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

Display located at the corner of Orchard Hill Park Drive & Harvard Street

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.

Mark Daigneault

Mark Daigneault

Display located at the corner of Viscoloid Avenue & Lancaster Street

Mark was born on August 12, 1985, in Leominster, Massachusetts and attended Leominster High School. After high school, Daigneault went to the University of Connecticut where he served as a student manager for UConn’s Men’s Basketball team (2003-2007). Coach Daigneault graduated with a degree in Education and is noted in crediting his studies with being able to connect with players. Coach Daigneault’s wife, Ashley, is a gymnastics coach at the University of Oklahoma.

Mark is the Head Coach for the Oklahoma City Thunder since 2019. On November 11, 2020, Daigneault became the 4th Head Coach in Thunder history.

The 2020-2021 NBA Season was Coach Daigneault’s first year as an NBA Head Coach – he was an Assistant with the Thunder in the 2019-2020 season. Prior to the Thunder, Coach Daigneault was the Head Coach of the Oklahoma City Blue, the Thunder’s G-League affiliate, for five seasons. During Coach Daigneault’s time with the Blue, he had a regular season record of 143-107, while leading the Blue to three consecutive Division Championships. Coach Daigneault was also named NBA G League Coach of the Month three times in his tenure with the Blue. During the 2015-2016 season, Coach Daigneault joined the Thunder’s coaching staff, helping the team reach the Western Conference Finals.

Daigneault has been described as "open-minded, innovative, and unconventional" during his brief stint with the Thunder. During the Thunder's rebuild, Daigneault led the Thunder to multiple seasons ranking top-10 in defense. In the 2022-23 season, the Thunder were one of the best third quarter teams coming out of halftime due to Daigneault's in-game adjustments.

Lisa DelleChiaie

Lisa DelleChiaie

Display located at the corner of Willard Street & New Lancaster Road

Lisa DelleChiaie is an award-winning hairstylist. She was born and raised in Leominster, graduating from Leominster High School in 2004. She always knew she would become a hairdresser, styling her friends hair in the basement of her parents’ home. She then attended cosmetology school and after obtaining her cosmetology license, moved to New York City. She began working in the film and television industry. Lisa has styled hair for celebrities all over the country, as well as internationally.

With her career spanning over seventeen years, she has earned an Emmy Award for outstanding achievement in hairstyling for HBO’s Boardwalk Empire. She has also garnered three Emmy Award nominations to date.

Phil Desmarais

Phil Desmarais

Display located at the corner of New Lancaster Road & Reliant Medical

Phil was born in Leominster on January 3, 1939 and was educated in the city school system. He has always been proud to proclaim that he is a lifelong resident of Leominster. Since a young age, Phil demonstrated a strong desire to not only achieve the goals set before him but to master them.

As a teenager, Phil’s curiosity of how things worked evolved into a keen interest in anything mechanical and he continuously applied the hard work ethics instilled in him by his parents, Bertha and Phil Desmarais who owned and operated the Turn Out in North Leominster for many years. Phil was able to fix just about anything and it was not uncommon to see him after school and on weekends under someone’s car fixing brakes or troubleshooting some other problem. It was during this time that he discovered motorcycles (specifically Harley Davidsons). At this young age, Phil dreamed of one day becoming a Harley Davidson dealer. “Wow - Wouldn’t that be something.” he thought.

His curiosity and interest in mechanical things grew and Phil landed a job as a mechanic at Clark Forklift where he quickly became a superstar in the greater Worcester and expanded NE regions as the guy to call to troubleshoot complex problems. He serviced and supported many of the plastic factories and other industries in Leominster and the surrounding regions at that time. He progressed to Regional Sales and Service Manager and designed complex and efficient warehousing and forklift solutions for many area companies.

While working for Clark, Phil’s part time interest in motorcycles and his need for speed encouraged him and a crew of his closest buddies to create what became known as “The Beast” in 1965. Phil re-engineered his Harley 74 to boast a new Shelby Ford 289 V8 Engine. He was 1 of 3 individuals within the USA at that time to ride this type of drag racing motorcycle.

He successfully raced The Beast harnessing its 565 HP Nitroglycerine and Methanal fed engine and running 0-160 MPH in 9 seconds, always striving for that 8 second achievement in the Quarter mile. He ran on the weekends at dragstrips as far west as Ohio and into southern Canada. His biggest rival was E.J. Potter, “The Michigan Madman” who rode a comparable Chevy V8. Phil and “The Beast” were featured in many racing publications including the cover of Cycle Sport in 1967 and the 1973 New England Dragway’s Rules Book.

