Roger Laprise, a retired police sergeant in Sanford who coached youth baseball and basketball teams for many years and was inducted in the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame, died Monday. He was 68.
Mr. Laprise joined the Sanford Police Department in 1971 as a patrol officer. He rose through the ranks to senior staff sergeant and retired in 2001 after 30 years of service.
Deputy Chief Tim Strout, who worked with Laprise for 13 years, said he was well respected in the community and by the officers who worked for him.
“He was great to work for,” Strout said Tuesday. “As a supervisor, he allowed for his officers to grow. He sort of mentored us without hands-on supervision.”
Mr. Laprise was well-known in the Sanford-Springvale area. He attended St. Ignatius High School, where he was a standout on the school’s baseball and basketball teams. In 1964 – on the night he graduated – Mr. Laprise signed a contract to play baseball for a Pittsburgh Pirates’ minor league affiliate in Salem, Va. He played for three seasons before an eye injury finished his career.
During his years on the police force, Mr. Laprise shared his love for baseball with kids in the community. He coached Little League, Babe Ruth and Sanford Junior High School baseball teams. He also coached St. Thomas girls’ basketball and youth basketball teams in Sanford and Springvale.
Robert Laprise, the youngest of his three sons, reflected on his father’s years as a coach and the life lessons he taught players through sports.
“He looked at the game the way he looked at life … to (play) with pride and to represent yourself well,” his son recalled. “Having your dad as a coach was a great experience. When we left the field, it was like, ‘Nice job. Let’s go home and have dinner and move on.’ It was always a positive experience, even though it wasn’t always the outcome we wanted.”
At home, he was a dedicated father and loving husband of Cynthia Laprise, his wife for 46 years. She described a man who had an infectious smile and love for life. She said he worked long, tough hours yet always found time for family.
“The kids always came first,” she said. “We didn’t take trips and those kinds of things, but he played with (them) and coached them and enjoyed them. … He has loved all the stages of their lives. He has always been happiest surrounded by family.”
His son also remarked on his father’s love for life.
“I look around the house and I see him sitting in his chair, telling jokes at Christmas and playing cards at the table at Thanksgiving,” he said. “He had a zest for that type of lifestyle. When people were around, he had this huge grin and smile and it was constant.”
When Mr. Laprise retired, he took a part-time job as a groundskeeper in Oakdale Cemetery in Sanford. He worked there for more than six years.
“He used to joke, saying the people didn’t talk back,” his wife said, chuckling. “He liked the peacefulness and being outdoors. He enjoyed the sunshine.”
Mr. Laprise was inducted in the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007.
In 2012, Mr. Laprise was diagnosed with small cell lung cancer. At the time of the diagnosis, the cancer had already spread to his bones, liver and lymph glands. He was given three to six months to live. He responded well to treatment. His wife said he laughed often and lived each day to its fullest.
“He was very brave,” she said. “I haven’t had a chance to process the whole thing. I can’t even begin to imagine what my life will be like.”
Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at: