Friday, April 01 2011 9:14am

My Maine Home

Written by  Melanie Brooks
Jack Cosgrove, Cynthia Voigt & Andy Santerre Jack Cosgrove, Cynthia Voigt & Andy Santerre Shane Leonard
What do a football coach, author, and NASCAR champ have in common? They all love Maine enough to 
make themselves at home.

Coach Jack Cosgrove


I only need three things when it comes to a house,” says University of Maine football head coach Jack Cosgrove. “A bed, a refrigerator, and cable.” He waves his arms around the living room of his Bangor home and proudly announces that his wife did all of the decorating. “You should have seen this place before we bought it. I thought it was a total dump.”

The Cosgroves have lived on Mount Hope Avenue since 2006. The couple has four children—their oldest is a freshman at UMaine, the twins are sophomores at Bangor High School, and their youngest is 13.

“We’re the hangout house—and that’s just the way we like it,” Cosgrove says. And with an inground pool outside and a large flat screen television in the remodeled basement, it’s easy to see why.

But besides being a cool hangout for local teenagers, Jack and Marilyn Cosgrove use their home when recruiting young players for UMaine’s football team. They frequently invite prospective student athletes and their families over to dinner to get to know them better and, hopefully, turn them into a Black Bear.

Cosgrove himself was a UMaine football player. His large Irish Catholic family is from Sharon, Massachusetts, and Cosgrove is a first-generation college graduate. When trying to decide where to attend college, Cosgrove visited the requisite Massachusetts schools—Northeastern, UMass, Boston University—but it was UMaine that ultimately won out. “It felt more welcoming than the other schools,” Cosgrove says. “I remember going to a basketball game in the Pit. I thought it was the best experience of all the college campuses I had been to.”

At the time, Cosgrove had no idea how much the decision to attend UMaine as a student athlete would affect his family. Three of his siblings would follow him north. Two brothers, who played football, and a sister, who ran track, all graduated from UMaine. “But I’m the only one who stayed after graduation,” he says.

Cosgrove describes his college self as a “knucklehead,” but he was smart enough to focus on his strengths and major in physical education and minor in history. “I was a high school history teacher for a few years before I became a college coach,” he says.

He began coaching at Boston College in 1985, but returned to UMaine two years later as the quarterbacks and receivers coach. In 1994, he took over as head coach and has led the team ever since.

A lot has changed in the past 24 years. In 1987, Cosgrove says, the football team had 41 Maine kids and 6 minority students on the roster. Today the team has 15 Maine kids and 43 minorities. “It’s harder for Maine students to play at UMaine these days,” Cosgrove says. “But the football team brings great diversity to the college.” The conference UMaine is a part of has changed, too. What was once the Yankee Conference is now the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA). The geographic change has broadened UMaine’s reach and allowed it to recruit more students from the mid-Atlantic region of the country.

Cosgrove says his biggest challenge is getting out-of-state students interested in playing football in a rural area. “We’re not right down the street, so we take more risks in recruiting,” Cosgrove says. “We tell prospective students the truth. We tell them it’s going to be cold and dark in November.”

But the truth hasn’t hurt too badly. UMaine has sent the most players to the NFL from their conference and recently, eight UMaine players were named to the CAA All-Academic Team.

With 90 players between the ages of 18 and 22 under his command, there’s no wonder the 55-year-old Cosgrove has salt-and-pepper hair. But it’s his love of the game that keeps him around. “The best part of what I do is the season itself. I love the energy,” he says. “The football part of the business is never a problem.”


Author Cynthia Voigt
Deer Isle


If you or your kids grew up in the 1980s, you probably read one of Cynthia Voigt’s books in school. Izzy, Willy-Nilly, Tree by Leaf, Homecoming, or Dicey’s Song—which won the Newbery Medal in 1983.

Born and raised in Massachusetts, Voigt lived in New Mexico, New York City, and Maryland before settling down in Deer Isle, Maine, in 1989. A friend had told her that Maine had Voigt’s name all over it, and the writer visited the island community a few times before finally calling it home.

Her 1890s farmhouse used to be a parsonage and it fits Voigt’s laid-back attitude. It’s weathered and homey, with children’s toys strewn about in every room. Her four grandchildren live close by, and she has frequent playdates. Today she meets us at the door with Topher, who is spending the afternoon with his grandmother. Shy and reserved, Topher curls up on her lap at the kitchen table and promptly falls asleep. Voigt glows.

“I like the feel of this room,” says the 68-year-old author, who shares the home with her husband, Walter. “We are a family that likes to eat—except for my grandson Fred, who only likes buttered pasta and fruit. It’s the heart of my house. It’s where you sit down and talk. I like to make bread and it always smells like bread in here.”

Voigt graduated from Smith College in Boston with the knowledge that she wanted to write and did not want to teach. After working in advertising in New York City, she moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 1964 and began teaching—a career that she would have for 25 years before giving it up to write on a full-time basis.

She started writing books for children while she worked at a private school in Annapolis, Maryland. “I was teaching these children, so I figured I should know their literature,” she says. Her first book, Homecoming, published when Voigt was 39 years old, came about from seeing a bunch of kids playing around in a car outside a shopping center. “I wondered, what would happen if their mother never came out of the store?”

