HOULTON, Maine Houlton, a native of William Dufris, an actor known for the popular children’s television character Bob the Builder, “died Tuesday March 24 at his home in South Portland surrounded by his family after a battle with cancer. He was 62 years old.
Dufris took over the voice of Bob the Builder when the show, which is originally from Britain, was rebroadcast for an American audience.
Sam Hiscoe, a Dufris nephew and a resident of Houlton, said he was devastated by the loss of his uncle Billy, whose acting career spanned more than 20 years.
He didn’t let fame take over his personality, said Hiscoe. He has always been the most authentic, caring and real person you could imagine. The thing I love him the most and I miss him the most is when he would call to see me. It is easy to say that I am there for you. But, it’s another to actually be there.
A graduate of the Houlton High Schools class in 1976, Dufris moved to London where he began his vocal career for BBC radio. It was around this time that he worked with several people who became Hollywood celebrities, such as Helena Bonham-Carter, Kathleen Turner and Stockard Channing.
A humble man, Hiscoe said his uncle was always friendly to everyone he met.
He was famous, but he would never agree with you if you told him that, he said. If you met him, he would remember you and open his house to everyone and entertain them at best.
He was authentic in that he really cared about everyone’s well-being. So much so that in the end, he apologized to everyone for being a burden because they took care of him.
Hiscoe said that although they weren’t always physically together, Dufris took the time to call and was particularly helpful when Hiscoes’ second brother died a few years ago.
Uncle Bill called me and watched me because he knew what it was like to lose two brothers and he knew what I was going through, said Hiscoe. I can’t begin to say how grateful I am for these moments on the phone. Just her presence alone made me feel happier and OK at this point.
Dufris is also known for producing several dramatic audio versions of established works, such as Spider-Man, Judge Dredd and An American Werewolf in London. These have often been done in collaboration with Dirk Maggs, who is best known for producing the radio drama version of the well-known book The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
In addition, Dufris provided vocal work for several dubbed anime projects that would become pioneers of the cyberpunk genre, with works such as Angel Cop, Patlabor and Venus Wars. He also provided vocal work for the famous anime character Lupine III.
Dufris returns to Houlton two or three times a year to visit family and friends still in the area. His wife, Maria Reuillard, is an artist and was the soul mate of Dufris, said Hiscoe.
She is her soul mate and my family is beyond recognition for her love for illness and health.
You could never be with him without making him laugh, he explained. He was a character himself in real life. He lit up every room he was in and was normally the center of attention because of his comedian personality.
Some of his favorite memories of his uncle are the time he spent getting to know Hiscoes Chrissy’s wife and their growing new family.
He’s always come for birthday parties, said Hiscoe. Basically, whenever there was a meeting with family or old classmates. He visited my classes and read to my students, answered questions and signed Bob the builder’s toys.
Although he is best known as the voice of the builder Bob, it was not the work of Durfris that made him the most proud, said Hiscoe.
He loved his acting career and especially his audio books, he said. If you go to Amazon Audiobooks, you can search for his name William Dufris and there are all kinds of things to buy. He even worked with Stephen King.
Dufris’ celebrity status was something Hiscoe used as an icebreaker when he first met the woman who later became his wife.
When I first met Chrissy, I used the Uncle Bob’s builder pickup line, he recalls. I then invited her to my sister’s wedding so that she could meet the legend. He accepted Chrissy so much, he called her darling that day and every day after when he saw us. He joked with her and talked to her like he knew her all his life.
Hiscoe also remembered a time when he was young, his uncle took him to his studio, where he recorded it with a friend while singing the theme song for Bob the Builder.
I watched the show every time it happened when I was a kid and even a teenager and yes, I always watch the show now to hear his voice and share it with my kids and even my students [Houlton Southside] school, said Hiscoe. I have to say that the day before he died, I didn’t think I would have this last call with him, so I called just to tell him that I loved him and he replied with I love you too Sammie.
Hiscoe said Dufris held his own “living funeral” in December, where he said he was not sad to die.
He lived a great life of which he was proud and he had no regrets, said Hiscoe.
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