SOUTH PORTLAND — Peter MacVane, a 34-year South Portland Police veteran who co-founded the annual New Year’s Day Lobster Dip in Old Orchard Beach for Special Olympics Maine died early Wednesday after a five-year battle with cancer. He was 61.

MacVane was remembered Wednesday as a respected police officer and mentor to younger officers who was widely known for his community service work.

MacVane co-founded the Special Olympics Lobster Dip with Rocco Frenzilli in 1988 and took the plunge in all but one of them since, including this year’s. Since its inception, the event has raised more than $1.5 million.

Phil Geelhoed, president and chief executive officer of Special Olympics Maine, said MacVane was one of 600 law enforcement officers across the state that help raise funds and awareness for its programs.

“His involvement was extraordinary second to none,” Geelhoed said. “He was always there for us. He was the guy that would always organize and rally the troops and get it done.”

Geelhoed said MacVane will be honored at next year’s Lobster Dip.

MacVane also organized numerous other fundraisers, such as the annual Law Enforcement Torch Run; camping on the roof of the Bull Moose Harley Davidson dealership in Portland; Tip a Cop events at Applebee’s and Red Robin restaurants, and Fueling Dreams at Irving gas stations. Other causes he supported include the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s Lock Up Program and the American Lung Association’s Trek Across Maine.

“What Pete did so well was set an example for other law enforcement officers on how to be a complete officer,” said South Portland Police Chief Ed Googins. “He identified a need or charity and got involved in it. He set a tremendous example for other officers.”

MacVane joined the department in 1978 as a patrol officer, and was assigned to the detective bureau in 1982. He served as the department’s Officer Friendly for many years, talking to elementary school kids about safety.

He became one of the Department’s first motorcycle officers, leading many parades and processions over the years, and he was a longtime supporter of the 9-11 Foundation ride.

“Peter was a guy that put other people first,” said James Gailey, South Portland city manager. “He was always willing to go that extra mile, whether he was raising money, making someone feel more comfortable, or educating kids in the community. He will be sorely missed.”

He was married to Kathy MacVane for 34 years. The couple lived in Portland and raised two children.

He was remembered by his wife Wednesday as a great person and friend who liked to go on adventures.

The couple spent two weeks each summer visiting national parks in the western U.S., where they enjoyed hiking, camping and sight-seeing. MacVane also enjoyed riding his motorcycle and his wife said they toured the state and enjoyed camping and kayaking together.

“We had a long life together,” she said. “I’ll miss his presence. I’ll miss that companionship.”

Visiting hours will be held from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday at A.T. Hutchins Funeral & Cremation Services, 660 Brighton Ave. in Portland. A memorial service will be at 11 a.m. Sunday at the Westbrook Performing Arts Center, 471 Stroudwater St. Westbrook.

A full obituary will appear in Friday’s newspaper.

Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at:

mcreamer@pressherald.com