Alfred J. Lebel, Former President of Bates Manufacturing
Alfred J. Lebel was born in Lewiston, Maine on March 5, 1929. He attended Lewiston schools and graduated from Lewiston High School. During his high school years, he worked at the Continental Mill in Lewiston where he began his long involvement making the finest bedspreads in the world.
He attended Bates College for a year and a half before enlisting in the Army a few years after World War II. He returned to his native Lewiston after completing his military commitment and married Theresa Larochelle on October 20th, 1951. They became the parents of three girls: Lee, Linda and Lisa.
Upon returning from the military, Alfred once again went to work at the Continental Mill for his father. On his own, he chose to attend the Cotton Grading School in North Carolina and soon qualified to be a government cotton classifier. He returned to Maine and again worked at the Continental Mill for nine years until it ceased operations in 1961.
After the Continental Mill closed, Alfred went to work at Bates Manufacturing in the Industrial Engineering Department. It was not long, only three years, before he was named Plant Manager in 1964, a position he held for 20 years. In 1984, he went to work for Guilford Manufacturing in Central Maine and then returned to Bates one year later to work as Vice President. Subsequently, a pair of Chinese businessmen purchased the mill. These owners left within a couple of years taking with them some of the better equipment. Alfred joined Jack Cahill to try and keep the mill operating using a substantial amount of his own capital in an attempt to do so.
In 1999, the City of Lewiston took over the mills buildings for taxes owed and because of a contract requiring the City to produce the necessary steam to heat the facility. Subsequently, local businessmen Kevin Dean and Emile Clavett purchased the mill and later sold the assets to a company by the name of Faribault. During that period, Alfred continued to operate the Bates Mill Store, which he owned.
In 2002, Alfred and his daughter, Linda, purchased two looms from Biddeford Textiles and started Maine Heritage Weavers to continuing on the Bates weaving tradition. Within 10 years, they grew out of their space in Lewiston and are now located in their permanent home in nearby Monmouth.