NORTH YARMOUTH – At the Sappi paper mill in Westbrook, where he worked as a machinist for 35 years, Al Irish could right any type of mechanical wrong.

“He was like the doctor of the mill,” Nancy Irish said of her husband. “Whenever there was something that didn’t sound right, they would call Al and he would go down and fix it. He was depended on a lot.”

Alvah S. “Al” Irish of North Yarmouth died Friday from a rare form of cancer. He was 61.

He grew up in Gorham with two sisters and played in a big backyard filled with a swing set, jungle gym and slide, all built by their father, Millard Irish, a carpenter. Just like his father, Mr. Irish had an eye for design, said Jill Pease, his sister closest in age.

He also loved the outdoors, was active in Boy Scouts and inherited his father’s love of landscaping. After graduation from Gorham High School in 1967, he earned a degree in mechanical engineering at what was then Southern Maine Technical College in South Portland.

Mr. Irish started working at the paper mill in Westbrook in the spring of 1976. That fall, he met his future wife on a blind date arranged by friends. They had dinner at a steakhouse in the Old Port.

“It was love at first sight, without a doubt,” Nancy Irish said. “We were engaged at Christmas and got married the following October.”

They enjoyed riding Harley-Davidson motorcycles, both with a group of friends from the mill and just the two of them. They also loved to hike and camp.

After sons Ryan and Shaun came along, their father volunteered as scoutmaster and helped them both achieve a rank that, as a child, had eluded him: Eagle Scout.

“That was a huge highlight of Al’s life, and mine, too,” his wife said.”

Mr. Irish also liked to work on cars, one model in particular. He owned three Corvettes, each time trading up until he finally sold a 1977 Corvette to get the money for a down payment on the couple’s first home, in the North Deering section of Portland.

“He liked the simple things in life,” said Ryan Irish, who lives in Casco with his wife, Chelsea, and is expecting their first child in October. “He loved peacefulness and outdoors and nature. I really learned from him just to take your time and observe your surroundings.”

After their sons grew up, the Irishes designed and built a home in North Yarmouth near the Toddy Brook Golf Course. Always quietly but firmly patriotic, Mr. Irish included a flagpole in the front yard and always flew a second flag from the porch on appropriate holidays.

“He had so many ideas of what he wanted that were so fitting to our way of life,” Nancy Irish said. “It was just kind of fun to see those dreams come true for him.”

The past two-plus years have been difficult for Nancy Irish as her husband underwent various treatments for his cancer. His loss leaves a huge void in her life.

“He was just phenomenal in so many ways,” she said. “I could rely on him for anything I needed to know or do, but it was wonderful with the boys growing up because those qualities and traits transferred into my sons. That’s why they’re the amazing young men they are today.”

A celebration of Mr. Irish’s life will be held Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Jones, Rich & Hutchins Funeral Home in Portland.

Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at:

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