GORHAM — Ernest Todd Jr. had a long career in the insurance industry, but if someone asked him what he did for a living, he usually called himself a builder.

Mr. Todd spent more than 20 years at Allstate insurance, retiring as a manager who helped set up independent agencies in Maine. He also built several homes in the Gorham area.

After he retired from Allstate in 1983, he went on to build 22 more houses in Gray and Raymond. He was involved in all stages of construction, from designing and building to landscaping. Most of the time, he had only one person helping him. He built his last home when he was in his 80s.

“His work ethic was incredible,” said Kathy Rickards of Brunswick, the younger of his two children. “He was very strong. When he put his mind to it, he could do anything.”

Mr. Todd died Monday. He was 86.

He was remembered by his family Tuesday as a hard-working family man who generously gave his time and talents to help others.

Mr. Todd worked out of offices in Connecticut and Maine when he was with Allstate.

Soon after he retired, he underwent quintuple bypass surgery. As soon as he was discharged from the hospital, he began building his daughter’s home in Brunswick.

Rickards said her father’s favorite project was building the family camp on Sebago Lake. She said her father took pride in his work on the camp and had a deep appreciation for the lake.

“He would literally put a chain around his waist and pull big rocks off the beach,” his daughter said. “He loved the camaraderie of being at the camp. My parents would often take people on their boat to Frye Island for breakfast.”

He met his future wife, Shirley Todd, soon after he returned from serving in World War II. She was standing at a bus stop with her mother when he pulled his car over and offered them a ride. The couple were married for 63 years. His wife said Tuesday that they shared a great life together.

“I was the luckiest girl in the world,” she said. “He was fun all the time. There was never a dull moment. He had a terrific sense of humor. By and large, we had a wonderful marriage. I was never cold and never hungry. Not everyone can say that.”

Mr. Todd had a close relationship with his two grandchildren. He took guitar lessons with his granddaughter Kelly and enjoyed going boating with his grandson Andrew, who is severely disabled, Rickards said.

“He was Andy’s biggest champion,” she said. “They were great boating pals. He made sure to steer the boat into the waves so Andy would get wet. Andy loved that.”

Mr. Todd had struggled with his health over the past four or five years. His wife broke down in tears Tuesday afternoon describing the closeness they shared.

“We did everything together,” she said. “I’m so lonely now because I have no one to talk things over with. That’s what I’ll miss. It will pass. There have been millions of widows before me. They have to carry on and I will, too.”

 

Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at: [email protected]