Like many men of his generation, Richard E. Peterson Sr. of Yarmouth loved working hard at his career and giving back to the community.

He was active with the United Way, the YWCA, the Catherine Morrill Day Nursery, the South Portland Public Library and numerous other professional and charitable organizations.

But the banker’s first priority was spending time with his family, and his children always knew it.

Mr. Peterson died Thursday at the age of 85.

His daughter, Karen Green of South Portland, recalls the time her father came to the auditorium of South Portland Junior High School to speak to the student body about United Way of Greater Portland.

The family lived in South Portland at the time and she was a student at the school, “and I remember sitting there and being so proud of him.”

“We knew that he was involved (in community work),” Green said, “but there was never, ever a question that whatever event we were in, whether it was my brother’s basketball or my cheerleading, or whatever our interests were, he was always, always there for us. He was at all the games, cheering in the stands. And whatever we wanted to try in life, he was always behind us.”

Mr. Peterson’s support for his children didn’t take the form of quiet talks, stern lectures or any other overt guidance. Rather, he encouraged them to find out what interested and excited them, then told them to go for it — even if he quietly disagreed with their choices.

He wanted to raise children who were secure and confident in themselves, said his son Paul Peterson of Scarborough.

“He never tried to lead us to a particular destination,” he said. “He was always supportive of the road we chose to take.”

Patricia Peterson of Yarmouth, his wife of 61 years, said that while many men enjoyed going off “with the boys” on fishing and hunting trips, her husband preferred to take his children and their friends to Boston for Red Sox and Celtics games.

When their eldest son, Richard E. Peterson Jr., played basketball for Bates College, the Petersons attended every game, even traveling to the away games.

Mr. Peterson’s grandchildren, who know him as Grandpapa, are being raised the same way he raised his own kids.

“What’s really important in life is family and values and treating others with respect,” Green said.

Patricia Peterson said she believes a father figure is important in a home. And her husband, she said, was “a wonderful father. He was always there for them.”

During Mr. Peterson’s illness the past seven months, his children returned the favor.

“They have been here for him during this difficult time more than 100 percent,” she said.

 

Staff Writer Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at: [email protected]