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Lado Lodoka, killed in New Gloucester boiler explosion, remembered as tireless community advocate

Lado Lodoka, 44, was killed in a boiler explosion at his New Gloucester home
Democracy Maine
Democracy Maine
Lado Lodoka, 44, was killed in a boiler explosion at his New Gloucester home on Saturday. Those who knew Lodoka said they often turned to him for advice - and that he was always quick to smile and laugh.

The death of the 44-year-old community advocate, killed in a home boiler explosion in New Gloucester Saturday, sent a wave of shock and grief through the many networks he had touched. Lodoka is being remembered as a dedicated father, a tireless voice for immigrant communities, and a source of trusted advice to friends and colleagues.

Those who knew him said Lodoka had a seemingly endless passion for civic engagement in immigrant communities, cultivating vegetables from his native South Sudan, and more, all while caring for and supporting his four children.

As of Monday evening,a fundraiser to cover funeral expenses had raised over $23,000.

State Rep. Deqa Dhalac of South Portland said Lodoka's approach to life was guided by a sharp, methodical intellect.

"Whatever he is involved in, he made sure that he said what's on his mind," she said. "His advice, his wisdom, is always based on honesty."

Dhalac said that honesty, combined with a deep sense of compassion, made Lodoka a sought-after source of guidance.

"I think that is one of the unique things that he had, was just to make everybody feel that they belong, that they can succeed in life," she said.

When Portland city councilor Regina Phillips was first considering running for office, she too sought advice from her friend Lodoka. Phillips said she was looking for a simple yes or no answer on whether she should run — but that Lodoka's advice was never that simple.

"He's like, 'I'm not going to tell you, you've got to figure this out on your own,'" Phillips remembered him saying.

"He said, 'I can make you think about this, I can tell you that it's going to be hard. You're gonna have to make very difficult decisions. And are you ready for that?' And I was like, 'Lado, I just wanted you to say yes or no,'" Phillips recalled, with a laugh.

Lado Lodoka, left,
Democracy Maine
Lado Lodoka, left, was known for his civic engagement work, including voter canvassing with the League of Women Voters.

Lodoka was also known for his dedication to bringing people together and encouraging civic engagement, as evidenced by his work with the nonpartisan League of Women Voters of Maine from 2018 to 2022.

Anna Kellar, the group's executive director, said Lodoka pioneered a new canvassing program, Neighbor to Neighbor, that was focused on residents of affordable housing developments.

"And Lado's idea was that we needed to knock on every door and talk to whoever we met, you know, whoever was behind that door, because whether they were a citizen yet, or whether they had ever been a voter, it was gonna be worthwhile to talk to those people," Kellar said, adding that this program continues today.

Lodoka's friends said he also had a competitive streak that often emerged during spirited domino games with Dhalac, Phillips, and others.

"Lado and Deqa would literally get into it every single time," Phillips recalled, chuckling. "And he would bang the [domino] chip on the table. And every single time Deqa was like, 'Do you really have to be that dramatic?' And she would accuse him of cheating, every single time, no matter what," she said. "It was just a riot, the rest of us would just sit back and just laugh."

Lado Lodoka, right, was know for his dedication to civic engagement, and for his warm smile.
Democracy Maine
Lado Lodoka, right, was know for his dedication to civic engagement, and for his warm smile.

Another interest of Lodoka's was housing policy. As a leader in the Maine Immigrant Housing Coalition, Lodoka was known for helping immigrants, including Abeir Ibrahim, through the homebuying process.

"Two years ago, I bought my house in Portland, and I had no clue what I was doing," Ibrahim said. "Lado was with me every step of the way."

Ibrahim said at the urging of his friends, Lodoka got his real estate license last month.

Ibrahim said whether Lodoka was driving elderly community members to medical appointments, caring for his children, or helping his friends with home repairs, his guiding star was serving others.

And she said his loss leaves an irreparable hole.

"He supported everybody in the community," she said. "It's a huge loss for every immigrant in the state of Maine."