Robert “Bob” Leeman, a retired Portland firefighter known for his bravery, resilience and generous spirit, died Wednesday after a brief illness. He was 79.

Mr. Leeman served 26 years with the Portland Fire Department and capped off a life of public service as animal control officer in Cape Elizabeth.

He joined the fire department in 1961 and worked at several of the city’s stations, including the Bramhall, Riverton and Central stations, during his career.

His son Bob Leeman Jr. of Orlando, Florida, said his father was dedicated, professional and always willing to help rookie firemen. On Friday, the young Leeman told stories of his father’s heroism, saying he rescued many people, including children, as well as pets, from burning buildings. He remembered the year his father was on a roof during a fire when the roof collapsed, sending him into the burning building. Another time, his lungs were burned during a fire. Once, he got knocked off the back of a firetruck, his son said.

“He loved helping people,” his son recalled. “That was his biggest thing.”

Mr. Leeman retired in 1988. He took a break from public service before becoming Cape Elizabeth’s animal control officer in 1995.

Cape Elizabeth police Capt. Brent Sinclair said Mr. Leeman was widely respected in his department and the community.

“He was a really nice guy,” Sinclair said. “I know he enjoyed his time working in Cape and he had good relationships with everyone here.”

Mr. Leeman retired from that job in 2003.

He was the husband of Sandra “Sunny” Leeman for more than 50 years. The couple lived in Portland, where they raised four sons.

The youngest, Thomas Leeman of Windham, said his father was a very strong person.

“He was a good father,” Tom Leeman said. “He did what he could to make sure we were all taken care of.”

His oldest son said he made many sacrifices for his family. He worked various part-time jobs in addition to his work as a firefighter, he said.

“In the winter, he drove Eastern Oil truck to make sure he had enough for us,” Bob Leeman Jr. said. “I’m lucky. I had awesome parents. They didn’t fight. Everything was great. It seemed that we always had the best Christmas. He always made sure we had what we needed.”

In his early years, Mr. Leeman had passions for hunting and fishing. Bob Leeman Jr. excitedly recalled the year he won a moose-hunting permit. His father thought the permit was his. He didn’t notice the “Jr.” after his son’s name.

“I shot an 1,100 pounder. He was more excited than I was,” the younger Leeman said.

The Leemans lived in Windham and wintered in Florida for about 10 years. Sandra Leeman died in 2013. In recent years, Mr. Leeman enjoyed playing computer games and watching war and action movies.

Mr. Leeman got sick about a month ago. He had bronchitis, which developed into pneumonia and affected his heart. He declined quickly in the days before his death.

“It hurts,” Bob Leeman Jr. said. “He’s in a better place. He’s with my mom. Everything with him was going tough. He went super quick.”

A celebration of life for Mr. Leeman will be held next month.