Ronald L. Grondin Sr., an accomplished mechanic and longtime owner of Village Center Auto Care in Scarborough, died on Nov. 17. He was 74.

Mr. Grondin was remembered by his family Wednesday as a hard-working mechanic and self-made man.

Mr. Grondin grew up on Willowdale Road in Scarborough next to Willowdale Golf Club. As a young man, he mowed the fairways and greens and helped his father build the back nine holes. He developed a strong work ethic that lasted throughout his career as a mechanic, landscaper, carpenter and jack of all trades.

Ronald Grondin

In 1974, he went to work at the former Shell station at Oak Hill as head mechanic. In 1976, he established Scarborough Exxon Service Center at Oak Hill as an Exxon dealer, and he purchased the property from Exxon in 1993 and established Village Center Auto Care, which remains a family business.

Mr. Grondin was regarded as an honest and knowledgeable mechanic who had high standards and charged fair prices. His son Jeremy Grondin became a mechanic and worked with him for many years.

“He was so accomplished with everything,” his son said. “I was working underneath a car a minute ago here and it made me think of how he could be so patient. Sometimes, working on vehicles … it’s not easy. It’s very tight quarters. He took the time to get it right. He had patience. I’m inspired to be like my dad, hardworking and a jack of all trades.”

Mr. Grondin retired in 2009 but remained active in the family business after his son Jeremy took over as head mechanic. Mr Grondin’s wife, Pamela Grondin, co-owns the business and manages the store and gasoline sales. Another son, Matthew Grondin of South Portland, works at the store.

Pamela Grondin said her husband was well-liked and respected in the community.

“It’s a family business. It’s always been,” she said. “People used to say, ‘How can you guys all work together and still get along?’ It just worked. We … love each other. We like each other, too.”

Mr. Grondin had five children, three sons and two daughters. He his wife were married for 45 years and built a life together on Holmes Road. She said that in their early years, they traveled to Canada, Hawaii and Aruba.

Mr. Grondin had a lifelong passion for the outdoors, and enjoyed landscaping and working in his garden. He also loved spending time at the family camp – he made two trips a year with friends to fish and hunt, his wife said.

“He was an avid outdoorsman,” his wife said. “He only came home with a deer once. I always asked him, ‘just how hard did you hunt?’ I think he just preferred being out there and he loved the camaraderie.”

Mr. Grondin was also remembered for his passion for cars, especially fast ones. He had a 1962 Corvette in which he installed a 427 cubic inch engine with a four-speed transmission that once reached 163 mph.

He also owned a 1966 Triumph 650 cc motorcycle that he took to Canada on vacation in the late 1960’s. Later in life, he and his son Jeremy restored a 1951 International Farmall Cub tractor.

“There’s a picture of me as a kid down at my grandfather’s house sitting on it,” said his son. “It meant the world to me to be able to do that with him.”

In retirement, Mr. Grondin built a barn on his property with help from his son. Inside, he built a separate space for woodworking projects. Jeremy Grondin said his father hired someone to frame the space and they finished the project together. He said his father was so proud of it.

“There was nothing dad couldn’t do from automotive, to carpentry to landscaping,” his son said. “I’d always say to him, ‘you worked a lot of years to have what you have, Dad.’ ”

Jeremy Grondin said he rebuilt much of his wife’s car engine the weekend before his father died, and showed his father pictures of his work.

“He said, ‘Wow, that’s a lot of work. Nice job,’ ” Jeremy said. “I said ‘thank you for teaching me how to do those things Dad.’ I’ll miss working with him.”

His son Matthew said Wednesday that his father was always there to offer advice or help with projects.

“It’s going to be hard for a while,” he said.

Mr. Grondin died peacefully on Nov. 17 at home in his sleep. His wife choked up Wednesday as she contemplated life without him. She said they were best friends.

“I’m having my moments. I had to sign his death certificate today,” she said, breaking down in tears. “I adored the man. I could get so mad at him I could chew nails, but I loved him. The hardest thing will be going home to an empty house.”


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