November 6, 2016
Erny Becomes the Fourth Spud Speedway Driver Selected for Hall of Fame
Erny “The Flying Frenchman” Levesque, St. David, will be part of the Class of 2017 along with five other prominent racing legends to the Maine Motorsports Hall of Fame in April 2017. Inducted with Levesque will be Bill Bailey, Butch Craig, Tom Curley, Mike Maietta, and Dave Wilcox.
I visited Erny at his St. John Valley home on Friday. The eighty-eight year old welcomed me in with a huge smile. It was different being in his home without his wife of 63 years being present. Edwina died in her sleep at their home on October 8, 2016.
Erny shared, “On the morning of the seventh, I was working on my tractor in the garage. I came in and checked on her and she was laying on her bed dressed for the day. ‘You’re not feeling good are you’, he asked.
“That night I checked on her a couple of times. At 7 am the next morning, I asked, ‘How are you doing Mom'”?
When there was no reply, Erny shook her gently and she felt cold. She had passed away in her sleep which is the way she told Erny she would like to die.
It has been a challenging year indeed for the normally upbeat Levesque. His health has been failing and he truly believed that he was going to precede his wife in death.
Levesque described an incident that occurred on June 17. ” It was Sunday, a great day,” he said. “I told my wife I’m going to take my tractor up the hill for a ride. (Directly across highway on a steep hill is a camp which was his objective that day)
“I met a pickup, which happened to be the guy who owned the camp. We talked about 1/2 hour. I decided to go home rather than continue up the hill.”
” Turning around, I lost control of the machine. I stayed with it until the last second when I fell off. Just before the crash I noticed a pile of branches off the side of the road. I was really moving as I headed for it. There must have been a rock or stump in there.”
“The camp owner called 911. I don’t remember much after that.”
Levesque was airlifted out of Fort Kent to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor. He was there 5 days before being transferred to Cary Medical Center in Caribou. He then went to the Fort Kent Hospital and back to Caribou. From there he was admitted to Borderview Nursing Home and Rehab in Van Buren for a month.
Levesque had suffered a head injury and injury to his right arm. He wanted to go home but as he said, “I wanted to come home but because I love her (wife Edwinna) and my son Chester so much I stayed there.”
“When I left Borderview I had a big bouquet of flowers delivered to the nursing home,” said a grateful Levesque.”They were so good to me.”
His wife visited him frequently at the nursing home, a forty-five minute drive from their St. David home. She took on the task of caring for her recovering husband when he came home with resolve right up to the day before her untimely death.
The house can be a lonely place when you are alone with just memories and thoughts of the past. It was very timely when Joe Chamberlain of Woodland, a member of the Hall of Fame Selection committee, visited Levesque at his home to tell him the good news before the official press release.
News of his selection to the Hall of Fame has buoyed his spirits and given him new incentive to live and be part of the April 2017 ceremony..
When asked who he would like to jump into a race car and race at Spud Speedway today he immediately replied, “Chink Maynard. He was a good driver, a good guy, and good friend. I could race side-by-side all day with him.”
Spud Speedway Competitors Remarks About Erny Levesque
Fellow Hall of Fame member and racer at Spud Speedway, Mark Jones had this to say about “The Flying Frenchman”.
“I am thrilled that Erny has been inducted into the Maine Motor Sports Hall of Fame. Some of my earliest memories at Spud Speedway were watching Erny Levesque “The Flying Frenchman” duel it out with his competitors driving “The Jade East Special”’.
“Those were the days when racing wasn’t high-tech; most cars were pretty much stripped out street cars with a few pipes for a roll cage, big iron bumpers, and occasionally a 2×12 plank running down the side. The seats and seat-belts were whatever could be scrounged and adapted.”
“In those early years it common to have 25 or more cars show up and it was an unusual race day if one or two cars didn’t rollover. Ernie took all of these challenges in stride and achieved great success.”
‘“The Flying Frenchman” is a true icon of early racing at Spud Speedway. For many, if not all of the years, he raced the same car that wore the battle scars of many previous races.”
“He was a good sport, a true gentleman and always had a huge fan base. I always enjoyed racing against him. My congratulations to Ernie Levesque, a pioneer of racing in Aroostook County.”
According to Joe Chamberlain it was said, “‘The Flying Frenchman’ had so many fans in the St. John Valley that Madawaska school buses were used to bring some of those fans to Spud Speedway. Can you imagine doing that today?”
Bobby Alexander, also a Hall of Fame member who raced against Levesque in the early 1970s, had this to say about his experience.
John Albert, Limestone, who raced against Levesque in the 60’s and 70’s and promoted races at Spud Speedway in the 1990’s and 2015 remarked that, “He was probably one of the best I ever raced . You always look forward to seeing him show on race day.”
“Erny “the Flying Frenchmen” Levesque was a known racer to watch and as a racer he had many passionate fans that cheered for him. We are lucky to have a group like the Maine Motorsports Hall of Fame to honor those racers that left their mark at local tracks. Congratulations to Erny on your nomination to the Hall of Fame and we hope he enjoys getting one more well deserved award from his racing career.”
Austin’s Thoughts About Last Two Races
Austin’s comments about Martinsville, “Thanks to everyone at Tyler Young Motorsports for the effort. It being my first time at Martinsville, I learned a lot to apply next time.”
“It was tough working our way to the front from where we started. We had to play a little too much defense against the leaders. Once we got track position, I feel like we could have raced for a top 10. Unfortunately we got stuck on the outside the last run. All in all, the team will stay positive moving into the final stretch of the year.”
Comments from Austin about the Texas race, “Glad to be with a dedicated team again this weekend. Fought getting the car over the bumps all weekend and it was too loose as we tried to compensate”
Theriault finished 25th in the Xfinity race won by Johnny Sauter. Theriault will be in the Rick Ware car for next weekend’s Xfinity race at Phoenix.
Let’s go racing.
Soli Deo Gloria