Voigt prefers to write in the mornings. “I’m always working on something, and I never talk about it,” she says. She prefers to type away on an electric typewriter, saving computer work for when she’s in the revision stage of a manuscript. “I dread the day when I won’t be able to buy stuff for the typewriter anymore,” she laments. Even now she has to order all of her components online.

Voigt and her husband are avid tennis players, and spend a good amount of time on the court. The couple tries to take a trip to the Tuscany region of Italy once a year. A constant and voracious reader, Voigt is currently reading a collection of fables—in Italian—with a good dictionary by her side.

And while she prefers to be old-fashioned in her approach to putting her words on paper, she’s not when it comes to reading—which she does on a Kindle. “Have you ever traveled with a dozen books?” she asks.

It’s about this time that Topher’s father drives up, waking the sleeping child who has begun to snore—sounding more like a purring kitten than a little boy. “You don’t get to be important to someone if you don’t put in the time,” Voigt says about her grandchildren. “It’s not always easy, and sometimes it’s an inconvenience, but it’s often amusing and they really are fun little characters.” Characters, indeed.


Nascar Champ
Andy Santerre
Saint Agatha


Andy Santerre may hail from Cherryfield, but when he heads for Maine these days from his home in North Carolina, he’s heading to Saint Agatha.

The former NASCAR Busch Series champion came to Saint Agatha for the first time in early 1996 for an appearance at a snowmobile ride and benefit dance in Frenchville. “I couldn’t believe how beautiful it was, and the people were so nice,” Santerre says. “In 2005, I won my fourth championship and decided to buy a piece of land from the owner of the Lakeview Restaurant.”

His modular home sits up on a hill overlooking Long Lake. Santerre tends to get up there about three times each winter and again in August. His wife, Sue, who is from Ohio, thought he was crazy at first for wanting to buy property in Aroostook County. “It’s a long way to go three or so times a year,” Santerre says, who flies into and out of Presque Isle. “But my daughters love it. We spend a week here at Christmas with the family.”

On this weekend visit, Santerre is accompanied by his parents, who still live in Cherryfield, and his friend Tex from North Carolina. It’s the weekend of the Andy Santerre Snow-Run in Caribou, and while the temperature hovers around 11°, it’s gloriously sunny.

This year marks the seventh year for the Andy Santerre Snow-Run and 110 sleds showed up for the 100-mile ride that benefits Aroostook Mental Health Services Sexual Assault Services. “The youngest rider yesterday was 11, and the oldest was in their 70s,” Santerre says. “It’s for a good cause and any chance I get to come to Maine and snowmobile is a good excuse to visit.”

Santerre cut his racing chops at Speedway 95 in Bangor in 1989. “My racing career was born out of an illness,” Santerre says. At the age of 19, he was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, which had him hospitalized at Eastern Maine Medical Center for 87 days. It’s a disorder that affects the peripheral nervous system causing ascending paralysis starting at the hands and feet and working inward toward the body.

Speedway 95 had a race car show at the Bangor Mall that year and Santerre was escorted there in a wheelchair. He weighed around 100 pounds. “I had planned on racing that summer,” Santerre says. “I fully recovered in September and bought a car. I raced at Speedway 95 until 1991.” Santerre says his first big break came in 1993 when he became the full-time driver for Augusta’s O’Connor GMC Buick racing team.

“I always had the natural ability to ride anything that had wheels on it,” Santerre says. “I can even ride a unicycle. I’ve never been afraid to jump on anything and ride it.”

He began Andy Santerre Motorsports (ASM) in 1995 and began racing in NASCAR’s Busch North Series. He won his first major race at Pikes Peak in Colorado in 1999. “For us to win a race with the competition that year was pretty much a miracle,” he says. He was recovering from reconstructive surgery on a broken leg at the time, and a lot of people told him he wouldn’t ever be competitive again.

He would become a four-time champion of the Busch North Series from 2002 to 2005. Then he called it quits and became a driving coach and ran a driver development program until 2009. That same year, he sold ASM, including all his cars and equipment, to Revolution Racing. He now works for them as the competition director for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East.

“I could care less about racing now. I see so many guys who try to hang in there and stay too long, and their career starts going downhill,” says the 42-year-old Santerre. “I wanted to quit while I was on top. I preferred to drive back then, and now I prefer to work on the cars.”

The sunlight reflects off the blond tongue-and-groove real-wood paneling, and Santerre sits curled up on the couch. Other than the lamps that are decorated with moose, there are no frills, giving this home an “upta camp” feel. “Isn’t this a great view?” Santerre asks. Pretty soon this same view over Long Lake will turn from snow white to green as spring creeps into the Saint John Valley. As Santerre and his party get ready to depart for southern destinations, it’s this view that holds his attention—and keeps him coming back for more.

Melanie Brooks

Melanie Brooks

Melanie Brooks is the editor of Bangor Metro magazine. Prior to joining the staff in September 2009, Melanie worked at MaineToday Media in Portland, The Star-Ledger in Newark, New Jersey, and in New York City. She has also taught undergraduate journalism classes at the University of Maine and the New England School of Communications. Melanie serves on the steering committee for Fusion Bangor and on the board of the Maine Women's Fund.

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