Members of Portland’s recovery community will gather Sunday to celebrate and honor John J. Dikeman, owner of a hot dog cart business in Westbrook, who worked at Milestone Foundation and Serenity House helping people struggling with alcoholism and addiction.

He died on Dec. 27. He was 46.

Dikeman was remembered by family and friends this week as caring, compassionate, creative and curious. His wife, Marna Dikeman was overcome with emotion Monday describing a man, who faced many challenges in his life and used his experiences to help others.

“I think he made a difference in people’s lives,” she said. “All of his friends on Facebook say he was a gentle soul and that he always made them smile. He just had an ease about him that you could talk to him. He was very approachable. If you needed him, he was there. He was a good friend. He could look you in the eye and make you feel important.”

Dikeman was born in Portland, a son of Nancy Deane of Santa Fe, N.M., and John C. Dikeman of Old Orchard Beach. He moved around a lot as a kid, settling in three states by the time he graduated from Maranacook Community High School in Readfield. After school, he served a stint in the National Guard. His mother said he was an adventurous kid, who enjoyed hiking, fishing, and playing video games with his brother, Tony Dikeman of Old Orchard Beach.

The next chapter of Dikeman’s life was peppered with challenges and adversity related to his struggle with alcoholism and addiction. At age 17, he was introduced to Alcoholics Anonymous, but never got active in the program and didn’t stay sober.

His wife talked openly this week about his issues with alcohol and his involvement in A.A. She said he was treated at numerous detox facilities across the state, multiple times.

“He never lost hope,” she said. “The people there always treated him with care and he wanted to give that to others.”

In recent years, Dikeman got active in A.A. He took a job at Milestone Foundation, one of the oldest substance abuse treatment facilities in the state. There, he cooked and worked as a counselor and helped other alcoholics in its “wet shelter.” Dikeman also worked at Serenity House in Portland, where he helped other men struggling with alcoholism.

“He loved helping people …giving them the chance that he was given,” his wife said. “He had been struggling with addiction and alcoholism since he was 17 and got introduced to A.A. He never gave up on it because that’s where he felt at home and loved.”

Dikeman’s mother expressed thanks for the support he received from Portland’s sober community.

“I’m grateful that he had a few years of really being connected and loved,” his mother said. “I’m really grateful he had that time with Marna and that he was a part of a community that knew him and loved him.”

Dikeman previously worked as a cook at several local restaurants including Miss Portland Diner and Bernie’s Place in Falmouth.

Dikeman enjoyed hiking, fishing, photography and driving along Maine’s coast.

A few years ago, the couple started a hot dog cart business, Big Dawg Dogs, which they operated on Main Street in Westbrook.

“It was mostly his baby,” his wife said. “He just put his heart into everything.”

Dikeman was diagnosed with tonsil cancer in the summer of 2011. This past fall, he learned the cancer had metastasized to his liver and spine. A recent bout of pneumonia landed him in the hospital.

“His body couldn’t take it anymore, but he still had the will to live,” his wife said.

Dikeman was sober at the time of his passing.

A potluck gathering for his friends in the recovery community will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. Sunday at the American Legion on Dunn Street in Westbrook.

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

[email protected]