Gilbert R. Turcotte, a decorated member of the U.S. Army and a local police officer, died Nov. 10. He was 74.

Turcotte, originally of Woonsocket, Rhode Island, but most recently of Winthrop, earned more than two dozen honors in his military career before retiring. After retirement he worked for the Winthrop and Sabattus police departments, and the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office.

Gilbert R. Turcotte Photo courtesy of Bob Charest

Turcotte enlisted in the Army in September 1965 and was stationed in numerous places overseas, including Japan, Vietnam and Berlin. His first Berlin assignment was with “Detachment A,” a group of about 90 Green Berets who blended in with Berlin’s residents and carried out guerrilla sabotage missions against enemy forces from 1956 to 1984. Turcotte served in Detachment A from 1976 to 1984.

According to a U.S. Army website, Turcotte was inducted as a “Distinguished Member of The Special Forces Regiment” in May 2018. His biography states that he enlisted in the Army on Sept. 10, 1965, achieving the final rank of Sergeant Major.

Detachment A, which was classified for some time during and shortly after the Cold War, was first publicly recognized in 2014. Bob Charest, who served in Detachment A with Turcotte, has spearheaded efforts to tell the Detachment’s story through a website he runs, detachment-a.org.

Charest said Turcotte represented “the very best in a Special Forces trooper.”

“He was a highly professional, skilled warrior,” Charest said. “He never stopped supporting his fellow Detachment A brothers and all Special Forces troopers he served with during and after his illustrious career.”

Charest added that Turcotte was “one of the kindest people” he had ever known.

“If someone got sick from Detachment A, he made sure we all signed a get-well card,” he said. “He had a lot of respect for us, and let me tell you, we had a lot of respect for him.”

Gil Turcotte, who worked for the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office for 12 years, is seen in this January 2002 file photo. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy

After his retirement from the military, Turcotte came to Maine and joined the Winthrop Police Department, where he worked for four years. He then became a detective with the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Department for 12 years. Following his stint with the Kennebec County Sherriff’s Department, he worked for the Sabattus Police Department for seven years.

Winthrop Police Chief Ryan Frost, who worked with Turcotte in the 1980s, said the veteran taught him situational tactics that he still practices on the job today.

“Gil was always dependable, respectful, hardworking and had a sense of duty that drove him to take his job of protecting our community very seriously,” Frost said. “When Gil worked an investigation, he did it with a high level of detail and tenacity that is rarely seen and had a memory for detail that often left me in awe.”

His contributions to the community went far beyond his law enforcement service.

Turcotte’s wife, Dot, said her husband delivered meals to senior citizens in the Winthrop area. He also spent a good portion of his time advocating for local veterans through the American Legion, helping them receive benefits of which they may not have been aware.

“He was always helping out people,” Dot Turcotte said. “If he bumped into any veteran … he would turn around and (ask about their benefits).”

Frost said Gilbert Turcotte was involved in the Department of Agriculture’s FarmShare Program, where he helped elderly people in the area get fresh produce from local farms.

“Gil would spend countless hours at the police station making phone calls and organizing produce pickup and delivery,” Frost said.

Dot Turcotte said she and her husband adopted more than a dozen dogs from shelters, including some senior pets with little chance of being adopted. She recalled the ice storm in 1998, when the couple had adopted three new puppies and Gilbert was little help, as he was sick with the flu.

“I told him: ‘When you get better, I’m going to kill you,'” she laughed.

Frost also touched on Gilbert’s love of dogs, adding that he could often be seen walking five or six dogs at a time.

“As much as Gil worked hard to help people, I am pretty sure he loved animals more,” Frost said.

Dot Turcotte said her husband’s death has shown her how many people’s lives he has touched. She said that she has been receiving condolences from people she “didn’t know about” until now.

Gil Turcotte, left, examines an eagle-headed cane Jan. 22, 2018, which was presented to Roland Marquis in Hallowell for his distinguished military service. Turcotte, a retired U.S. Special Forces sergeant major who resides in Winthrop, commissioned the honorary walking stick adorned with awards of valor and meritorious service that Marquis received in the 24 years he served in the US Army. George Gunning, of Windsor, carved the cane, one of several thousand he has created veterans across the world. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy

Gilbert Turcotte was also involved in a project that bestowed Detachment A veterans with a custom “Eagle Cane,” made by Windsor-based woodworkers George and Donna Gunning. Each cane is individually carved to unique specifications and donated to the veteran at no charge. Dot Turcotte said Gilbert would always return from veterans functions with more orders for canes.

George Gunning, a non-combat veteran, called Gilbert Turcotte a “true hero.”

“We’ve met an awful lot of veterans,” he said. “He was my hero and I don’t talk like that very often.”

Dot Turcotte said she plans on holding a celebration of life for her husband after Thanksgiving, but has not yet confirmed the location.

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