Bob’s bridge — Neault’s spirit present in Causeway ceremony

UNDER MY UMBRELLA — Katie, Liam and Anne Neault sit in the outdoor amphitheater during a ceremony to rename the bridge in Naples the Robert Neault Memorial Bridge. (De Busk Photo) NW dd24 Bobs Bridge Neault family in rain THE NEAULT FAMILY — Katie and Liam stay dry under an umbrella as Anne Neault listens to a speaker at the ceremony to rename the Naples bridge the Robert Neault Memorial Bridge. Neault’s son Dan was playing in the band during the ceremony that took place on Saturday. (De Busk Photo) COMMUNITY MEMBERS GATHER — Almost 100 people congregated in the outdoor amphitheater on the Causeway for the ceremony on Saturday. The Naples bridge was renamed the Robert Neault Memorial Bridge. (De Busk Photo)

UNDER MY UMBRELLA — Katie, Liam and Anne Neault sit in the outdoor amphitheater during a ceremony to rename the bridge in Naples the Robert Neault Memorial Bridge. (De Busk Photo)

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

NAPLES — Anne already thinks of her husband Bob Neault every time she crosses the bridge on the Causeway.

Now his name will be forever linked to that bridge.

The Bay of Naples Bridge was renamed in honor of Robert Neault in a ceremony held Saturday at the outdoor amphitheater. It was an amphitheater that Neault had envisioned and had championed for.

It is fitting that the new bridge is now named after Neault — the person who had stepped forward as a leader during the time period when people were still divided between a fixed bridge and a swing bridge.

As the only chairman of the Causeway Revitalization Committee (CRC) for almost four years, Neault was tenacious about getting a superb product for the people of Naples from the Maine Department of Transportation. During the construction period from September 2010 through September 2013, Neault shifted his focus and a lot of hours from his law practice to being an active part of the process of replacing the bridge and breathing new life into the surrounding public space known as the Causeway.

“He really put his heart and soul into the bridge project,” Anne said.

“Bob spent an enormous, enormous amount of time with the bridge construction,” she said. “When the bridge opened” in May 2012 “and we went to the community celebration, it felt like an accomplishment not just for him, but for us.”

“Naming the bridge after him — it is more of an emotional thing than a logical thing,” she said.

I miss him, she said.

Neault passed away on Nov. 24 at the age of 56.

This winter, the Maine House and Senate unanimously approved a resolution renaming the span the Robert Neault Memorial Bridge.

Rep. Christine Powers was instrumental in garnering the interest and support of the legislation to rename the bridge. She spoke during the ceremony. Also, Powers chose the date for the gathering to coincide with the time that Katie and Liam would be in town, one of them returning from college studies.

Katie and Liam accompanied their mom to the ceremony. Meanwhile, the youngest child Dan played in the Lake Region Band, which provided the music for the bridge renaming. The following day, the family would attend another ceremony as Dan graduated from Lake Region High School.

The speakers recalled the family man who read with his children at the local library and found a replacement for a popped balloon at a birthday party.

Powers described a happy family whose members were frequently laughing.

Emily Cassidy, who has been friends with Liam since she was two years old, shared the popped balloon story. That one example illustrated how Neault had been the person who fixed things, who solved problems.

During his time as a Naples resident, Neault helped to found the Naples/Casco Before and After (school) Care program at the Singer Center, served as vice president of Crosswalk Community Outreach. All the while, when he walked into the church, he took an active leadership role there, too.

Every one is feeling the loss of not having Neault there to fix things, Cassidy said.

“There is a void,” she said.

Derek Goodine, the former Naples town manager, expressed that loss, too.

“Bob you are what this bridge is all about. What I would give to say that to Bob again,” he said.

Goodine had served as town manager during the construction period, and worked closely with Neault.

“He started out as an acquaintance who turned into a friend, a close friend,” Goodine said.

He talked about times during the project when he saw Neault on a regular basis. In fact, it was their daily routine to go together and view the bridge construction.

“Bob would say ‘Let’s go see Derek’s bridge.’ That was how he teased me. ‘Let’s go see Derek’s bridge. One time, I said, ‘No it’s Bob’s bridge. And Bob said, ‘It is their bridge,’” Goodine said, adding that Neault wanted the post-construction result to be for the community and for everyone who sees it.“ ‘It is their bridge,’” he said.

When MDOT funded the project, Neault had a goal of making the Causeway into a space that would give pride to local residents and draw more tourists, Goodine said. As a testament to accomplishing that, the Causeway has become a place where people love to be photographed, he said.

Neault was excellent at being the diplomat, bringing together people with differing opinions.

“Bob was a concensus builder,” Goodine said.

Neault was “always building bridges in our community,” Powers said.

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