WINDHAM – George Keef, a respected business owner who was active in the community and had a zest for life, died Monday. He was 88.

Mr. Keef had an entrepreneurial spirit. He started several businesses, including a partnership in Sebago Basin campground in North Windham and Maine Rental Hardware in Westbrook. In 1976, he founded Frost and Flame, a small retail store formerly on Route 115 in North Windham. The store sold items such as bicycles and Norwegian wood stoves. He sold the business in 1984.

Karen Lothrop of Longwood, Fla., the second oldest of his six children, said her father took pride in the businesses he owned. Lothrop said he was always coming up with ways to improve his businesses, such as installing the wood stoves his customers bought and renting bicycles as well as selling them.

“He had this grandiose hope that the bikes would catch on and people would give up their cars,” his daughter said. “He was hopeful that people would be more environmentally conscious. He was an idea man. If one thing didn’t succeed, he would try something else and put his heart and soul into it.”

Mr. Keef was remembered by his family on Wednesday as an old-fashioned guy who had strong morals and beliefs.

He was married to his wife, Jean Keef, for 66 years. They met on Spednic Lake near the Canadian border when she was 13 and he was 15 — he was sailing and she was canoeing with a friend. They married in 1944 and lived in South Portland briefly.

In 1949, the Keefs bought a poultry farm on Route 115 in North Windham, where they raised their family.

Lothrop said her parents loved each other and shared a great life together.

“He always treated my mother like a queen,” she said. “They were very compatible. They had a lot of life experiences together and were really great friends.”

A highlight of their lives was traveling to Norway twice, where they visited Inger Myrstad Riley, an exchange student the family hosted in the early 1960s. Riley has remained an important part of the Keefs’ lives over the years.

For the past 25 years, Mr. Keef and his wife wintered in Florida. The family also enjoyed spending time at a vacation home he built in Eustis, where he enjoyed fishing, hunting and cross-country skiing.

Mr. Keef was active in the Windham community. He served on the board of selectman and volunteered for the fire department. He was also a member of the Kiwanis Club, the Masons and the North Windham Union Church, where he served as deacon. His daughter said he believed in giving back to the community.

“He was a very caring person,” she said. “He taught us great values. He was really instrumental in shaping the moral fabric and fiber of the whole family. He was such a wonderful example for us.”

Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at: [email protected]