OLD TOWN, ME (AP) Herbert E. Sargent, a college dropout who founded the H.E. Sargent Construction Co. 80 years ago with a used dump truck he bought for $75 and saw it develop into a business with annual sales of up to $100 million, has died at age 100.
Sargent, who celebrated his birthday two months ago, died April 9 at his home in the village of Stillwater, next to his company’s headquarters.
“You’d think he wanted to get to his 100th birthday and call it good,” his grandson, Herbert R. Sargent, said.
The company Sargent founded has more than 300 employees and has participated in projects in 17 eastern states from Maine to South Carolina.
“Herb E. Sargent is the definition of a Maine entrepreneur,” Gov. John Baldacci said in a statement. “Beyond being a smart businessman, Herb E. was extremely generous to the Old Town-Orono community. He had a big heart.”
An Alton native, Sargent enrolled at the University of Maine to study chemical engineering but dropped out early in his sophomore year because of health problems.
He had helped haul gravel for a campus construction project that summer and decided to return to trucking work and construction. His company won defense contracts to build runways during World War II and later built parts of the new interstate highway system in Maine, including the Maine Turnpike.
H.E. Sargent later branched into environmental projects and building construction, with much of the diversification coming after Sargent turned day-to-day operations over to family members.
In 1988 the company was sold to French construction company Razel. Through a series of mergers and acquisitions, it became a subsidiary of a firm owned by a German construction conglomerate before the Sargent family reacquired ownership last year.
Survivors include Sargent’s five children.
A celebration of Sargent’s life was held April 13 at Stillwater Federated Church.