One in a series of occasional portraits of people COVID-19 has taken from us.

Donald Perreault was afraid to get sick with COVID-19 and with good reason.

Perreault, 71, was a Marine Corps veteran who served in Vietnam and was exposed to Agent Orange, an herbicide linked to conditions that can increase the risk of complications from the coronavirus. So he wore a mask and didn’t venture out needlessly. He washed his hands frequently and used hand sanitizer.

Donald Perreault, in a family photo

Three days after Christmas, his wife, Susan Perreault, tested positive for COVID-19. That same week, Donald Perreault began showing symptoms of coronavirus. She got better. He got worse.

On Jan. 3, Donald Perreault was transported to Maine Medical Center in Portland, where he spent nearly a month on a ventilator. He died on Feb. 4.

“We did everything we were supposed to do,” his wife said. “Something went wrong. I don’t know. … He didn’t deserve this. All I know is I wish this didn’t happen. I wish this didn’t happen to anyone.”

Perreault grew up in Saco, the oldest of six children. He attended Thornton Academy and enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1969. He proudly served two years during the Vietnam War. He later earned his GED.

After he left the Marines, he spent 30 years working as a welder and pipe fitter at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.

He was a loving husband to his first wife, Nancy Perreault, for 36 years. The couple lived in Lyman and raised two children, Kelynda Johnson of Limington; and Tyson Perreault of Boston. Nancy Perreault died in 2006 after battling stage 4 colon cancer.

Donald Perreault and his daughter

In a phone interview on Friday, Johnson talked about her father’s fight with COVID-19, how he was on a ventilator for a month at Maine Medical Center and his family couldn’t see him.

On the day he died, Johnson, Tyson Perreault and Susan Perreault dressed in personal protective equipment and spent an hour with him to say goodbye. Johnson said it was a difficult decision to have her father removed from the ventilator.

“I know in my heart it was the right decision. It was horrible, but it was the right decision,” Johnson said. “I’m grieving my own loss, but mostly I just feel so terrible for what he had to go through. He was alone with nobody next to him. It’s a nightmare. He was such a great guy. He was really loved by so many people. For him to have to go through that, it just stings.”

Perreault was remembered Friday as a loving husband and father who worked hard to provide for his family.

“He was a stoic, proud man,” Johnson said. “My brother and I never wanted for anything growing up.”

Perreault shared his passion for the outdoors with his children. He enjoyed hunting, fishing, ice fishing and riding ATV’s.

Donald Perreault and his wife, Susan, both tested positive soon after Christmas.

“We had a great childhood,” his daughter said. “We didn’t do fancy things. We didn’t go to Disneyland. We didn’t do things like that. My parents were hard-working people. We would always go to the White Mountains. We did Saco River trips, canoe trips all the time. We did outdoor things … four wheelers. We were outdoor people.”

Perreault was devastated following his first wife’s death. He was married briefly for a second time. Then he met his third wife, Susan Perreault, a native of Queens in New York City. Johnson said they met through the dating website eharmony.

His wife laughed Thursday recalling their first conversation and meeting him for the first time.

“He called me and I couldn’t understand him. He couldn’t understand me either,” she said, noting her thick New York accent. “It was so funny in the beginning. He was very quiet. He spoke when he had something to say and he married a chatter box. You couldn’t imagine two people more opposite. It was great in that sense.”

The couple married in 2012 and lived in Limington. She reflected on their life together, saying he was an honorable man. She choked up when recalling how he also took in her teenage son who has autism.

“He was so sweet and thoughtful,” his wife said. “He was so shy. He was unassuming. He courted me for two years. He was so romantic.”

She loved him, and he took good care of her, his wife said.

“I know I’m going to see him again,” she said. “I have no doubts about that. I just can’t stand the fact that he’s not here now.”

Note: This article was updated Feb. 23 to clarify a reference to Agent Orange, which was an herbicide.

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