Randall Chasse, who owned the iconic Miss Portland Diner for nearly 25 years, then donated it to the city in 2004 and later bought Middle Street Cafe, died on Saturday after a brief illness. He was 71.

Mr. Chasse had dreamed of operating The Worcester Lunch Car Company No. 818 since he was a boy growing up in Portland. His father was a well-known sausage maker and the two would drive past the diner often. He bought Miss Portland Diner around 1980 and served breakfast and lunch seven days a week to a loyal following.

Mr. Chasse, of Scarborough, was remembered Tuesday as a hard-working guy who dedicated his life to the diner and gave his customers a great dining experience. He cooked, did the dishes and waited on customers.

“He absolutely loved the customers,” said his wife, Mary Chasse, who worked alongside him for many years. “He had a tough exterior sometimes, but he had a heart of gold.”

Mr. Chasse donated the historic lunch car to the city of Portland to sell in 2004, after several failed attempts to sell it or give it away. At one point, he had offered the diner to the winner of an essay contest. He also tried to sell it on eBay.

Thomas Manning, a longtime Newsweek executive, stepped forward in July 2006 to buy the diner from the city. Soon after, it reopened at its current location on Marginal Way and has been hopping ever since.

A news story published in the Press Herald in 2010 said Mr. Chasse sold the diner’s former site at Marginal Way and Hanover Street to make way for a new office building.

For Mr. Chasse, retirement was short-lived. He and his wife bought the Middle Street Cafe, which they operated for six years. Soon after that, he bought a cheap Chevy, put a taxi meter in it, and started City Cab. His wife said he drove the taxi for about two years.

“He worked all his life. He never did anything fun,” his wife said.

In recent years, however, Mr. Chasse did get to live a little. Three years ago, he and his wife traveled to Las Vegas and decided on a whim to get married. The couple had been together for 10 years or so. They also made trips to New York, Quebec, Puerto Rico and Jamaica.

Mr. Chasse recently became ill and was admitted to Maine Medical in Portland. His wife said he was severely anemic and got progressively worse last week. His wife requested that an autopsy be performed on his body.

“He was my one true love,” she said. “I’m 59. It’s the first time in my life I got to see what a real loving relationship feels like. He was a great guy. He was funny. … The guys would come in and raise hell.”

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

[email protected]

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