Mourners will gather Friday at Cote Funeral Home in Saco to pay tribute to Peter W. Danton, a seven-term Democratic state senator from Saco, who dedicated his life to public service.

He died unexpectedly on Monday. He was 86.

Mr. Danton began his political career as police commissioner of Saco. Soon after, he was elected to the Maine State Senate in 1971. He served for seven terms, from 1971 through 1980 and 1983 through 1986. He spent four of those years as Assistant Minority Leader. He also served as Chairman of Legislature’s Joint Committee on Transportation.

Former Senate President Gerard Conley said Wednesday that he dedicated his life to improving the lives of Mainers. Conley said he made himself available to his constituents and went above and beyond to help people.

“He was always on the tip of the issues confronting people,” Conley said. “I was in the Senate for 16 years. Pete was always around me. He was always making sure he covered my back. He was a true and loyal friend.”

According to his obituary, which was published in Thursday’s newspaper, Mr. Danton served in two gubernatorial administrations. He was chief of staff for former Gov. Joseph E. Brennan. He was also chairman of the liquor and lottery commission and a member of the gambling control board during the administration of former Gov. John Baldacci.

Mr. Danton also served as Deputy Secretary of State under Secretary of State Rodney S. Quinn and served on the Maine Turnpike Authority Board.

In a phone interview Wednesday, Baldacci said Danton was an effective lawmaker, who worked closely with Democrats and Republicans to get the job done.

“He helped to advance the state’s interests,” Baldacci said. “Pete was a wise and sage advisor. He knew how to put people together and make connections and move the state forward. He was the glue that held things together and made things happen. He was a real pro.”

During his years in the Legislature, Mr. Danton was involved in numerous initiatives across York County. He was a strong supporter of Maine Community College System, and supported efforts establishing the University of New England in Biddeford. He was also involved in the Saco River Corridor Commission.

Mr. Danton had strong connections with businesses in the Saco and Old Orchard Beach area. In his early years, he owned and operated the Hitching Post on Main Street in Saco. In the mid 1970s, he opened the Holiday Chateau Restaurants, also on Main Street, which he ran until the early 1980s.

Friends and family say Mr. Danton was always willing to mentor new business owners.

“He was a very outgoing kind of man,” said his niece, Domna Giatas of Portland. “I think he liked people and liked relating to people. He had a good sense of humor and he was very approachable to people.”

Outside politics, Mr. Danton was remembered this week as a man who dedicated himself to family.

He is survived by Joanne Laliberte, of Saco, his loving partner for 38 years. He also leaves a sister, Amelia Giatas, of Saco; and numerous nieces and nephews.

Giatas said he was a great mentor, who was always there to support, listen and offer advice.

Mr. Danton’s passing came as a shock to his family and friends. His niece said he had a cold or the flu and had gone to the hospital for care. While he was being treated, he had a “heart episode,” Giatas said.

“It’s really unbelievable,” she said of Danton’s passing. “It’s a very tough loss for our family and extended family and those that knew him and loved him.”

Mr. Danton’s visiting hours will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. Friday, with the Trisagion Prayer Service at 5 p.m. at Cote Funeral Home, 87 James St. in Saco.