LINCOLN, Maine — William T. Gardner, founder of a well-known trucking and logging company in Maine, died in Florida on Wednesday. He was 74.
Gardner was with family and friends when he died in Redington Beach, according to a Florida newspaper report. His down-to-earth, unassuming and courteous personality and his contributions to town life will be missed, Town Manager William Lawrence said.
“I just remember him being extremely friendly and helpful,” Lawrence said Friday. “In the few occasions he met with me over the last few years, he always offered [to see] if there was anything he could do to help. With me, he was always concerned. ‘How are you doing?’ he would always say.
“He has so many contributions to this region,” Lawrence added, “based on the families he has helped out and the people he employed. I couldn’t begin to list for you all the things he has done for Lincoln.”
Gardner’s body will be flown to Lincoln for a funeral service at 1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 25, at the Mattanawcook Academy gymnasium, according to an official at W.T. Gardner and Sons of Lincoln. Friends also may call upon the family at the academy gymnasium from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 24, the obituary states.
According to an obituary published Friday in the Tampa Bay Times, Gardner began an enterprise that eventually included several logging, trucking and chip mill facilities when he bought his first dump truck and began building gravel roads after his graduation from the academy in 1957.
According to his obituary, Gardner moved the majority of his business from Lincoln to a truck garage on the Golden Road outside Millinocket in the 1970s. His company hauled wood for the old Great Northern Paper Co. of Millinocket and East Millinocket for many years, diversifying into chip mills in Dolby, Chester and Houlton starting in the 1990s.
The company relocated to Lincoln in that decade and has remained there since.
An official at the company office in Lincoln said that Gardner’s sons, Scott and Tom, who now help oversee the company, were out of state.
Lincoln Town Council Vice Chairman Curt Ring recalled Gardner as a good neighbor who initiated or supported his family’s local philanthropy, a trend continued by Gardner’s sons.
The elder Gardner helped build what is now Dale Curry Field at Mattanawcook Academy as a subcontractor in the mid-1970s.
The company built other fields for the town for free, including a Little League baseball field at the Hannaford Supermarket on West Broadway and a softball field at Ella Burr School. The company also cleared roads to the proposed recreation center land off Route 6 in 2009, another volunteer effort.
“Bill’s is an iconic name in Lincoln,” Ring said. “A town doesn’t like to lose a man like that, a man that others look up to for their generosity toward organizations in town.”
Besides running several logging and trucking operations, Gardner was a landowner in the forest products industry for many years. On occasion his activities were of concern to some conservationists. Some accused him of “liquidation harvesting,” buying timber land only to harvest it heavily, then sell it for development — an accusation he denied.
Those worries increased when Gardner’s company bought several thousand acres just east of Baxter State Park in 2003. However, conservationists hailed a 24,400-acre land swap between Gardner and preservationist and Burt’s Bees millionaire Roxanne Quimby, according to a BDN article on the swap in 2005. The Gardners said that they balanced environmental, business and sportsmen’s interests with the deal.
The swap left Gardner’s logging businesses with 14,000 acres of Township 5 Range 8 northeast of the Penobscot River’s East Branch, land already bisected with logging roads and good wood crops. Quimby received 10,400 acres of Township 4 Range 8 northeast of the environmentally fragile and less accessible Wassataquoik Stream, which is east of a Baxter State Park border and therefore in line with her goals of protecting the park and areas around it.