William DelMonaco Sr.,1926-2013
William Peter DelMonaco Sr. was a “hands-on kind of guy,” a working style that served him well in his chosen career of construction. He took up that career up when he moved north from Rhode Island to Calais, Maine with his brothers Edmund and Nicholas to take jobs in their uncle Tommy DiCenzo’s construction company, Thomas Dicenzo Inc., a third generation general contractor and crane service founded in the early 1930s. The family firm has offices in Calais and Hermon.
DelMonaco was born March 7, 1926, in Providence, Rhode Island, the son of Pietro and Maria Maddalena (DiCenzo) DelMonaco. He attended Nathaniel Greene Jr. High School and graduated from Mount Pleasant High School in Providence, Rhode Island. On May 27, 1947, he married the love of his life, Phoebe Saunders.
DelMonaco worked in construction for 71 years before retiring, all for his uncle Tommy’s construction firm, which eventually he and his brothers took charge of. Each of the brothers focused on a different aspect of the company’s operations. Edmund ran the office. Nicholas oversaw the shop and kept the equipment running. William spent the majority of his time on the road, serving as superintendent on many of the company’s jobs. That was right where he liked to be – outside building things and solving the problems that constantly come up on a job site, whether it was fixing a piece of equipment that had broken down or working with crews and engineers to make a road project come to life.
“My father loved being out on the job,” remembered DelMonaco’s son and successor Bill DelMonaco.
During that time, he helped construct some of Maine’s landmark infrastructure. One of the very first jobs he worked on for his uncle was the Quoddy Dam project, a U.S. Works Project Administration job and early tidal energy generation project designed by hydroelectric engineer Dexter Cooper. He also helped construct of the dry docks at the West Yard of the New England Shipbuilding Corporation in South Portland during the years leading up to World War II. That was where more than 30,000 Mainers were employed and where 236 Liberty cargo ships – the ocean going workhorses of the war – were built. He also worked on construction of airstrips at Houlton and Dublois.
The war years
William was very patriotic, and he joined the war effort, as well, taking a break from construction to serve in the Tank Corps under General George Patton from 1944 until the end of World War II in 1945. He was tapped for the Tank Corps, because he was good with machinery, and DelMonaco traveled from Fort Dix, New Jersey, to Le Havre, France and then on to Germany where his unit met up with General Patton’s Third Army on the Rhine River.
He often talked with family and friends about his experiences in the service and the support of the German people showed for the American soldiers stationed there during the war. DelMonaco was proud to have served his country and for helping to free the German people from the horrors of Hitler’s oppression.
On the ‘Airline’
After the war, DelMonaco went back to work with his brothers at the family firm. He worked on utility and road projects throughout the state, including construction of Maine’s network of interstate highways. He also headed up job site operations on the construction of many sections of Route 9 – Maine’s famous “Airline” highway connecting Bangor to Calais and a major trucking route for the timber and paper industries.
“Dad must have built two-thirds of that road. He loved state jobs and being out with the state engineers solving problems on the job,” recounted his son Bill.
Throughout his career, William followed a philosophy of efficiency and hard work shaped by his early years growing up during the Depression.
“He instilled in us that you had to go out and do good work and do it once, because you can’t afford to go back and do it again,” remembered Bill. “He believed in doing everything as best as you can and as quickly as you can.”
He also warned his children and grandchildren to save and be ready for tough times. “He often said that ‘Bad days are coming,’ so we better be ready for them,’” said Bill.
William enjoyed being with family and friends, and he particularly loved family vacations in Florida, where he could swim and soak up the sun. He was an avid sports fan and enjoyed following the Boston Celtics and the Red Sox.
He was always ready to help anyone with a project and would gladly volunteer his time when a friend or a family member asked. DelMonaco was a communicant of Immaculate Conception Church. He was a member of the Knights of Columbus, American Legion, the Maine Better Transportation Association and AGC Maine. Along with his brothers, he was a very loyal member of MBTA, and frequently attended regional meetings, particularly those in Washington County. He remained close with his brothers, seeing them daily and often invited friends, family and business associates to join the fun.
“Almost every day he and his brothers would go to the Irving Big Stop at the end of Route 9 in Baileyville and the Wickachee in Calais. They would also go every Friday to Bangor for lunch at Miller’s to meet the lawyer, Gerald Rudman, Miller’s owner, Sonny Miller, their old investigator Bucky Buchanan and whoever might be able to break free,” recalled William’s grandson Tony DelMonaco. “Those guys never had a dull moment, and it usually revolved around food!” he added.
One of his favorite pastimes was working to restore three early 20th century Mack fire engines he and his brothers purchased and transported from Baltimore.
He was very involved with the St. Croix No. 1 Firehouse Restoration Committee and well known to the group as a tireless worker, helping to recruit local support and raise funds for a museum at the 1874 Calais firehouse. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places.
His wife, his parents, his sister, Anna Drew and several brothers- and sisters-in-law predeceased him. William is survived by his sons, William and his wife, Jane; Chris and his girlfriend, Brenda; grandsons Anthony and his girlfriend, Dr. Jennifer Robichaud; Joshua and his wife, Caroline; Benjamin and his girlfriend, Ashley Billips; brothers Nicholas Sr. and his wife, Geraldine; Edmund Sr. and his wife, Margaret; Peter and his wife, Irene; godson Dr. John DelMonaco; goddaughter Donna Geel; brother-in-law, Gary Saunders; and many nieces and nephews.
Donations in William’s name may be made to the St. Croix No. 1 Firehouse Restoration, P.O. Box 605, Calais or the Calais Free Library, 9 Union Street, Calais.