In 1976, Phil’s childhood dream became reality when he put everything he owned on the line and opened American Harley Davidson, Inc. on Central Street (Route 12) in Leominster. Starting with just 2 fulltime employees and many supportive friends, Phil’s Harley shop was immediately a great success. Year after year, he sold and serviced more and more Harleys while expanding his business several times selling over 600 new and used motorcycles during peak years. He has provided management, sales, parts, clothing, service and custom engine and motorcycle design jobs to the Leominster area for over 47 years with a crew as large as 25 fulltime employees at any given time. Phil’s American Harley Davidson has sold Harleys to 3 generations within some families and he strongly believes in fitting the right bike to each individual. Anyone that knows Phil, knows he is a generous, caring and supportive person and he has donated numerous items to local organizations, motorcycle and non-motorcycling events and charities. Phil has just always believed that you get what you give. American Harley Davidson has brought customers into the area that have enjoyed Leominster’s events, restaurants, stores, gas stations and entertainment venues. Phil DeMar and American Harley Davidson are known across the country and beyond including customers as far away as Australia and Iceland. Attend any local or national motorcycle event or rally and you will see enthusiasts donning American Harley Davidson T-shirts.

Phil is truly a Leominster Legend and a proud American – which is why he chose to name his business American Harley Davidson.


Paul DiGiovanni

Display located at the corner of Merriam Avenue & Lindell Avenue

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

Display located at the corner of New Lancaster Road & Jungle Road

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

Located at the corner of Merriam Avenue & Main Street

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.

David Letters

David Letters

Display located at the corner of Water and Whitney Streets

The 1973 OPEC oil embargo strained the American economy and gave rise to an upward spiral in gas prices, rationing and a 55-mile-per-hour speed limit. Americans reexamined their energy consumption and transportation habits.

David Letters, a Leominster native and University of Massachusetts graduate, thought it might be a good idea if the privileged and empowered in our nation’s capital walk the Washington Mall as a way to get in touch with transportation and the country’s needs.

Letters had long been drawn to walking and dreamed about walking across the country. It was a natural extension of Letters’ fascination with Leominster native Johnny Appleseed’s 19th-century sojourns into the Midwest.

In 1974, Letters was 27 years old and he knew if he was to ever realize his boyhood dream to see America up close, the time was at hand. If the idea of walking across America seems frivolous, Letters can assure you it is not. The oil crisis caused Letters to modify his plan. Roller skates were an inexpensive, environmentally friendly and efficient way to travel. David’s objective became roller skating across America.

He planned and trained. Routes that permitted his mode of travel and afforded relative safe passage had to be found and mapped. Supplies were gathered and means of re-supply established. Letters recruited his longtime friend Tony McNamara to travel ahead of him in a van carrying food, camping and skating equipment. But most of all, he trained for the arduous task ahead, walking 40 miles a day and skating until he could average 9 miles an hour, twice his best walking pace.

On May 27, 1974, Letters set off on the long journey from Gloucester, Massachusetts to the cheers of well wishers. There were trials and tribulations. Traffic was an ever-present danger, and the greatest challenge of all came on the Great Salt Flats. Friendly truckers kept track of his progress on CB radios and communicated road conditions, weather and local information. Despite the amity, it was a convoy of trucks on the Salt Flats that put the whole exercise in jeopardy. Five trucks barreling along an open stretch created a vacuum of air that lifted Letters off the ground for a few long seconds. He landed hard, injuring his back badly. The doctors in Salt Lake City didn’t think David would ever skate again, much less complete his journey. Undaunted, Letters meditated, bathed in the mineral springs and began to slowly walk and exercise.

Before long, Letters was back on his trek. He arrived at the California state border on Sept. 26, 1974 — the 200th anniversary of the birth of Johnny Appleseed — and skated across the Golden Gate Bridge 16 days later to an admiring crowd. It was 88 days since he departed the shores of the Atlantic. The journey was far more than a physical feat. Letters discovered America and its people up close. The trip affirmed all he expected in the natural grandeur of the land and the warm acceptance of the people along his route. He saw America in a way few of us will ever experience — it was a dream fulfilled.


Yuliana Maldonado

Display located at the corner of Main Street & Nashua Street

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

Display located at the corner of Main Street & Prospect Street

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.