OCEAN PARK — Jean Martha (Roberts) Leach, 77, died surrounded by her family after a brief illness on Friday, Sept. 16, 2016, at Maine Medical Center.

Jean was born in Portland on Oct. 1, 1938, the daughter of Dr. John Kenneth and Elizabeth (Dunbar) Roberts. She lived in Springvale and Sanford before moving to Saco in 1952. She graduated from Thornton Academy in 1956, and attended Colby College for two years.

After marrying Bradley Leach and giving birth to two of her children, she continued her education and graduated from the University of Connecticut in 1962. She was a young mother who raised her family in Portland before moving to Saco in 1963.

She was a social studies teacher at Saco Middle School for over 20 years, retiring in 1998. Mrs. Leach touched the lives of countless colleagues and students, many of whom fondly remember and appreciate her years later.

She lived in Saco until 2003, when she moved to Ocean Park in the renovated family cottage on Ancona Avenue. In April, she moved to a condo at Whispering Sands in Ocean Park, where she had already met and conversed with many other residents.

Serving the community was a priority for Jean. Over the years, she volunteered for numerous organizations, including the Saco School Board, the Saco Historic Society, and the Boys and Girl Scouts. She was a member of the Ocean Park Association and the American Association of University Women.

She actively supported Thornton Academy arts, athletics and academics, and recently helped plan her 60th high school class reunion. She eagerly attended all her reunions and classmate gatherings.

Jean was an avid patron of the arts who enjoyed singing; for many years, she was a member of the Voices in Harmony Choir. At the time of her death, she worked as an assistant librarian at the Memorial Library in Ocean Park – a perfect spot to fuel her social nature.

Two organizations held particular importance to Jean: First Parish Congregational Church of Saco and Camp Laughing Loon in East Waterboro.

A long-standing member of First Parish, Jean relished being a choir member, as it allowed her to make special friends while also providing an outlet for her love of singing. She served on numerous committees, was a Stephen’s minister, wrote a play about the church’s history, and otherwise supported the church in whatever way she could. Jean was grateful and proud to be part of such an affirming, loving and open church family. It was truly a part of her daily life.

Camp Laughing Loon held a special place in her heart. Enjoying it as a camper for years, Jean later worked as co-director of the camp and served on its board of directors until the time of her death. She understood the impact that a camp experience can have on a child, and worked to ensure the opportunity could be shared by children year after year.

Jean had a deep love of Ocean Park, with fond memories of spending summers in the Dunbar cottage, which had family connections for over 100 years. She eventually owned the cottage, and it was the place of numerous parties and organization meetings.

Family and friends will warmly remember gatherings at the cottage that tended to grow with Jean’s entertaining mantra, “if you’re inviting five to the party, why not invite 25?!” She was most happy in the company of others, and gathered people together to celebrate occasions, community or love of family.

She was well-read, intelligent and fiercely committed to the groups she served. If Jean saw a need, she found a way to provide. If she saw an injustice, she fought hard to fix it. Her convictions were strong, but her approach was professional and inclusive, and ideas and decisions came only after carefully listening to all sides. Nothing had to be done her way; it just had to be done in whatever way would result in the highest number of people being positively impacted.

Jean formed and maintained friendships with literally hundreds of people, from all stages of her life. She was a prolific letter-writer, often including an appropriate article clipping. Her letters were never rushed, but were thoughtful and special to the receiver. At the holidays, she received cards that filled her house. They were from friends, children of friends, and even people with whom she may have spent only a brief amount of time.

There was nothing more important than family in Jean’s life. She was a devoted and present mother, grandmother, sister, cousin and aunt. She attended countless sporting events, dance recitals, concerts, school events and graduations, often traveling fair distances to do so. She was interested in every minute of every event, asking probing questions to better understand a new experience.

Aside from spending time with family and friends, Jean’s favorite things were singing, reading and discussing books, traveling, teaching, learning, completing the daily crossword in pen, keeping the box score while watching Red Sox games on TV, and walking on the beach with her beloved dog Allie.

She was a cherished and well-loved member of the Saco and Ocean Park communities. She could (and would) talk with anyone, and had an uncanny ability to uncover a mutual connection or impart some friendly advice. She connected with those who others may have not bothered, or those who others would have found difficulty engaging.

Jean had an enormous heart. It was full of curiosity, love, generosity and an adventurous spirit, and it was genuine and pure. Hers was a heart that always had room for more – and she freely allowed others in, especially when someone needed it the most. In the end, Jean’s heart may have failed her, but it never failed us.

Jean was preceded in death by her parents and many beloved aunts and uncles.

She is survived by: three children, David C. Leach and wife Cathy of Durham, New Hampshire, John D. Leach and fiancée Laura Gelinas of Saco, and Alison D. Moore and husband Tim of Euharlee, Georgia; six grandchildren, Rebecca Dempsey and husband Patrick, Matthew and Ryan Leach, Emily and Kurt Moore, and Taryn Leach; and four siblings, Bryce Roberts and wife Merry of Cape Elizabeth, Cathy Larkin and husband Gary of Old Orchard Beach, Kim Shepard and husband Mark of Arundel, and Pam Roberts and husband Scott McInturff of Brookline, Massachusetts.

She is also survived by nieces and nephews, who she loved as her own: Lindsay Perry, Elizabeth Sides, Christine Casterella, Deborah McHugh, Payce Shepard, and Zane, Pierce and Miranda McInturff.

Visiting hours are 4-8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 23, at Dennett, Craig and Pate Funeral Home, 365 Main St., Saco. A celebration of Jean’s life will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 24, at First Parish Congregational Church in Saco. There will be a reception at the church immediately following the service. Later in the day, a private committal will be held at Greenwood Cemetery. The service will be live-streamed for those unable to attend at firstparishsaco.org.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Jean’s memory to: Camp Laughing Loon, P.O. Box 28, Saco, ME 04072; First Parish Congregational Church, 12 Beach St., Saco, ME 04072; or Ocean Park Association, P.O. Box 7296, Ocean Park, ME 04063.