ELLSWORTH, Maine — A longtime sheriff’s deputy and then dispatcher for the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department died Saturday in Ellsworth.
Robert “Red Dog” Larson was 73 years old.
Larson, a New Jersey native and more recently an Aurora resident, started working for the Sheriff’s Department in 1954 as a part-time patrol deputy. He switched to a dispatcher’s post in 1982 and stayed there full time for the next 21 years, retiring as an evening dispatcher in 2003. He worked occasional dispatch shifts after his official retirement, stretching out his career with the Sheriff’s Department to surpass 50 years.
“He was there long before I was,” Bill Clark, who has served as Hancock County’s sheriff since January 1981, said Monday.
When Clark was elected sheriff, Larson and his brother Peter Larson were the regular patrol deputies for Route 9 in northern Hancock County, the sheriff recalled.
“Bob truly was a dedicated employee. He lived for the office,” Clark said. “We’re going to miss Bob a lot.”
When he retired in 2003, Larson told a daily newspaper reporter that he would not miss the 30-mile commute from his house, which sits on the Aurora-Great Pond town line, to the regional communications office in downtown Ellsworth.
“I’m tired of driving back and forth, especially in the winter,” Larson said at the time. “I’m just going to hunt and fish and do whatever my grandkids want to do.”
Larson recalled in the interview that his most tense moment on the job was in 1999 when someone called to tip off police that Richard Burdick, a Massachusetts man wanted for rape, was hiding out in Orland. Four deputies went to apprehend Burdick, who shot one of them. The deputy was wearing a bulletproof vest and was not seriously injured.
“It was just before I was about to leave [to go home at the end of my shift],” Larson told the reporter. “That was probably the most tense situation I’ve been in.”
According to a paid obituary in Monday’s Bangor Daily News, Larson moved to northern Hancock County, following his older brothers Arthur and Peter Larson, immediately after graduating high school in New Jersey. He worked at Birches Hunting & Fishing Camps Lodge and later operated Larson Bros. Garage on Route 9 before working full time for the Sheriff’s Department. Larson counted three dogs and his two grandsons among his most faithful companions and is survived by two daughters, a sister-in-law and several nieces and nephews, according to the obituary.
Sheriff Clark said Monday that he saw “Red Dog” not too long ago, when they teamed up to play in a horseshoes tournament.
Clark said he felt that Larson’s death marks the passing of an era.
“Today is my 60th birthday, and I’m feeling melancholy about my age,” Clark said. “I’m going to miss Bob.”