“It’s a very rewarding career, journalism.” says Emery ‘Legs’ Labbe as he reflects on the over three decades he spent working for the St John Valley Times. The longtime sportswriter and later publisher of the newspaper is known by almost everyone in the area, some even call him a living legend.
“They know me because I wrote so many stories and took so many pictures..that everyone in the Valley knows me..from Van Buren to Fort Kent,” says Labbe.
Labbe began working the newspaper just a few years after it was started back in 1957, as a part time sportswriter…a job that quickly turned into his passion. For more than 20 years, he went to every game he could of the four valley high schools – Van Buren, Madawaska, Fort Kent, and Wisdom – and also covered sports at the University of Maine at Fort Kent. He cheered the teams on, and looked forward to putting players names in the paper, for the rest of the community to read about. He says the ultimate was when a Valley team would win a state championship.
Labbe says, “The things that I enjoyed the most was meeting the coaches and the players and you get to meet a lot of fans also..sports has been a wonderful adventure in my life.”
And if you set foot inside Labbe’s house, you can see that sports are where his passion is. One room in his home is completely dedicated to the Red Sox – with almost every piece of memorabilia that you could imagine. But his career with the Valley Times wasn’t just in sports. In 1986 he became the newspaper’s publisher – and did that for ten years. Having been with the paper for so long already, he says he fit right in to the position.
“I had a great working staff and they had the experience of putting out and laying out a weekly paper,” he says. “And it was a lot of fun to work with them.”
Labbe retired from the paper and his career in education in 1996. Now, more than 15 years later, he’s being recognized for his hard work and dedication as a journalist in the St. John Valley. He’ll be inducted into the Maine Press Association Hall of Fame this weekend.
Labbe says, “I was surprised but it was a pleasant surprise..and I’m pretty proud of being able to get the award this coming Saturday in Bar Harbor.”
After speaking with us, Legs Labbe raked leaves in his yard that’s right next to the UMFK soccer field. He says he does miss writing for the Valley Times. But he still goes to every sporting event he can, and keeps track of what’s going on with the paper. And all the work he did and the stories he wrote will be remembered by coaches, athletes, and community members forever.