By Mark E. Vogler
---- — METHUEN — The birthday cards Bill Lasonde’s three grandchildren made sat in a neat stack last night, ready for him to read tomorrow, when he would have turned 63. But Lasonde will never read those cards.
The network administrator in the city’s IT Department died of injuries he received Friday night from a car crash in Portsmouth, N.H.
“He always looked forward to the cards the kids made. He loved them more than anything,” Diane Lasonde said of the special children’s artwork that her husband won’t get to enjoy anymore.
New Hampshire state police said Lasonde was driving north on Interstate 95 shortly before 10 p.m. when his 2006 Chevrolet HHR veered off the right side of the highway, hit a guardrail and rolled over several times before landing in the median strip between the roadway and the Exit 5 off ramp.
Lasonde was ejected from the vehicle. He was taken to Portsmouth Regional Hospital, where he later died of his injuries. The crash remains under investigation.
Meanwhile, Lasonde’s death hit close to home — not just for family — but also for city employees at the Searles Building, where Lasonde has worked for the past 17 years. His wife Diane has also been a fixture in city government too. She’s been secretary to the Methuen City Council for 14 years.
Former Methuen Mayor William Manzi, who worked closely with Lasonde for more than six years, said Lasonde was well-liked.
“It’s obviously shocking,” Manzi said. “He was a real gentlemen, a good man, a hard worker. This is a terrible loss. You couldn’t ask for a finer person.”
As family members gathered at the kitchen table of Lasonde’s home last night, they told stories about the loving husband, father and grandfather whose main passion in life, second only to family, was baseball and umpiring.
“He would tell us he was responsible for the safety of the players when he was behind the plate,” his son Timothy, 36, of Methuen, recalled of his dad.
“My father was a catcher when he played baseball in the Little League. So, he loved to help young catchers. He wanted to be a teacher of the game and umpiring was one of the things that kept him going,” he said.
Lasonde was an umpire for more than 20 years, officiating mostly in high school and Babe Ruth League games. For several years, he had traveled to Cooperstown, New York — home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame — where he would spend a week with a handful of other umpire buddies officiating special tournament games.
“When our boys were no longer playing baseball, that’s when he got involved in umpiring. He just wanted to be active because he just loved the game,” Diane said of her husband of 40 years.
“He always had an involvement that kept him in the game, first as a player, then as a coach and later as an umpire. He was already looking ahead to April when they start playing,” she said.
Lasonde was born in Lawrence, where he grew up and graduated from Lawrence High School in 1967. He was a U.S. Navy veteran who was stationed in Norfolk, Va. He received his bachelor’s degree from UMass-Lowell in 1979.
Besides his wife and son, Timothy, Lasonde leaves behind two other children: Bethany, 32, of Rio Linda, Calif.; and Michael, 32, of Knightdale, N.C.; his three grandchildren; and a 12-year-old Australian shepherd, named Kansas.
“His grandchildren loved to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ for him, open his presents and make him cards,” Diane said.
“He loved his grandchildren and really enjoyed family. He could talk to anybody. He just got a long with everybody. He was well-liked,” she said.
Lasonde loved to putter around the house with various projects, including rebuilding the family home on Bridgham Street.
“He basically rebuilt the house three times. It was a two bedroom ranch when he bought it. Now it’s a 4-bedroom colonial,” Timothy said.
“My father liked to fix stuff. We were in the process of rebuilding an old motorcycle. He was in the process of helping me with that,” he said.
Lasonde was also an avid golfer, and had promised to one day buy his wife a set of golf clubs and teach her the finer points of the game.
“He was good. He would consistently shoot in the 80s,” Timothy said.
Hitting the beach was another favorite past time for Lasonde.
“He loved going to Rye Beach. I would get as dark as chocolate and he was as white as a marshmallow. He also loved to go to Aruba. When we got back, people would ask ‘Where you people on the same vacation?’ “ Diane said.
She said her husband had planned to retire in another three years and had a lot of big plans.
As passionate as he was about baseball, the Boston Red Sox never were his team. In a house full of diehard Red Sox fans, Lasonde’s allegiance was to the rival New York Yankees. He also took pride in wearing a Yankees cap.
Diane admired his umpiring skills, stressing that his priorities were to be always “be fair and safe.”
“He was good. He knew the rules and he was not combative, just always so professional,” she said.
Diane said she enjoyed going to the ball park on a nice day to watch her husband umpire. She recalled sitting in the stands a few years ago at a game when some parents who weren’t so pleased with the officiating because their team was losing asked which player her son was.
She pointed to Lasonde and told them “I’m the umpire’s wife,” she recalled.