SACO — William Tate spent most of his life working at Laurel Hill Cemetery in Saco. On Wednesday, he will be buried there.

Mr. Tate, who was superintendent of the cemetery for the past 41 years, died on Sunday. He was 69.

He began working at the cemetery when he was 14 and became superintendent after his uncle John McCallum retired from the job.

Mr. Tate was described by cemetery officials Monday as a “hands-on guy” who took pride in the 120-acre property. He was involved in every facet of the operation, from mowing and landscaping to delivering ashes to funeral homes and escorting people to their loves ones’ gravesites.

“It’s a tremendous loss,” said Dennis Levasseur, president of the cemetery’s board of directors. “The cemetery was his baby. He lived it 24/7.”

Mr. Tate managed a crew of about four men including his son Paul Tate of Saco, whom Mr. Tate recruited to mow lawns when he was 14.

The crew spent Monday digging Mr. Tate’s grave in the cemetery, in a spot that his wife chose as their final resting place. His son said it overlooks the Saco River and is where the crew plants about 10,000 daffodils every spring.

“It’s one of the best spots in the cemetery,” Paul Tate said. “I don’t think he ever thought about this for himself.”

Mr. Tate’s wife, Paulette Tate, said they picked out the gravesite for her. She has cancer, and doctors gave her only months to live.

She said Mr. Tate’s death was sudden and unexpected. He went to the hospital complaining of shortness of breath. Tests showed that his liver was beginning to shut down and his kidneys were failing.

“We were shocked,” she said. “We thought he would come home. I still can’t believe it.”

Mr. Tate and his wife were married for 44 years and raised two children. His son said he was a great father who was always there when they needed him.

“I could tell him anything and he was always there to help me out,” he said. “He made all my football and baseball games.

“It meant a lot to me that he was there to watch,” he said. “He even got a job working the down markers so he could be closer to the field.” .

Mr. Tate was remembered by his family Monday as a man who liked to tease and banter with others. His wife said she will miss his sense of humor.

“He liked to believe he was rough and tough, but he was a softie,” she said. “He was a fair and honest person who didn’t hold back.”

Mr. Tate was a fixture in the city. His longtime friend Bryan Cote, owner of Cote Funeral Home, said they went out to dinner every Saturday night for the past 40 years, with an occasional Friday outing.

He was the type of guy who enjoyed being with his family and friends.

“It was his joy in life,” his wife said. “He loved family gatherings. He was a lot of fun. People really enjoyed being around him.”

 

Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at: [email protected]om