.
Blouin said he and his brother would dump those hefty bags of potatoes, through a cellar window, into a big bin, then re-bag the potatoes in 15-lb. bags.
“That was considered a peck,” Blouin said. “So my father gave us a title.
“We were potato peckers.”
And Blouin, smiling in his armchair, days before his 90th birthday, laughed.
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