Larry Gould, 84, the founder of Camp Sunshine and owner of Point Sebago Resort in South Casco, died Feb. 13 as a result of complications from the flu.

Friends and family describe Gould as an exceedingly motivated man who, toward the end of his life, channeled his sharp business instincts toward the project of growing and sustaining Camp Sunshine, a 31-year-old program that provides free retreats for families with children suffering from life-threatening illnesses.

“He was a very driven personality,” said Gould’s longtime wife, Anna. “When he set his sights on getting something done, he persevered. Camp was his last and best accomplishment.”

Gould was born in Boston on Nov. 28, 1930, the son of Russian Jewish immigrants. At the age of 23, he obtained a Ph.D. in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. From 1954-1956, Gould worked as a research physicist at the Evans Signal Laboratory in New Jersey. In a successful corporate career, Gould became the CEO of M/A-COM, Inc., a developer and producer of radio, microwave and semiconductor devices.

Gould’s deep investment in the Lakes Region emerged largely by happenstance, according to his wife. In 1970, Gould’s dentist asked him if he would like to become a silent investor in a new Casco resort project called Point Sebago. Gould said yes, and when the company ran into financial trouble three years later, Gould bought out the other investors.

In 1983, Gould and his wife were traveling in Quebec when they saw a television program – the only show available in English – that changed their life.

“We saw a little boy being interviewed and the reporter was asking the little buy who had terminal cancer, ‘How do you cope knowing you’re going to die?’” Anna Gould recalled. “It was heart-wrenching. The boy said, ‘I thank God that I have today and I pray that I’m going to wake up in the morning.”

“We had healthy children,” Gould added. “We just looked at each other and said we can do something to help kids like that.”

Gould, having stepped down as CEO of M/A-Com in the summer of 1982, subsequently threw his entrepreneurial zeal into the effort that became Camp Sunshine. Initially, their idea was to have a small retreat for children with life-threatening illnesses during the Point Sebago Resort shoulder season. But the project kept expanding, due to growing demand, according to Joe Pappalardo, of Raymond, who has volunteered at the camp since it started, and now sits on the Camp Sunshine board of directors.

“After the first week of camp, people came to him and said, ‘Can we come back?’” Pappalardo said. “He just couldn’t turn them down. I don’t think camp was going to be more than a one- or two-year program.”

“He just had a heart of gold and wanted to help people,” Pappalardo said. “He couldn’t turn away when he saw the faces on these kids. He just wanted to do something about it.”

Upon hearing feedback from the families, Anna Gould said, they realized they would need to expand the program, and focus on the entire families affected by the illness, not just the children.

“All these families said, ‘Can we come back? Can we come back?’” she said. “It was hard to say no. Being surrounded by other families who were in the same shoes was such an eye opener.”

“Our point of reference of having a sick child was having a child with measles,” she added. “We listened to these parents and just shook our head and said, ‘How do you stay sane?’”

More than 30 years later, Gould took great pride in the growth of the camp, which holds 30 sessions a year and attracts about 1,000 volunteers annually. It also regularly ranks as one of Maine’s top nonprofits in terms of financial stewardship.

“He was very proud of the fact that we had been able to establish the year-round campus,” she said. “He was very proud of the fact that it was so solid and that it was growing and that the security base had been established and it will continue in the future.”

Portland resident Jane Conley, whose son Patrick had a rare brain tumor at the age of 3 and survived until the age of 16, said that Camp Sunshine became like a home to her family – one that brought a sense of “inner peace.”

“Patrick is what brought us to Camp Sunshine,” Conley said. “It has been part of our lives for 18 years. Larry and Anna had a vision that was a lifesaver for my whole family. Our family will be forever grateful to them.”

Michael Katz, the camp’s executive director, started working at the camp as an intern in 1983. Katz said that the Goulds’ leadership made the camp possible.

“I think what’s important and what’s also unique is the fact that both he and Anna took this vision of helping families and turned it into what started out being an off-season charity retreat for families and have made it what it is today,” he said. “Behind the leadership of both Anna and Larry, Camp Sunshine is able to serve many more families and lighten the burden of the challenges they face.”

To Anna Gould, her husband will be most remembered, not for his business career, but for what followed.

“We were very fortunate that we were given an opportunity to help others and that was something that was extremely important to Larry,” Anna Gould said. “He will be remembered for building and creating a very magical place that’s called Camp Sunshine. It’s one thing to do well in business, but taking that extra step to help your fellow human beings is truly what defines a person, I think.”

Larry Gould