GARDINER — Daniel Bates, a Republican candidate for the Maine House of Representatives District 59, died of an apparent heart attack Saturday morning at his home in Gardiner, according to his wife. He was 61.

Beth Bates, his wife of 15 years, described him as kind and outgoing. “He is the greatest man God ever made,” she said Monday. “He died in my arms, so he was not alone.”

Bates was an attorney who practiced largely employment law out of his home office in Gardiner. Judy Maldovan, who was Bates’ secretary for nearly 10 years, said he was gentle and an extremely good lawyer.

“He was loved by many people,” she said. “It’s hard to describe a person like that. He was full of life.”

The other candidate in the race is Gay Grant, a Democrat. The district includes Gardiner and Randolph and is represented by Rep. Stephen Hanley, who is not running for re-election because of term limits.

Grant said she knew Bates through the Gardiner Library Association, where she was the fundraising committee chairwoman and he was vice president.

Even as family and friends grappled with Bates’ unexpected death, officials didn’t know how that would affect the Nov. 6 ballot.

Although it’s too late to remove Bates from the absentee ballot, Megan Sanborn of the secretary of state’s office said the Republican party can still nominate another candidate.

Out of respect for the family, the secretary of state’s office is waiting until after the funeral to officially declare the vacancy, Sanborn said. After that, she said the party can find a replacement candidate, but her office hasn’t set a deadline for that yet.

Assistant Clerk of the House Shawn Roderick said the state Republican Party hasn’t decided what it will do with the candidate vacancy.

“We haven’t really thought about it,” he said. “We haven’t gone through the process yet.”

Maine Republican Party Chairman Charles Webster issued a statement Monday describing Bates as “a terrific guy who touched the lives of many.”

“I got to know him well over the past several months and was amazed by his enthusiasm for meeting voters and his incredible reputation in his community,” Webster said. “Dan had a charisma and positive disposition that naturally drew people to him. Everybody loved Dan and he will be sorely missed.”

On top of his work in the legal field, Bates had an interest in writing, especially poetry. His license plate read POETIK, a play on poetic license, family members said.

In 2004, Bates scribed a ballad to the Boston Red Sox and their 2004 World Series championship-winning season, “Ballad of the Beantowne Bosox.” A second edition of the book, along with an audio CD narrated by Maine humorist Gary Crocker, was published in 2006, but Crocker said Bates started writing the poem the day after the Red Sox won — their first World Series championship in 86 years.

Crocker said he first met Bates when he approached him to narrate the ballad.

“We never made any money off it,” Crocker said, adding that the two probably ended up losing money. “To me it was worth every nickel just to know Dan Bates.”

Crocker recalled Bates as a wonderful, kind man with a great sense of humor.

“Life isn’t that long, it turns out,” he said. “And boy, you meet some great people along the way, and Dan Bates was one of them.”

Grant said one of her few interaction with Bates was when she asked him to sign a copy of his book after a meeting. “He was really tickled by that,” she recalled.

Rep. Jeff Timberlake, R-Turner, said he’s been friends with Bates for 40 years and that he met Bates when Bates’ family used vacation each summer in Turner.

“His family are very much nice people to be around,” Timberlake said.

Timberlake spoke highly of Bates’ “Bosox Ballad.”

“It should have been a hit,” he said. “It was such a great ballad.”

Timberlake said he was the one who convinced Bates to run for the state Legislature. “I said, ‘Bates, you always liked politics. You ought to do this,’” he said.

Grant said she’s glad she and Bates ran a positive campaign, and she’ll be suspending her door-to-door campaigning for now in respect to his family.

Sen. Susan Collins said in a prepared statement Monday she was “deeply saddened” by the news of his death. The family provided a photo Monday of Bates posing with Collins outside the A1 Diner in Gardiner.

“I was campaigning with him in Gardiner just last week, and I witnessed how closely he listened to residents who greeted him so warmly,” she wrote in the statement. “I know he will be missed dearly.”

Beth Bates said they would be holding a service to celebrate Bates’ life Wednesday at 1 p.m. at Staples Funeral Home in Gardiner with a reception with food and refreshments to follow at Johnson Hall Performing Arts Center at 3 p.m.

Paul Koenig — 621-5663

pkoenig@mainetoday.com