GRAY – Robert “Pat” Carroll taught his children by example to be good citizens.

“What appeared to be a rough and gruff person on the outside was a good mask for a very gentle individual, for a person who had a heart bigger than the world,” said his son Donnell Carroll. “He instilled in all of us the whole concept of family and giving back to the community.”

Mr. Carroll dedicated his time to the community even while he was working the equivalent of two full-time jobs, his son said. In the 1960s, he played a key role in developing the Gray Youth Club, an idea he had after seeing 100 children turn out for baseball tryouts and only 30 picked to play.

“Looking back, we sometimes wondered where he found time to do that stuff,” said his daughter, Jean Burnell. “It was just what he did this is what you were expected to do.”

Mr. Carroll died Wednesday at the age of 84.

After serving during World War II, Mr. Carroll returned to Maine with an honorable discharge in 1946. He later met the woman who would be his wife of 62 years, Charlene Carroll.

Together, they raised a daughter and four sons – two sets of twins.

His son Donnell said it was chaotic in their home at times, but Mr. Carroll believed that if children were given something to do, they would give back in return.

Through the Gray Youth Club, he set up baseball and softball leagues, a skating rink during the winter and Wednesday night dances during the summer. The club allowed all of the children who tried out to be placed on teams and given a chance to play.

“He seemed to have a way with kids,” Burnell said. “He was there and kids came first.”

Coaching baseball while his sons played, Mr. Carroll named the team the Twins, with uniforms of green and gold for their Irish heritage. His son remembers using his father’s baseball glove when he started playing.

“I remember catching my first line drive in that glove,” he said, and the pain when the ball hit the mitt.

During the winter, the outfield of the baseball diamond was flooded for a skating rink.

Donnell Carroll remembers his father asking the “big bully in town” to ensure that bullying didn’t occur on the ice rink. His father’s initiative helped that “bully” become a community- oriented man.

As his children grew up and built their own families, Mr. Carroll kept his way with children. Burnell said he had nicknames for all of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

After learning of his death, his great-granddaughter asked her mother, “Who’s going to call me Spike now?”

“He was one of those that had a nickname for everyone,” Burnell said, adding that Spike came from how his great-granddaughter’s hair would stick up when she was a baby.

Mr. Carroll took great pride in his Irish heritage and often wore something green. His son said that every St. Patrick’s Day, his father would wear a green plastic derby and tie.

The family would gather for a large dinner with Irish breads and other holiday traditions.

“This year will be different, but there will be singing and dancing in the memory of my dad,” his son said.

 

Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

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