The Old Orchard Beach community is mourning the unexpected passing of James Bouchard, a volunteer for the police department who helped start the town’s first neighborhood watch group and served on its community watch council for many years.

Mr. Bouchard was also a school bus driver in Old Orchard Beach and recently in Saco.

He died in his sleep early Saturday. He was 76.

Mr. Bouchard had been an active volunteer for the Old Orchard Police Department since the early 1990s. He was instrumental in establishing the town’s first neighborhood watch, and had served on the community watch council for the last 20 years or so.

“Jim was an avid supporter of the community,” said Old Orchard Beach police Lt. Tim DeLuca. “He was a great ambassador for the police department.”

Police Chief Dana Kelley issued a statement Monday recognizing Bouchard’s years of dedication to the department and the community. Kelley also was expected to make a formal announcement about Bouchard’s passing at Tuesday night’s town council meeting.

“Over the years, Jim’s contributions to the community while supporting the police department have had an enormous impact on the community and individuals,” Kelley wrote. “Jim will be deeply missed and remembered as a sincere and deeply committed citizen volunteer.”

Mr. Bouchard’s passing was felt throughout the community. Louise Reid, assistant town manager, said he always stepped forward when volunteers were needed. Reid said he volunteered at the polls just last week.

Mr. Bouchard was a school bus driver for Regional School Unit 23. He was hired in 2008 and drove bus 25 in Saco. This week, bus drivers placed black ribbons on their school buses.

Jay Kelley, transportation director for RSU 23, said Mr. Bouchard cared about the kids riding his bus.

“Jim was just a happy guy,” Kelley said Tuesday. “He was always smiling. … It was always, ‘Have a good morning and have a good day at school.’ He was that grandfatherly type of guy that drives the bus. He was really good to the kids.”

Mr. Bouchard was the husband of Nancy Bouchard of Old Orchard Beach. He is survived by his wife and two children from his first marriage.

He was remembered by his wife Tuesday as friendly, compassionate, positive and outgoing.

“He was a happy person. There’s no doubt about that,” she said. “He loved to entertain. He was always cracking jokes. He was the host with the most.”

Mr. Bouchard was active in the Masons of Orchard Lodge 215. He also served as secretary of the Cumberland County Shrine Club and Kora Shrine Center in Lewiston. His wife said he was very involved in those organizations.

“He was exceptional,” his wife said. “No matter what he was doing, he was like that. I can’t say enough good things. He was very honest, very upright and he was responsible. His integrity and credibility meant everything to him.”

On Friday, the day before he died, Mr. Bouchard attended an event on Peaks Island. His wife recalled the smile on his face that night as he reached in a bag and pulled out two lobsters and held them up like trophies. He went to sleep that night and never woke up.

“He always said life is for the living, so I have to go on,” his wife said. “I have to make him proud and I know he is there for me already. Love is eternal.”