Friends and family were grieving Thursday for Adam Perron, a young father, first-year science teacher and longtime environmentalist who died in a car crash a day earlier.

His wife, Elizabeth Perron of Harrison, said he particularly loved his job teaching science at Lake Region Middle School in Naples.

“It was definitely his calling. He loved the kids. He loved the teaching. He was so inspired every day,” she said Thursday. “He finally found exactly what he wanted to do in life and I’m glad he got the chance to do it.”

“Obviously we are heartbroken,” she said through tears. The couple started dating when they were teenagers and have a 19-month-old daughter, Abigail.

Adam Perron with his wife, Elizabeth Perron, and daughter, Abigail, in a family photo. Perron, 29, died in a car crash Wednesday, April 20, 2016, on Route 302 in Casco.

Adam Perron with his wife, Elizabeth Perron, and daughter, Abigail, in a family photo. Perron, 29, died in a car crash Wednesday, April 20, 2016, on Route 302 in Casco. Courtesy of the family

Adam Perron “was an amazing person. I am so happy I got the time with him,” his wife said.

Perron, 29, died Wednesday after his car was struck by a box truck on Route 302 in Casco between State Park and Tenney Hill roads. Investigators with the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office said the box truck driver was heading east when he swerved into the path of Perron’s westbound 2009 Pontiac Vibe. The truck hit Perron’s car on the driver’s side, went down an embankment and rolled onto its side.

No further details about the crash were released Thursday, and sheriff’s office investigators did not return calls for comment.

The driver of the Native Maine Produce and Specialty Foods truck, 31-year-old Joshua McNally of Westbrook, was in fair condition Wednesday evening at Maine Medical Center in Portland, a hospital spokesperson said. On Thursday, hospital spokeswoman Susan Pierter refused to release any information about his condition.

McNally has one accident on his driving record – in 2014, he drove a vehicle off a road and struck a tree. According to the accident report, he told police he was adjusting his radio when he noticed a stopped car in front of him and had to swerve.

Lake Region Principal Matt Lokken said Thursday that Perron had quickly become an integral part of the school community. He taught about 90 students in grades seven and eight, played guitar in the staff band and had a terrific relationship with students and fellow staff.

“He was a really positive person to work with, very genuine and present and always very thoughtful,” Lokken said. “He engaged himself completely when he was in conversation with you or the kids. All of the kids said he made science very fun and very interesting.”

Lokken said the school would be bringing in counselors for the students, who return from spring vacation Monday.

Perron also was a member of the Harrison Planning Board.

BIG FAMILY PRESENCE, ENVIRONMENTALIST

Perron grew up in Bridgton and had extended family and deep ties to the region, friends and family said.

“The loss our family feels is immense. His absence is palpable,” his cousin, Mia Perron, wrote in an email Thursday. “We will come together and heal, as families do, but nothing can replace the incredible presence that he brought to our family dynamic. He was one of the puzzle pieces that helped us all fit together, and we feel the cavity left behind.”

Mia Perron recalled “adventuring in the woods” with her cousin when they were children, once staying out so long that the family became alarmed.

“Our parents suspected we were lost. In actuality, we had found a pile of owl pellets and were too busy dissecting them to notice the time flying by. Needless to say, Adam’s love for science and curiosity about life was evident from his childhood on,” she wrote. “He had an unparalleled passion for life.”

The family is setting up a scholarship in Perron’s name for people studying to become teachers, and is holding a ceremony Sunday at 1 p.m. at Holt Pond Preserve on the corner of Pearly and Chaplins Mills roads in Naples.

Perron, a lifelong environmentalist, was 15 when he started as a volunteer at the Lakes Environmental Association in Bridgton. Over the years he held numerous roles there, notably as the leader of a group removing invasive milfoil in the Songo River and as the education director until last year, when he left to start teaching at the middle school.

“He did a phenomenal job,” said Colin Holme, assistant director of the environmental association. “It’s grueling work, and the river is now clean thanks to his dedication down there. It was just chock-full (of milfoil) before, and now it’s just maintenance.”

BROUGHT EXPERIENCE INTO SCIENCE CLASS

Holme, a personal friend, said he thought Perron’s work at the association played a role in his decision to go into teaching.

“He really liked working with the kids. He was extremely creative, he was hard-working, he was very smart,” Holme said. “He had a great sense of humor and he was a good people person. He really connected to people.”

Principal Lokken said Perron’s work at the environmental association made him a better teacher.

“He brought a ton of real-life experience, especially in ecology and watershed science,” Lokken said. “He was a really strong science teacher.”

Holme said members of the association would be honoring Perron on Friday, which is Earth Day, with a cleanup and potluck meal.

“He was just fun to be around,” Holme said. “He came from this area and he was dedicated to it. It’s a tragic loss.”