William V. Gargano, 81, of Westampton, Burlington County, a former Army recruiter who lived out a dream with a long behind-the-scenes career with the Phillies, died of heart failure Nov. 26 at the Samaritan Hospice Inpatient Unit in Mount Holly.

"He was my righthand dude," said Dallas Green, now senior adviser to the general manager, who worked with Mr. Gargano for 25 years. "There wasn't a better administrator in baseball."

When Green ran the Phillies' minor-league system in the 1970s, Mr. Gargano was in charge of the administrative details. Green said Mr. Gargano also had one other overwhelming responsibility: He was the advance man for spring training. It was his job to make all the housing and transportation arrangements for the team.

Robert Gargano, his son, recalled that every year at the end of January, before pitchers and catchers reported, his father would load boxes into the car and make the tedious drive to Clearwater, Fla., where the Phillies train.

During the season, Robert Gargano said, his father worked long hours, leaving the house early in the morning and coming back late at night. Still, he said, his father did not neglect the family.

"Family was first," he said. "He never put us behind the Phillies."

Mr. Gargano and his wife of 35 years, Marie Reese Gargano, were a dynamite cooking team, he said. He recalled the mesmerizing aroma of their spaghetti sauce filling their Juniata Park home.

Marie Gargano died in 1985, and Mr. Gargano married the former Dolores Finkbinder five years ago. She was not quite in her new husband's league as a cook, said her daughter, Debbie Onofrio. For get-togethers, the family would ask her to leave the cooking to Mr. Gargano.

Mr. Gargano lived in Westampton for several years after moving from Mount Laurel.

He was orphaned when he was young and attended Girard College. After graduating, Mr. Gargano joined the Army, serving overseas for 10 years. When he came back to the United States, he was assigned as a recruiter at the Kensington and Allegheny Avenues station.

In an interview with the Philadelphia Journal in the late 1970s, he said he got to know Paul Owens, who was then the Phillies' farm director. He said that he was able to help some players enlist in the National Guard rather than being exposed to the military draft.

Phillies executives said they would find work for him when he was ready to leave the Army, which he did with the rank of sergeant first class after a 21-year career.

He went to work for the Phillies in January 1966, retiring in 1994.

"It has taken two or three guys to do his job," said Green. "He's pretty proud of that."

In addition to his son and stepdaughter, Mr. Gargano is survived by a daughter, Dorothy Hinkley; another stepdaughter, Denise McCone; 11 grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by a son, William.

A Funeral Mass will be said at 11 a.m. today at Sacred Heart Church, 260 High St., Mount Holly. A viewing will begin at 9:30 a.m. at the church. Burial will be at Sunset Memorial Park, Huntingdon Valley.

Memorial contributions may be made to Samaritan Hospice, 5 Eves Dr., Suite 300, Marlton, N.J. 08053.

Contact staff writer Anthony R. Wood at 610-313-8210 or twood@phillynews.com.