Frederick “Fred” P. Dyer had a knack for making some of the biggest and most delicious Italian sandwiches people could buy in Greater Portland.

So good, in fact, that people still remembered them fondly decades later.

Mr. Dyer, formerly of Portland, died Saturday at the Maine Veterans Home in Scarborough. He was 90.

His son-in-law, David Kaplan Sr. of Windham, said Mr. Dyer had lived in the dementia unit at the Veterans Home for the past eight years, a longer period than any other resident.

“They (workers at the home) called him ‘Freddy with the smile.’ He always had a smile on his face,” Kaplan said.

Mr. Dyer was born in Portland, the son of Peter and Mary (Solomon) Dyer, who were immigrants. His father worked for the railroad. One of 12 children, he attended city schools.

When World War II broke out, Mr. Dyer joined the military. He became a member of the 311th Fighter Control Squadron, serving in Europe and Africa from 1941 to 1945.

After the war ended, Mr. Dyer returned to Maine and opened a gas station and tire service shop on Munjoy Hill. He owned a couple of gas stations, including the one he had built on Route 302 in Westbrook near Pride’s Corner.

His brothers, Spiro and William, also operated service stations.

Kaplan said his father-in-law eventually got out of the gas station business and opened Dyer’s Variety store on Portland Street, which still exists today, although its ownership has changed.

“He was great at making Italian sandwiches. He was know for his Italians and his meatballs,” Kaplan said. “Back then, they sold a sandwich for 50 cents. He would spend seven days a week in that store.”

Kaplan said the Italian sandwiches were so tasty that people today still remember them.

“When Fred was at the veterans home, people would come up to him and say, ‘Do you remember me? I used to buy sandwiches from you,’” Kaplan said.

Mr. Dyer later expanded his business into Westbrook, opening a sandwich shop on Brown Street.

“It was the kind of place where you could get a sandwich, some cigarettes and a bag of chips,” Kaplan said.

He said he was impressed with his father-in-law’s work ethic and sense of responsibility.

“If you needed the shirt off his back, then he’d give it to you,” Kaplan said.

“This guy did nothing but work. He had a hard life, but he made the most of it. He made good things out of nothing,” Kaplan said.

Mr. Dyer outlived his 11 siblings. He is survived by 10 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren.

His family requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Alzheimer’s Association in Scarborough.

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

[email protected]

 


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