Legendary Leominster

Leominster is renowned as the birthplace of Johnny Appleseed, the “Pioneer Plastics City,” and many other claims to fame. But what makes the city of Leominster so legendary? It’s the people, through and through. We are made up of Inventors, Musicians, Artists of All Kinds, Culinary Geniuses, Politicians, Christmas Memory Makers, Dancers, Professional Athletes, Passionate Cause Ambassadors, Authors, and so on. These are the Legends that make Leominster shine.

The city has reignited the Legendary Leominster project to feature many of our Legends on display at several intersections throughout the city. The displays will be updated on a rotating basis.

Please send your Legendary suggestions along with contact information to Amanda Curtis, acurtis@leominster-ma.gov.


Louis Charpentier

Louis was born in St. Claude, Canada, December 10, 1910. He began drawing at age 3 and carving at age 7. In 1923, at the age of 12, he left Canada with his parents and came to Leominster.

At the age of 20, Louis worked as a Plastics Designer. He advanced to the model-making department. He worked for New England Novelty Co., Commonwealth Plastic Co., and Paragon Plastic. They manufactured jewelry, buttons, toys, and dolls.

During this time in his 20's, he liked telling others that he and his friends weight lifted. He was at one time able to lift 120 pounds over his head with one hand. He also got an amateur fly weight boxing license. During WWII, he worked with disabled veterans, helping in their rehab at Fort Devens.

In 1949, he moved to Merriam Avenue where he started the Christmas tradition. There he started carving figurines out of Styrofoam. He decorated his front yard annually with the Christmas decorations he had created. There are over 160 figures, some life size. He also collected signatures in a guest book located with the figures and typically gathered between 5,000 to 7,000 signatures in his guestbook each Christmas season.

Louis, was affectionately called "Mr. Christmas" for putting out his hand-carved Styrofoam displays for several decades for holiday onlookers to enjoy. In his basement, he made more than 250 Christmas figures and put them on display outside his home for 64 years. It is a tradition that Leominster continues to keep alive, as they put his creations on display for the holiday season at city hall.

The city of Leominster named him Citizen of the Year in 1982. In 1983, the Exchange Club of Fitchburg presented him with The Book of Golden Deeds. In 1984, the Leominster Public Library planted a tree in his honor at the entrance to the library. In 1988, he was invited by the Smithsonian Institute for two weeks to demonstrate his talents in wood and Styrofoam carving.

In 1994, on the occasion of Fitchburg State College's Centennial Celebration, Louis was named one of the one hundred individuals who made a difference. That same year, he was given the Young at Heart Award by U.S. Healthcare Medicare Plan.

In November 2000, a tot lot playground, located in the same Leominster neighborhood he emigrated to, was named in his honor.

After Louis retired, he spent 20 years working with school children teaching them the basics of Styrofoam carving. He also demonstrated at the former Plastics Museum once a week.

On the occasion of his 100th birthday, the city of Leominster presented him with a plaque congratulating him on his birthday.

Louis turned 104 on December 10, 2014. He passed away on June 3, 2015 and his memory continues to live on here in the city in many ways.


Paul DiGiovanni

Born and raised in Leominster, Paul is a singer and songwriter who first entered the music industry as the lead guitarist for pop-rock band Boys Like Girls. He spent more than ten years performing, touring, and recording for the multi-platinum band on Columbia Records.

Now, Paul calls Nashville home and has earned his place as one of the most sought-after songwriter/producers in town. In 2017, Paul earned his first #1 song with Dan + Shay’s “How Not To.” "It's the biggest dream of mine coming true, and I'm just waiting for it to all to sink in” says DiGiovanni in a 2017 Billboard article.

Not only has Paul honed his songwriting talent, but he has also produced country artists including Adam Hambrick, Justin Moore, Brandon Lay, Dustin Lynch, Blake Shelton, Mitchell Tenpenny, and Jordan Davis. In 2018, Paul achieved his first #1 song as a producer with Jordan Davis’ smash “Singles You Up.”

Paul has programmed and done additional production on several Warner Music Nashville albums, for artists including Michael Ray, Chris Janson, and Blake Shelton (including songs on his If I’m Honest and Texoma Shore albums).

He won the CMT Single of the Year in November of 2022 for producing “Buy Dirt” with Jordan Davis featuring Luke Bryan.


Kathleen DiRusso

Kathy DiRusso came to Leominster in 1987 after buying a condominium that offered her a shorter commute to her job, which at the time, was in Worcester. In 1989, she met and eventually married a Leominster native, Michael DiRusso, and together they had a daughter, Nina DiRusso.

When Nina was old enough to attend school, Kathy relocated her role as an Executive Search Consultant to an office in Downtown Leominster. It was easy to spot her 2nd floor office due to the large PINK ribbon displayed in the window. Since 2002, Kathy has been on a crusade to find a cure to breast cancer, by participating in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for the Cure events, walking 20 miles a day for 3 days. Kathy and the team she leads, The Cup Crusaders, have raised over $1.6 Million toward a cure, and are one of the top fundraising teams in the country.

Outside of finding a cure, Kathy’s other passion is inclusion for all. In 2004, Kathy volunteered for the Best Buddies Challenge in Hyannisport and after several years as a star volunteer, Kathy walked away from her Executive VP/‘headhunter’ role to join the nonprofit world and now works out of her home, serving as Director of Jobs Operations, supporting 20 states and over 75 staff, for Best Buddies International.

