WESTBROOK – Sometimes it’s the small things that make a big difference in a young person’s life.

That’s where Bertrand Francoeur comes in.

His story starts more than 40 years ago on a dead-end street in Westbrook, where he lived with his wife, Judy Francoeur, and their three children.

The neighborhood was home to a couple dozen kids — now age 40- something — who collected in front of the Francoeur house at the end of Giles Street. The kids rode their bikes and played basketball and other games, such as four-square and kick the can. On hot summer days, kids would flock to the Francoeur house to swim.

Mr. Francoeur was usually at the center of the action.

“Dad was kind of like the ringleader,” said his son, Michael Francoeur, of Windham. “He was the guy that made sure the bikes worked and that the basketballs were inflated. He made sure there was enough for everyone and that everyone was included. He made a difference to everyone he came in touch with.”

Mr. Francoeur died Friday, two days after suffering a massive stroke. He was 72.

He grew up in Gorham and graduated from Gorham High School in 1958. On Monday, his wife remembered the day she met her future husband in high school almost 50 years ago. He was about two years ahead of her in school.

“He was a nice boy,” she recalled. “You know how some people catch your attention? He was a popular kid. He had a lot of friends. He went into the Army. When he came out, he had me.”

The Francoeurs would have celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in February.

Mr. Francoeur worked as a boiler operator at S.D. Warren Paper Co. for 30 years.

“He worked his butt off,” his wife said. “He would work extra shifts whenever the kids needed anything. I knew I could count on him for anything. So did my children and the grandkids. They loved him. Bert had a lot of patience. He was very patient and understanding. I hooked on to a good one.”

One of Mr. Francoeur’s greatest strengths was his ability to fix almost anything, from broken bicycles to cars. He also took on home improvement projects with ease, such as building a deck and a shed.

“He lived his life to help others,” his son said, noting that his father never missed a day of work.

In his later years, Mr. Francoeur enjoyed attending his grandchildren’s school and sports events.

Another highlight for him was getting together with his son, brothers and cousins during hunting season. The men often hunted in the Gorham/Standish area.

“Hunting was one of his passions,” his son said. “It’s something I grew to love doing with him chasing the elusive white tail.”

Mr. Francoeur was surrounded by his family when he died Friday.

“He was gracious,” his wife said. “It’s almost like he knew ‘I’m out of here.’ I’m going to miss him. He was a good friend. We spent a lot of time together.”

 

Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at:

[email protected]