Thomas Wirth, a nationally recognized landscape architect who made regular appearances on PBS television shows “This Old House” and “The Victory Garden,” died Saturday after suffering a heart attack at his home in Phippsburg. He was 76.

Mr. Wirth founded Thomas Wirth Associates Inc., a landscape architecture and design firm based in Phippsburg and Sherborn, Massachusetts, in 1982. For 36 years, the firm created beautiful and functional outdoor spaces in a range of settings, from residential to public parks and campuses.

Mr. Wirth’s work is prominently featured in Greenacre Park in New York City and at the Herb and Bonsai Gardens at the National Arboretum in Washington, D.C.

According to the his website, Wirth’s firm designed the country’s most extensive azalea garden, the Callaway Brothers Azalea Bowl in Pine Mountain, Georgia.

Wynne Wirth of South Portland, one of his five children, said Wednesday that her father was their hero and a true leader in a humble way. She followed in his footsteps, earning her master’s degree in landscape design and working with him for five years after graduate school.

“We collaborated on projects so beautifully. It was such an honor to work for him,” his daughter said. “He had a way with people. He would really understand his clients. He could read people, then look at their land and create these outdoor spaces that reflected perfectly what these people didn’t know they needed. He was so talented. I learned so much from working with him those years.”

Son Wesley Wirth joined his father’s firm in 1996 and heads the Sherborn practice.

Mr. Wirth worked until recently when he sought treatment for cancer.

He was married to Helena Wirth of Phippsburg, and they had five children: Wesley Wirth, Wylie Wirth, Wynne Wirth, Whitney Lendzion and Willa Wirth.

In his early years, the Wirths lived in a 1850s dairy barn in Sherborn, which he converted to their family homestead.

In the early 1980s, he and his wife fell in love with Phippsburg and bought a small boathouse on Atkins Bay. Over the years, he carved a walking trail along the rocky coast through the blueberry and huckleberry bushes and heathers. He built benches from driftwood pieces along the trail.

In 2006, the Wirths took on a new project of restoring the historic stone schoolhouse in Phippsburg into their dream home. The Wirths moved to Maine officially in 2013.

His wife Wednesday shared memories of the life they created together, which centered around family, nature and art.

“We have the blessing of this beautiful thing that really did unite us in the most special way,” his wife said. “We shared the greatest passions and interests in our lives, which is art and nature. I feel we were very fortunate. He had his art and I had mine and we could mix them together very successfully. Our homes are a great example of that.”

The Wirth children flocked to the family home this week. The siblings cried and laughed, recalling a man who taught them much about life, love and the importance of family.

His daughter, Willa Wirth of Portland, who owns a shop on Munjoy Hill where she creates silver jewelry, said her father inspired her to be her true self.

“He taught me to live through my heart,” Willa Wirth said. “That’s why he had such a powerful, soothing effect on people because they could feel his goodness. He was the epitome of a good man.”

The Wirth siblings shared many stories this week of their father’s keen attention to detail and intense love for life and family. The Wirths regularly sit down for family dinners.

“He was an amazing patriarch, an unbelievable father,” Wynne Wirth said. “We cannot believe how lucky we were to have had such a beautiful father to help us carve our way through life. He deeply loved so many things. He was so creative. He loved us all so deeply and so thoroughly and so individually.”

Mr. Wirth had recently finished six seeks of radiation treatment for cancer. He was scheduled to have a triple bypass in August. On Saturday night, he stepped outside his house and suffered a heart attack.

On Tuesday, the Wirth siblings built a coffin for their father of pine boards that he had milled from trees on his land. They built it in his workshop using the same tools Wirth had used to restore their homes. The kids hand-planed the corners and softened the splinters with sandpaper from Wirth’s barn. They adorned it with driftwood from Atkins Bay.

A service will be held to honor and celebrate Wirth’s life at 3 p.m. Saturday at the Popham Chapel in Phippsburg, followed by a celebration at the Popham House.

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

[email protected]

Twitter: MelanieCreamer

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