James Sanville, a retired assistant production director for the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram who had passions for reading and technology, died Wednesday after a brief illness. He was 79.

Mr. Sanville began working for the newspaper as a delivery boy in Portland. At the age of 16, he got a job in the mailroom. For many years, he worked in the stereotype department, which made the lead plates used to print each day’s newspaper on the presses. He also worked in advertising as a makeup person, laying out the position of advertisements on each page of the newspaper.

“He had many spirited discussions with the editors when they wanted special sections and extra pages,” said his son Jim Sanville. “He loved it. He loved the newspaper business.”

Mr. Sanville, a 47-year employee of the Guy Gannett Publishing Co., retired in 1996 as assistant production director. His obituary, which will appear in Sunday’s newspaper, said he played a key role in the development of the newspaper’s current printing and distribution plant in South Portland, where he had a corner office.

Mr. Sanville was described by his son Friday as a curious and insightful man who was fascinated by technology. He would bring home new electronic gadgets, including short-wave radios and tape recorders, and also built his own televisions and radios.

“He was always interested in learning something new,” his son said. “He was an avid reader. He always had a book going. When the Kindle came out, I knew he would be enamored with it. He has read hundreds and hundreds of books on it. He later got an iPad, which he loved and used many hours each day.”

He was a loving husband to his wife, Jacqueline Sanville. The couple lived on Cottage Road in South Portland for many years and moved to Scarborough in 1998. They enjoyed traveling, taking cruises and spending winters in Florida. They celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in June.

They raised three children. His son said he was supportive and encouraging in all of their endeavors.

“When I was 17, I got my pilot’s license,” his son said. “I took him up for his first plane ride. I don’t know if he was being brave or supportive or both. He was very supportive of my sister, who left the newspaper in her 30s and decided to become a nurse. He was also very proud of my brother, (Gary Sanville), who became a foreman in the pressroom for many years.”

In his early years, Mr. Sanville pursued acting at the Portland Players. He was featured in many roles over the years, including “Man of La Mancha,” “Diamond Studs” and “The Gin Game,” three of his favorites.

Mr. Sanville was active in the community. He served on the South Portland Board of Appeals. He was also a member of the Portland Elks.

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

[email protected]