Westbrook native John Allard was a man many people saw but few understood.

Allard was a familiar face to most people who lived and worked near downtown Westbrook. He could often be seen walking along Main or Bridge streets during the day.

On Aug. 29, Allard, 53, was found dead in a wooded area near his childhood home behind Saccarappa School by a group of students who said they’d seen a man sleeping in the woods. Allard wasn’t sleeping, but according to his family, he may have found a peace he hadn’t known in life.

“He had a meaningful life to those who knew him,” said his sister, Janice Sanborn. “And he was not viewed as a productive person of society by those who didn’t.”

A lifelong alcoholic, Allard had suffered physical and mental pain through his life, say friends and family. In the time before his death, they say he was in great physical pain from a number of ailments and injuries sustained in a car accident when he was younger.

In an obituary released in the days after his death, Allard’s family expressed the belief that he may have taken his own life. Allard was found lying near the grave of a beloved dog he had buried years ago, on his back with arms across his chest, a bottle of wine and prescription pills beside him, according to his family.

“The family believes John may have committed suicide by ingesting an excessive amount of alcohol along with a high dosage of his prescription drugs,” the obituary read.

Lifelong friend Jeff Trefethen said his friend, who had been living with him for the last year and a half, was suffering in a number of ways and feared for his health, although he never indicated he would take his life.

“He kept saying, ‘It won’t be long, Jeff. It won’t be long.’ And that was a year and a half ago,” he said.

By all accounts, Allard’s friends and family knew a generous soul who felt deeply for those in need. He was also a troubled soul who seemed to be incapable of helping himself.

“The guy had the biggest heart in the world,” said River’s Edge Deli owner Steve Lampron, who sold Allard food for him to take to homeless people he knew in the area. Lampron said Allard had been drinking as long as he’d known him, but even when he wasn’t eating himself he would buy meals for other people less fortunate than himself.

Trefethen said Allard told him he’d fed 10 homeless people under a bridge in Oklahoma for two weeks on a hitch-hiking trip across the country in the 1970s.

Born in 1952, Allard was raised in Westbrook and graduated from Westbrook High School in 1972. According to his sister, Allard was a highly intelligent boy with a bent for learning what he liked rather than what others wanted him to learn.

He had a photographic memory and could recite sports statistics “that would have put Howard Cosell to shame.” But she said she thought he might have had a medical ailment, such as some form of autism, although she didn’t know, that would have been identified should he have gone through the school system today.

“From 1990 back, you couldn’t get a question by him that he couldn’t get,” said Trefethen of Allard’s memory for sports trivia.

Allard joined the Army immediately after high school and served in the military police in Germany. Sanborn said Allard went to Germany in the Army as an 18-year-old and came back two years later as a different person. She said she didn’t know what happened, but when he came back he was heavily involved in alcohol and perhaps drugs.

“He was a teenager that shouldn’t have gone into the military,” she said. After that, Allard held steady jobs for only a few years and then began a life of dependency on the state, friends and family.

Sanborn said his family loved Allard very much, but in recent years they had had a falling out because of his lifestyle, which she said she had tried to change but was unable to. She said she regrets not having him come back into her life before he died.

As for his death, neither friends nor family know exactly how he died, although they will wait and see the results of an autopsy and toxicology analysis over the next five weeks. Sanborn said she talked with a coroner who said Allard had a number of health issues that could have caused his death.

Lampron said he wasn’t surprised to hear Allard had passed, but he would be very surprised to find out that he had committed suicide. Trefethen agreed, saying just that morning he seemed content and looking forward to the coming football season, in which his favorite team, the Kansas City Chiefs, were expected to do well.

Sanborn said she thought maybe her brother had chosen to end his life, but she still wasn’t sure. She said she’ll wait to see what the coroner’s analysis reveals.

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