Best Buddies is the world’s largest organization dedicated to ending the social, physical and economic isolation of the 200+ Million people who experience life with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Kathy focuses on inclusion globally and locally, serving for many years now as a Board Member for the Beacon of Hope. Kathy firmly believes that everyone deserves a lifetime, and she believes that our purpose in life is to take care of each other and to make sure that everyone’s voice is heard.


Noah Gray

Noah grew up in Gardner and attended Leominster High School. He played wide receiver as a freshman before becoming the team's starting quarterback the next season. He completed 101 of 179 passes for 1,707 yards and 21 touchdowns in his junior season. As a senior, he moved back to wide receiver and was named first-team All-State after catching 30 passes for 619 yards and eight touchdowns.

Noah committed to play college football at Duke over offers from Temple and Appalachian State. He recorded five receptions for 37 yards and two touchdowns as a freshman. He played in all 13 of Duke's games and had 20 receptions for 234 yards and one touchdown in his sophomore season. As a junior, Gray had 51 receptions for 392 yards and three touchdowns and was named second-team All-ACC and a second-team All-American by The Walter Camp Football Foundation. Gray entered his senior year on the watchlist for the Mackey Award and as one of the top tight end prospects for the 2021 NFL Draft.

Gray was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs in the fifth round, 162nd overall, of the 2021 NFL Draft. He signed his four-year rookie contract on May 13, 2021.

He scored his first career NFL touchdown against the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 10, on Sunday Night Football. He appeared in all 16 games, of which he started one, as a rookie. He finished with seven receptions for 36 receiving yards and a touchdown.

In the 2022 season, Gray appeared in all 17 games, of which he started eight. He finished with 28 receptions for 299 receiving yards and one receiving touchdown.

Noah became a Super Bowl champion when the Chiefs beat the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LVII. He had one reception for six yards in the game.

In addition to his impressive feats on the football field, Noah is a volunteer with the Best Buddies organization and an advocate for diabetes awareness and education. He was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) during his freshman year of college. Despite this difficult diagnosis, Noah refused to allow it to impede his dreams and ambitions. He dedicated himself to learning how to manage his diabetes properly and to ensure his own wellbeing.

Noah founded a diabetes forum to help support other athletes living with diabetes. He is also a member of the JDRF’s Young Leadership Committee, which works to raise money for research into type 1 diabetes.


Yuliana Maldonado

Yuliana was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico. She lived in Puerto Rico until she was 8 years old when her parents decided to move back to Massachusetts. Her dad was born in Lawrence and it’s where her mother was raised. She has a younger sister, Angelica Maldonado, who is currently enlisted in the United States Space Force.

Yuliana began dancing when she was 3 years old. Her mom decided to put her in dance to help her with the continued efforts to better her feet. She was born with club feet and the first couple of years of her life consisted of casts, metal bars and orthopedic shoes.

She continued to take dance classes when she initially moved to Massachusetts until they moved to Leominster. Since she was new to the area attending Skyview Middle School, she didn’t join a studio right away. She eventually joined the Leominster Youth Cheer team in 2011, which was coached by Molly Hollingsworth at the time.

Yuliana then found Miss Tanya’s School of Dance, located in Fitchburg, through some school friends. She began dancing at MTSD in 2012 until she graduated Leominster High School in 2017. She joined the competition team after a year at the studio and was able to perform in multiple competitions and workshops. Miss Tanya Robichaud mentored her and guided her into believing in herself and her ability to pursue dance as my profession.

Once she graduated from Leominster High School in 2017, she decided to pursue her dance career in Los Angeles, California. She was scouted by Bloc Talent Agency in 2018. Through her talent agency, she has had the opportunity to go on tours across the world.

Yuliana has also worked in music videos, performed in Super Bowl halftime shows and the Savage X Fenty Show.

Her first Super Bowl experience was when she performed with Jennifer Lopez in 2020. Her second show was in 2022 with Mary J. Blige. She just performed in her third show in 2023 with Rihanna.

Yuliana has worked in music videos with Billie Eillish, Bruno Mars, Cardi B and Selena Gomez. She has also performed in live shows with Jennifer Lopez, Ozuna, Maluma, and Justin Bieber, among others.


Frank Novak

Frank was born in Leominster, Massachusetts, on May 18, 1938 and attended Leominster High School. He went on to play football at Northern Michigan University, where he earned NCAA Division II All-American honors as a quarterback in 1961. After college, Novak spent the 1962 training camp with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League.

He coached high school football in New London, Connecticut and Iron Mountain, Michigan. He then returned to NMU in 1966, where he spent 6 years as a coach including the final 2 seasons as offensive coordinator. During this time, one of his players was future Michigan head coach Lloyd Carr.

Over the next 10 seasons, he coached offensive backs or served as offensive coordinator at various colleges and universities. In 1984, Novak coached running backs for the Oklahoma Outlaws of the United States Football League. The following season, he coached wide receivers for the USFL Birmingham Stallions.

Frank returned to the NCAA ranks for the 1988 season to coach running backs at Missouri after the dissolution of the USFL.

He began coaching running backs in the NFL in 1989 with the Houston Oilers and in 1994 he was named special teams coordinator. Frank also served as special teams coordinator with the Detroit Lions for 1995-1996, San Diego Chargers 1997-1998, and the Green Bay Packers from 2000-2005.

Frank is now retired from professional coaching and enjoys his downtime spending it with family and volunteering as a motivational speaker and football coach at Leominster High School.