BIDDEFORD — Joel Potvin was involved in sports from the time he started Pee Wee Football as a child to when his children played in local leagues, and even after that.

“Both of us grew up in families with parents that were giving to the athletics we were in,” said his wife, Marie Potvin. “It’s something that both Joel and I participated in when our kids got involved. Even when our kids moved on, it was our love of sports, community and kids.”

His daughter Ashley Potvin remembers how willing he was to go out in the family’s backyard and play catch or work on techniques. He taught her how to throw a softball, and helped even when it came to soccer.

“He may not have been perfect at soccer, but he always would come out, stand there, catch the ball and throw it back,” she said.

Mr. Potvin died suddenly Tuesday. He was 51.

His mother, Patricia Potvin, said he was always interested in sports when he was growing up in Biddeford. It was something he learned from his dad.

“We played football, basketball and baseball,” said his brother Tim Potvin. “It all was driven by our father. He played those sports when he was a kid, and coached in the community.”

Tim Potvin said he looked up to his older brother. He said he always strove to be better than his brother, who was very competitive.

“He’s the one I looked up to, to try to be better,” he said.

When Tim Potvin suffered a knee injury in his freshman year in high school, his brother was instrumental in his recovery. Mr. Potvin had suffered a similar knee injury and was able to help his brother deal with it emotionally and physically.

Mr. Potvin continued playing football at Colby College, where he was also a member of Lambda Chi fraternity. His wife said he stayed in touch with his fraternity brothers, often getting together with them to attend Colby football games.

Mr. Potvin, who recently celebrated 20 years of working at Evonik-Cyro LLC in Sanford, was “one-of-a-kind,” said a co-worker, Ralph Hiltz.

“He was dedicated, no matter what he did,” Hiltz said. It wasn’t unusual for Mr. Potvin to work late at night to help a co-worker complete a project.

“He was the nicest guy,” Hiltz said.

“He was a gentle giant,” said his sister-in-law Jeanne Curzake.

Mr. Potvin met his wife when they were in high school. His sister Nicole Potvin, who is nine years younger, remembers Marie telling her that “watching Joel play with my younger sister and I is what made her fall in love with him.”

Together, they raised Ashley and Matthew Potvin. His daughter said he never missed their sporting events, which was really important.

Recently, he traveled with his wife to visit their daughter while she studied abroad in France. She is majoring in international studies and minoring in French, and when they visited, Mr. Potvin was impressed with her fluency in the language, she said.

She said that when she conversed with a waiter at a restaurant, her father said of her studies, “It’s paying off. That’s good.”

Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

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