Lado Lodoka, of New Gloucester, a leader in the South Sudanese community in Maine, died Saturday in a home explosion. Those who knew him described him as a compassionate, kind person who would help anyone. In this photo, taken in October, he was celebrating his 44th birthday. Photo courtesy of Molly McMahon

Lado Lodoka, the New Gloucester man killed Saturday in a home explosion, was remembered Sunday as a leader in Maine’s South Sudanese community who always offered a warm, infectious smile.

The 44-year-old father of four was always helping, always fixing things, said one of his close friends, Molly McMahon, of Portland.

“He was the most magnificent person you could meet,” McMahon said. “He was devoted to his four boys. He was the heart and soul of the community, and not just the Sudanese community. He made connections with everybody and anyone. He would drop everything to help anybody. He would drive older women in his community to a store two hours away so they could go shopping.”

Lodoka was killed Saturday in an explosion while working on an oil-fired burner in his home at 1342 Intervale Road. Public safety officials are still investigating the cause of the blast but said Saturday it is considered accidental. Members of Lodoka’s family were home at the time and made it out safely, according to Maine Public Safety spokesperson Shannon Moss.

At the time of his death, Lodoka was the board president of Cross Cultural Community Services and a leader in organizations that help immigrants, including the South Sudanese Community of Maine and the South Sudanese Group of Friends.

“Lado was kind. He loved everybody, supported everybody,” said Abeir Ibrahim, who first met Lodoka when he was a caseworker and they both worked for the City of Portland. “He volunteers for everything. When anything was needed, Lado would jump in and help out. He’s the go-to for everybody in this community. We lost a great person.”


According to Cross Cultural Community Services, Lodoka came to the United States as a refugee from southern Sudan in 1995. He lived with family in the Portland area and attended Portland High School. He then graduated from the University of Southern Maine with a degree in political science and went on to earn a master’s in development policy and practices from the University of New Hampshire.

He also served in the Army, friends said.

Lodoka worked at the Center for the Prevention of Hate as a cultural trainer and for the City of Portland’s Refugee Services program as a case manager before moving to Kansas in 2014. There, he worked for the Kansas Department for Children and Families as a regional refugee coordinator.

He returned to Maine in 2017 and worked as the program director for the Maine Citizens for Clean Elections and for the League of Women Voters of Maine.

As word of Lodoka’s death spread on Sunday, several Portland City Council members spoke with the Press Herald to remember Lodoka.

Councilor Pious Ali said Lodoka was a person of compassion who easily connected with others. He worked to help Maine become a place for all, Ali said, and his passing leaves a void that will be difficult to fill.


Councilor Regina Phillips said she knew Lodoka for years.

When Cross Cultural Community Services was created about five years ago, Lodoka was one of the first people asked to serve on the board.

“I got to know him as a friend and colleague,” Phillips said. “He was a strong community leader in the Sudanese community, and oh, my God, his smile is so infectious. His smile was so big – and his laughter.”

Friends said he was passionate about playing dominos with friends and was proud of his garden at home.

Phillips saw Lodoka on Thursday when he shared his plans for the weekend: a lot of basketball games his sons.

“I said, ‘You’re going to spend the entire weekend in the gym.’ He smiled and said, ‘Yep. That’s what I do.’ He was such a devoted father.”


Samuel Albino, of Portland, said he met Lodoka in 2004 after a fire in the community. As he watched Lodoka speak to others, Albino said it was obvious that Lodoka had leadership qualities. “People started to ask, ‘Who is that guy?’”

The two became friends and attended the University of New Hampshire together, he said. They were both leaders in the South Sudanese Group of Friends.

Just last week they were working on getting a van to help people without transportation get to medical appointments. “We had drivers lined up,” Albino said.

“He is a hard-working man of ideas,” Albino said. “If you call Lado for help, Lado will show up. He will talk, give ideas and especially to children. He empowers the young ones.”

The immigrant community that Lodoka did so much for is now helping Lodoka’s family, Albino said.

The New Gloucester home was badly damaged by the explosion in the basement area, but the home is not destroyed, he said.

Lodoka’s boys range in age from grade school to high school, Ibrahim said, and are with their mother in Portland.

“We’re here for bereavement” and will be there after to help the family, Albino said.

Because of a reporting error, this story was updated at 11 a.m. Dec. 5 to correct the spelling of the victim’s name. 

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