PORTLAND, Maine — Will Jodrie was always fixing things. In her last memory of him, granddaughter Heather Hilton can see him doing just that. She remembers him putting a battery in a toy train for her son, Noah, 2.
“They were sitting at my grandparents’ table and Gramps was fixing it,” she said. “He was a jack of all trades, a handyman, machinist, woodworker — he did it all. He could fix anything, and he fixed the trains.”
Jodrie died last Saturday at the age of 93. His family, including Gwendolyn, his wife of 67 years, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and one dog, chartered a special 10 a.m. train at the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad on Friday in his honor. They rode to the end of the line on the East End and scattered Jodrie’s ashes over the outgoing tide of Portland Harbor from the old train trestle.
Jodrie spent more than a decade volunteering at the railroad, repairing trains, building exhibits and laying the very tracks the locomotive rumbled over on his last ride. He wasn’t so much a train buff as he was a man who like working, being useful and setting things right.
His daughter, Deborah Hilton, remembers him packing his lunch and showing up every day, like it was a job, when he was in his 70s.
“He was a gentle guy. He was kind and caring and smart — analytical,” she said. “He could look at something and figure out how it worked, and figure out how to fix it, and fix it he did.”
She remembers him using a lathe to turn a wooden dowel for a toilet paper dispenser when it broke, instead of buying a new one. It took him three tries to get it right but he did it.
Jodrie spent his whole life in Riverton. He went to Thomas B. Reed Elementary School on Homestead Avenue, which sits a few blocks from his home on Sixth Street, where he lived for more than 50 years with Gwendolyn. They raised three children there. For more than 25 years, he walked a half-mile to work at Southworth Machine on Warren Avenue. He was never late and not once called in sick.
During World War II, he served aboard ship as a gunner’s mate and traveled to Australia and New Guinea. He loved baseball. He did two crossword puzzles a day, in pen.
His son Robert Jodrie said he also was great at giving directions in the city.
“He knew Portland. He’d say, ‘OK, what you want to do is … ’ off the top of his head,” Jodrie said. “He knew this city like nobody I’ve known.”
As Will Jodie’s ashes mingled with the waters of Portland Harbor, his two great-grandchildren played on a wooden replica of a train he helped build at the museum. Nearby, a sign announced the railroad’s upcoming move to Gray. When it leaves, the tracks Jodrie helped lay on Portland’s waterfront will eventually go with it.
“He was always there. He was constant,” Heather Hilton, his granddaughter, said. “You live in a world where things are always changing, pieces are always moving. He wasn’t. You could always count on him to be there.”