PORTLAND — Funeral directors across southern Maine expressed shock and sadness this week after the death of one of their own.

Morrell York, who founded Independent Death Care of Maine and dedicated his life to comforting grieving families, died Wednesday following a briew illness. He was 69.

Mr. York received his funeral director’s license in 1964 and worked for about six months at Lindquist Funeral Home in Yarmouth. When he was 24, he bought Neal and York Funeral Home in Gorham, which is now Dolby & Door Funeral Chapel.

In 1976, he bought Stanley Funeral Home in Porter. He sold his two funeral homes in 1987 and retired. But not for long.

In 1995, he opened York Funeral Chapel in Cornish, and in 1998 he founded Independent Death Care of Maine at the chapel.

His wife, Judie York, who worked with him, said he founded Independent Death Care to offer affordable funeral services to families in Greater Portland. She said he was committed to the families he served.

“I said to him once that I thought God chose him for this profession,” she said. “He was so compassionate and caring for all people from all walks of life. He loved engaging in conversation with families, listening to stories about their lives, and paying attention to their needs and wants.”

In 2004, Mr. York moved Independent Death Care to Portland Chevra Kadisha on Deering Avenue, the Jewish Funeral Home, where he was the funeral director. The business moved last year to its current location, on Brighton Avenue.

Darrell Cooper, administrator of the Jewish Funeral Home, said Friday that Mr. York was well respected in the Jewish community.

“The secret to Morrell’s success was Morrell himself,” Cooper said. “He was the most compassionate person. His loss is significant to this community.”

One of his close friends, Roger Tousignant, the owner of Old Orchard Beach Funeral home, said Thursday that he was innovative in adjusting his business to meet the needs of the families he served.

“He established a new trend in the city of Portland,” Tousignant said. “People wanted certain things and few of us offered it. He helped a lot of people who had limited funds. . . . It’s a sad loss. He was a good friend and a good colleague in the funeral business.”

Mark Hutchins, who bought Independent Death Care from Mr. York in April, said he had a remarkable ability to console grieving families.

“It was as if he was an immediate member of their family,” Hutchins said. “His compassion for people and wanting to do right by the people has always been his philosophy. . . . It’s surreal around here. We can’t believe he is gone.”

Mr. York had a passion for flying and enjoyed flying his plane around the Sebago Lake region. His wife said he loved going to Las Vegas to play the slot machines. She said he enjoyed traveling and going on cruises.

On a trip last year, he went parasailing and snorkeling, and swam with dolphins, she said.

Mr. York was admitted to Maine Medical Center on Feb. 12 after having difficulty breathing. His health declined steadily.

“It’s still hard to believe,” his wife said. “He was the first love of my life. It’s amazing how the twists and turns of life led us down this path together. Who else but God could be the director of such a love story?”

 

Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at:

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