Ralph “Joe” Caron never came across a trombone that he didn’t want to pick up and play.

“It was the love of his life,” said Mr. Caron’s daughter, Colette Burke of Shapleigh.

Mr. Caron, a longtime resident of Saco, died Friday at the Maine Veterans Home in Scarborough. He was 82.

Mr. Caron was born in Biddeford and lived in Biddeford for most of his youth.

Although he was named after his uncles, his parents began calling him Joe for no particular reason other than “there were too many uncles named Ralph,” his daughter said.

His musical interests started to emerge at age 12 when a neighbor taught him how to play the trombone. That neighbor played in the Painchaud Band, a community-based group that was formed in 1915. The band stopped performing in the mid-1990s.

Mr. Caron attended the former St. Louis High School, where he lettered in baseball. His teammates called him “Fireman Joe.”

“He was hot, that’s how the name ‘Fireman’ came about,” his daughter said of her father’s pitching skills.

After graduating from high school, Mr. Caron joined the Army. He became a member of the Army band during the Korean conflict, his daughter said.

During his deployment in Europe during the early 1950s, the band performed for Eddie Fisher, a well-known singer and actor at that time. Their performance was taped and featured in one of Fisher’s movies.

After the war ended, Mr. Caron returned to Saco. He delivered bread for the former M&M Bread Co. of Falmouth, and worked for 40 years selling life insurance for Boston Mutual Life Insurance Co. in York County.

During that time, he played trombone for the Portland Symphony, the Painchaud Band and the St. Louis Alumni Band — a collection of graduates from St. Louis and Biddeford high schools and Thornton Academy.

“For the love of music, (the alumni) put their colors down,” his daughter said.

In his early 50s, complications from glaucoma, an eye disease that can cause loss of vision and blindness, forced Mr. Caron to stop playing the trombone. Doctors cautioned him that playing an instrument that required heavy exertion might exacerbate his glaucoma.

“He would only pull out the trombone for special occasions,” such as a grandchild’s birthday, his daughter said.

His trombone will be on display during visiting hours Thursday night at the Cote Funeral Home in Saco.

“He loved any march song,” his daughter recalled. “But his favorite was ‘When the Saints Go Marching In.’ “

Mr. Caron and his wife, Reinette Drouin Caron, who died in 1999, were heavily involved in the Notre Dame de Lourdes Church in Saco. The Catholic church closed a few years ago.

Mr. Caron served as a eucharistic minister and volunteered at several church functions. He also sang in the church’s choir.

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

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