Herve Gendreau, former chief with the Lewiston Police Department, rides a three-wheeler on Park St. in 1960 as part of the department’s traffic division. Gendreau died Friday. He was 88. (Submitted photo)


LEWISTON — Herve Gendreau, the former chief of the Lewiston Police Department and a longtime Lewiston Public Works employee, was remembered by family and friends Tuesday for his “zest for life,” the love he had for his wife and kids and his passion for music.

Gendreau died Friday, March 1, at the Androscoggin Hospice House. He was 88.

Known as “333,” a reference to his call sign with the Public Works radio, or “the Chief,” Gendreau spent nearly 50 years working for the city of Lewiston.

After serving in the U.S. Army during the Korean War as a corporal in the Ordinance Corps, he was hired by the Lewiston Police Department in 1954 and worked his way up the ranks before retiring as chief in 1984.

After that, he worked for the Lewiston Public Works department for 19 years, serving as traffic supervisor.

Gendreau’s three daughters – Denise Zdobnikow, Diane Humphrey and Kathleen Anderson – said their father’s generosity was “unmatched.”

Anderson said that he showed his generosity in a variety of ways, whether it was something as simple as providing a Dixie cup filled with quarters for them to pay the tolls while driving back to college or filling up their gas tanks before they left.

“He always gave you an abundance of what you wanted,” Anderson said. “If you said you wanted a box of cereal, he’d come back with three or four boxes. When we’d go to the fair, he’d buy us more tickets than we knew what to do with, and we’d have free rein for hours.”

Humphrey said that one of her favorite memories of her father was when he sang “You Are My Sunshine” to them on his guitar.

“We would sing along with him and he’d play the guitar and sing, too,” Humphrey said. “I used to love that.”

Lt. David St. Pierre with the Lewiston Police Department said he had known Gendreau since St. Pierre was in the first grade and went to school with his youngest daughter.

“Herve retired in 1984, so I never had the chance to work with him, but I lived close by and got to know him and his family pretty well,” St. Pierre said. “I always knew him to be a caring, compassionate man with a real zest for life.”

St. Pierre said Gendreau “became kind of a legend around here,” especially to the older officers.

“He was a pretty special person,” St. Pierre continued. “He was a prominent figure with the Lewiston Police Department. He devoted countless hours of his own time to the community and was devoted to his family.”

Janelle Turcotte, Gendreau’s niece and god-daughter, said that Gendreau was a “very memorable person” with a “great personality.”

Turcotte said her father died  when she was 18 years old and that over the years, Gendreau and his wife, Leola, “were always there for me.”

“I had an illness when I was younger, and when my father was working and not able to bring me, Herve would drive me to my appointment, even when it was three hours away and out of state,” Turcotte said.

“When I got married, Herve gave me away at my wedding. He really stepped up for me.”

“I was going through old photographs of him, and he always had a guitar in his hand,” Anderson said. “He would play guitar, play the harmonica and sing all at once. I saw one photo where he was sitting on a horse and holding a guitar at the same time. Music meant so much to him.”

Bob Langlais of Lewiston said that in the 1950s, Gendreau would “get a group of different local musicians and perform at different church events for seniors.”

“(Herve) would go out and call his friends who played violin, drums, accordion and other instruments, and even though they had never played together, they’d jam for hours,” Langlais said.

Langlais said Gendreau was a pioneer in the Lewiston and Auburn area for French, Cajun and Zydeco music.

“He did a good job of keeping the interest in that kind of music alive,” Langlais said.

Many who knew Gendreau recounted how he would often keep an unlit cigar in his mouth and would carry several more on him to offer people, whether they smoked or not.

“They were the same cigars all the time: Dutch Masters Presidents,” Anderson said. “He didn’t like the fancy, expensive ones. He loved his Dutch Masters.

“When he first met our husbands, he offered them one, even though they didn’t smoke. We told them, ‘This is just what he does.’”

“I remember once, as a young officer, I stopped to talk with him on the street, and he offered me one,” St. Pierre said. “I told him I didn’t smoke, but he always made sure to offer one to people.”

Steve Damien, who worked with Gendreau for several years in the Public Works Department, recalled how Gendreau was once hit by a car on the job and was knocked unconscious.

“I remember that the paramedics came over to him laying on the ground after he had been hit, and he still had a cigar hanging from his mouth,” Damien said. “They had to throw it to the side before taking care of him.”

Gendreau’s daughters said it has been enlightening to learn about how much of an impact their father had on others, whether it was co-workers, friends or random people he interacted with while working with the Police Department or Public Works.

“He was a man of few words, but he really showed how much he cared for people with his actions,” Zdobnikow said. “They don’t make men like him anymore.”

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