Friends and family remembered Dick McGee as a mentor, leader, philanthropist, friend and father as word of the longtime coach and youth sports advocate’s death spread Friday.

Mike McGee, Dick’s son and former Lawrence High School boys basketball coach for 31 years, said his father passed away from complications of pneumonia and dementia with his family at his side at 9:45 p.m. Thursday.

He was 84.

An outpouring of condolences and remembrances followed almost immediately.

“Within 10 minutes, Facebook blew up. From 6 a.m. until now (late Friday afternoon), I’ve taken no less than 100 phone calls,” said Mike McGee, who added he’d received calls from people in California, Alabama, Florida and Tennessee.

A longtime coach and athletic director at Colby College, McGee is most fondly remembered in the Fairfield area as the driving force behind the Police Athletic League, the youth sports program for the towns of Fairfield, Benton, Clinton and Albion.

McGee spent more than 50 years serving the league in virtually every capacity — director, fundraiser, coach, bus driver — and built it to become an organization that serves over 1,400 SAD 49 youth today.

“It was his life,” Mike McGee said.

“Dick was a philanthropist,” former Colby College football coach Ed Mestieri added. “We think of a philanthropist as someone who donates money, but anybody with money could write a check. Dick gave of himself and his time.”

A Providence, R.I. native, Dick McGee attended the University of Maine and played football there, graduating in 1957.

That same year, then Fairfield police chief Fred Gould led a group of local citizens to form PAL in hopes of giving local youth something to do. In 1959, McGee became the program’s director.

McGee quickly got local businesses to support PAL. Harold Joseph, who owned Joseph’s Sporting Goods in Fairfield, was involved with PAL from the beginning and helped McGee and players buy equipment.

“Dick could convince anybody about anything because he was very sincere and he was truthful and he did it all for the kids,” Joseph said.

“I’d do anything for him,” he added. “Dick McGee was quite a guy. Everyone loved him. Everyone respected him.”

In the mid-1990s, when PAL was looking for land to build a complex with baseball, softball, football and soccer fields, McGee approached Doug Cutchin about a tract he owned off Western Avenue in Fairfield. Cutchin later said he would have turned down anyone else.

“With Dick, there was no hesitation,” Cutchin said

In 2000, the complex was named Dick McGee Fields, in his honor.

PAL vice president and football director Bruce Roderick started playing PAL baseball when he was 5 years old and said McGee was, aside from his parents, his first and best role model.

“How many kids did he keep off the streets or give some guidance to that make them think about what they were doing or made them change their course?” he said.

McGee changed the lives of many local youth, not just through his hard work with PAL, but by reaching out to them personally, even welcoming them into his home.

“The biggest reason he is so beloved and revered in this community is because everyone felt they had that special connection with him,” Roderick said. “Mr. McGee had the ability to connect with everybody that he encountered. He made every single one of us feel unique and special. When Mr. McGee learned your name, he never forgot it, and every single time he saw you he’d call you by your name.”

Longtime Lawrence football coach Pete Cooper, who was inducted along with McGee into the Maine Sports Hall of Fame in 2011, said McGee’s impact on the youth of SAD 49 reverberated throughout athletics at the high school.

“I coached hundreds of kids at Lawrence, and so many of them said, ‘If it hadn’t been for Dick McGee, I wouldn’t be at Lawrence High School,” Cooper said.

As a football coach, McGee mentored countless other adults. He coached at Lawrence and Winslow, but long after he had moved on to Colby College, his Fairfield home was a meeting point for high school coaches from central Maine to drop off their 16mm game film (a courier would pick up the film and take it to Boston to have it processed), swap stories about the game they’d played the night before, and bounce ideas off their host.

“Every Saturday morning, me and coaches from about 15 or so other schools would have their film dropped off at Dick McGee’s house,” Cooper said. “Sometimes I’d run into Harold Violette, David Wing, Ray Caldwell, all of the coaches in the area, even college coaches.”

“It was a who’s who of Maine football,” said Mike McGee, who recalled spending those Saturdays as a boy sitting on the front steps of his home, wondering who would drop by next.

McGee had a two-year stint at Bowdoin College before being named head coach at Colby College in 1967. His best season was 1971, when he led the Mules to a 7-1 record. He served as head coach until 1978 but later returned to Colby as an assistant on Tom Austin’s staff.

“He was just a beloved figure by all those that played for him,” said Mestieri, who was also a part of Austin’s staff with McGee and kept him on as an assistant when he took over as head coach. “You could just see how much he was revered by them.”

McGee also spent summers running the Central Maine Football Camp at Colby, but he left his biggest mark at the school as the athletic director when the school added women’s sports, Mestieri said.

“Dick was really at the forefront of promoting women’s athletics at Colby,” he said. “He started a strong foundation for women’s athletics.”

Colby will host a celebration of Dick McGee’s life at 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 7 at the Cotter Union student center, Mike McGee said.

“Tom Austin once said of my father, ‘His heart would fill a gymnasium,” Mike McGee said. “Dad was all about his heart.”

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33

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