Dick Willette, director of soup kitchen downtown, dies at 83

Dick Willette Sr., a man who spent decades of his life in service of others, died suddenly and unexpectedly on Sunday, October 30 at the age of 83 of an apparent heart attack. The Morning Sentinel reported that, according to his wife, Gloria Beaulieu-Willette, he had talked a lot about dying during the days leading up to his death.

Willette was the director of the Sacred Heart Soup Kitchen in Waterville for 20 years, and was a 36 year volunteer there, according to the Sentinel. The soup kitchen, which opened in 1980 ensures that people in need have hot meals five days a week.

Born in Shawmut, Maine on June 11, 1933, Willette was the former owner of Chase Fuel Company in Winslow for over 52 years. He cooked the meals for those in need on Tuesdays and Thursdays until his death. 

Willette’s death came just two days before he hoped to announce his retirement from Sacred Heart and find a replacement. In an interview with The Portland Press Herald, Willette said, “I’ve worked all my life and I just feel it’s time,” in regards to his retirement. He was planning on travelling with his wife following his transition out of work. 

Paul McDonald, a 22-year volunteer, called Willette “highly respected” among the volunteers, but insisted that “somebody’s going to step up” and keep the kitchen running. 

Nick Isgro, Mayor of Waterville, commented on Willette’s spirit of community to the Sentinel: “He lived each day in the service of his fellow man, and I think every one of us can stop and take a moment to reflect on his life and how we can honor Dick and his life and do the same.”

Just four years ago, Willette’s prized soup kitchen nearly went under because it was in poor financial shape, but a donation campaign following a story in the Sentinel kept the business alive. Now, the soup kitchen, located on 72 Pleasant Street, operates out of the basement of The Sacred Heart Church five days a week.

Willette’s charitable ways were not limited to the soup kitchen, however, as Beaulieu-Willette explained, “He donated to every charity.” Through the years, he also served as President of the Waterville Humane Society, and was a member of the Elks Lodge, Lions Club, and Rome Grange. Because of this generous spirit, Beaulieu-Willette claimed, “Everywhere we went, there were people who knew him.” 

His funeral was last Thursday, November 3 at the Sacred Heart Church.  He had visiting hours in the Gallant’s Funeral Home on Elm Street the Tuesday and Wednesday leading up to the service. 

Willette is survived by his wife, his two sons, his sister, several grandchildren and great grandchildren, and numerous friends and admirers.