Thomas Dyer, a parks maintainer for the South Portland Parks, Recreation and Waterfront Department, died Jan. 1 from complications of acute pancreatitis. He was 50.

Mr. Dyer was remembered last week as a good man who loved his family and community and had a passion for the outdoors.

Thomas Dyer in a family photo

In 2017, Mr. Dyer accepted a dream job of caring for the city’s parks, trails, and green spaces. He mowed the parks, planted bulbs, did tree work and helped with many beautification projects. In the winter months, he plowed.

“He did a little bit of everything to help improve the quality of the parks in the city,” said Karl Coughlin, interim director of the department. “There was no one better than Tom. He was such a loving, caring and hard-working person. He really had a passion for the work he did. He took great pride and great joy in caring for the parks. He was a fantastic employee. He will be very, very missed.”

Mr. Dyer had strong roots in the city. He was a 1988 graduate of South Portland High School.
According to his obituary, he had worked in human resources, as well as facilities and warehouse management, for Sweetser, Cuddledown and Pierce Promotions.

He was a loving husband of Deb Dyer for 24 years. The couple lived in South Portland, where they raised two children Zachary, 21, and Emily, 18, a 2020 graduate of South Portland High School.

He was remembered by his wife on Thursday as a strong, kind and down-to-earth man who always looked out for family and friends. She said if someone needed help, he was quick to offer it.

“He had a truck. Every so often, a neighbor would call and need some assistance hauling something to the dump,” his wife said. “He was just that helpful kind of person.”

She reflected Thursday on their life together, noting his devotion to her and their children. She said he was an assistant Scout master for Boy Scout Troop 37 in South Portland and had fun helping to lead his son’s troop. She said he was also a proud dance dad, who was always present at his daughter’s recitals.

“He always had words of advice for them,” she said. “He was well-read. He was up on political and current events and liked to engage with the kids and share his opinions on things. He always had a great sense of humor.”

Deb Dyer said her husband loved spending time at their camp at Moosehead Lake. He enjoyed hiking, kayaking, hunting, boating, and cooking over the fire pit he built.

“We wanted to enjoy some of our retirement there in 10 years, together,” she said. “It was a fun place to go as a family. We would host lots of friends. They grew to love it as much as we did.”

Mr. Dyer had a creative spirit. His wife recalled the day he rescued a broken canoe and made a little roadside sign. She said one year for Christmas he made her a coffee table from a toboggan he bought at Goodwill. She said he incorporated pictures from camp on the top of the table.

“When you look down, you’re looking at family pictures of us around the campfire and out in kayaks,” Deb Dyer said. “It was really sweet, really thoughtful. … We had a fantastic life together. I was really looking forward to celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary this summer. He was a really good husband. He was my best friend.”

In August, Mr. Dyer was hospitalized from complications relating to gallstones. His wife said he had a procedure but developed pancreatitis, which wreaked havoc on his organs. He spent 19 weeks in the hospital and she couldn’t visit him for the past month because of COVID-19 precautions. She said her family is devastated.

“He was such a fighter. He didn’t want to leave us,” she said. “I feel cheated. It was hard enough to go through my daughter’s senior year of high school and all those things she and her friends didn’t get to do. She missed out. We missed out. It’s been a hellacious year. It really has been.”

She added: “I’ll miss those quiet, special times, conversations and big warm hugs. He had kind of a reassuring protective way about him. I always felt safe and secure. I always felt good with Tom.”

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