John Dority, who spent more than half a century with the Department of Transportation and knew nearly every nook and cranny of Maine’s major roads, has died. He was 82.

Dority was the top engineer at the Maine Department of Transportation before retiring and serving as a member of the Maine Turnpike Authority Board for nearly a decade. His family said he died Monday of a massive stroke.

“There is really no one else in this state whose name is more closely associated with transportation,” said Peter Mills, executive director of the Maine Turnpike Authority. “He had the highway map of Maine practically memorized and knew the history of every major road.”

John Dority worked for the Maine Department of Transportation for more than 50 years, and then served on the board of the Maine Turnpike Authority. He died Monday at age 82. Courtesy of Maine Turnpike Authority

Dority, a professional engineer and surveyor, worked at the Department of Transportation for 53 years. He started as a summer laborer while attending Cony High School and eventually rose through the ranks to chief engineer for the final 13 years of his career before retiring in 2009.

A year later, he was appointed to the turnpike authority board and was reappointed for a six-year term this year.

“No one was more closely associated with transportation in Maine than John was,” Transportation Commissioner Bruce Van Note said in a statement. “He was a mentor to me and many others here at MaineDOT because of his common sense, pragmatism, direct manner and good nature. John filled a room with his personality and wit.”

Thinking about and working on transportation in Maine was vital to Dority, said his daughter Amanda Beckwith.

“He absolutely loved his family – my sister, my mother and I meant the world to him, and later his second wife – but he loved the bridges and roads of Maine. They were his passion,” Beckwith said.

Weekend family jaunts during her childhood usually included spot checks of the roads along the way, she said.

“He would make a picnic day out of checking the roads,” she said, using a state radio in the car to report spots that needed some work, such as a pothole fixed or a section of road re-graded. His hours driving around Maine roads meant he knew the best rest areas to frequent, Beckwith said, where the family could spread a picnic blanket and she and her sister could wade in a roadside river. “It was fun for us.”

He was delighted at the invitation to serve on the turnpike board shortly after retiring from MaineDOT, she said.

“He could never leave transportation,” Beckwith said.

Even in recent weeks, his encyclopedic knowledge of Maine’s roads remained fresh, she said. On a recent drive with Beckwith, she said, he pointed out the highest spot on the interstate – just outside of Bangor – and mentioned sections of roads that were particularly difficult to maintain in the winter.

And despite some health issues this year, Dority stayed active, Beckwith said, riding on an ATV just a week ago. At a family cookout Saturday, she said, he talked about the ongoing project to relocate the York tollbooth.

That was of particular interest to Dority, who had helped design the original tollbooth, Mills said.

The tollbooth was located on wetlands and has been sinking, Mills said. Dority had opposed the location at the time it was built, but his concerns were overridden, Mills said, largely because the land was inexpensive.

When the turnpike authority took up the issue of relocating the booth, partially to accommodate high-speed electronic pass lanes, Dority was among the most enthusiastic supporters, Mills said, because siting the new tollbooth on more suitable land meant it could be built properly.

“He said, ‘I’m so happy to be back here for a do-over,’ ” Mills recalled him saying. “We’re going to call it ‘Dority’s Do-Over.’ “


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