Allen Gardner Pease was a man of wide accomplishments – and perhaps his greatest was his modesty.

For years, his daughter Pamela Pease said, his family thought he spent his years in the Marines during World War II as a lifeguard in Hawaii.

“He said he would watch for sharks and save the old ladies,” she said, but the family eventually learned that he also took part in the bloody invasion of Iwo Jima. That news came from a fellow Marine who visited Pease and his wife, Violet Pease, on their 50th anniversary and told the family that Pease had saved his life on the island.

Pease was the top aide to Gov. Kenneth Curtis in the late 1960s and early ’70s, but couldn’t bring himself to upstage his boss and tell him he wasn’t on the right track.

“He never told me that I was wrong, but I always knew by the way he looked at me,” Curtis said Saturday.

Pease, who died Sunday at 89, was a man who lived every minute of his life, his daughter said. He played basketball at the University of Southern Maine gym until he was 87. The next oldest among the “mature gentlemen of USM,” as the group of players called themselves, was 75.

“That’s the part he really liked,” she said.

Pease graduated from Wilton Academy in 1942 at 16 and, too young to join the military, worked as a machinist in Texas. Pamela Pease said she thinks her father signed up for the Marines at 17. When the war was over, he enrolled at what was then called Farmington State Teachers College and later transferred to Colby College in Waterville. He graduated cum laude from Colby in 1952 with a degree in history, followed by graduate school in political science at Ohio State University.

He returned to Maine and taught at Farmington State, Aroostook State Teachers College, Gorham State Teachers College and then the University of Maine campus in Portland, where he chaired the political science department and joined the campaign of Curtis, the Democratic candidate for governor in 1966.

Curtis, impressed by what he saw as Pease’s “great knowledge of Maine people and Maine politics,” named him as his chief of staff after the election.

“He was really a partner in my administration,” assisting in an overhaul of state government, Curtis said. He said there were more than 200 agencies at the time he took office, and he was hobbled with only a limited role in picking who would run departments. Curtis said Pease also was instrumental in the consolidation of the state’s university system and the adoption of an income tax, which Curtis said was essential in funding a government that was lagging behind other states at the time.

“(Pease) knew Maine and its needs so well,” Curtis said.

Pease resumed teaching classes at USM after Curtis’ two terms, and also helped with the transition to independent Gov. James Longley. He then worked for four years as the director of the Maine State Planning Office under Longley and another two under Gov. Joseph Brennan. Then it was back to USM, where he did research on Maine government.

Pamela Pease said her father gardened and painted after retiring to the family’s house in Hollis, where he lived independently until he died. His wife died in 2011.

“My father was charismatic and intelligent but yet self-reflective,” she said. “And he had a pretty good wit, too.”