Russell Packett, director of Cape Elizabeth Community Services and a devoted family man who ran a youth basketball league that affected thousands of kids across southern and western Maine, died Tuesday. He was 57.

Mr. Packett was remembered by colleagues as a respected recreation professional who had an infectious love for basketball.

A Massachusetts native, Mr. Packett moved to Maine in 1993 to pursue a career in sports recreation.

Russell Packett

He served as assistant director of Yarmouth Community Services for 11 years. In 2004, he became executive director of what is now RSU 5 Community Programs serving Freeport, Pownal and Durham.

He joined Cape Elizabeth Community Services as director in 2012. He oversaw programming for kids and adults, including all activities at its pool and fitness center.

“He loved working in the recreation world,” said Kathy Raftice, interim director at Cape community services. “We are shocked here in community services. He was far too young.”

Anthony Johnson, recreation and operations manager at South Portland Parks, Recreation and Waterfront, worked with Mr. Packett during his eight years in Freeport. Johnson said he was a tremendous person and a mentor in the field of recreation.

“He loved being able to give back to the community,” Johnson said. “He was passionate about youth sports and making a difference in kids’ lives.”

One of Mr. Packett’s greatest accomplishments was creating a youth travel basketball league in 1993. Since then, the league has grown to more than 130 teams across southern and western Maine, playing over 900 games each season. Colleagues say his efforts impacted thousands of kids over the years.

Deb Smith, executive director of the Maine Recreation and Parks Association, said he loved the challenge of running the league.

“He loved the people that were part of the league,” Smith said. “There are so many people who will miss him tremendously. He was a well-liked man, very respected.”

Mr. Packett was longtime treasurer of the Maine Recreation and Parks Association. He was also a high school basketball official.

He was married to Peggy Scales Packett for six years, and the family settled in Harpswell.

His wife reminisced about their life together, saying his love for family topped all things.

“Privately, he was very devoted to his family and that’s where he put all his energy,” she said. “When it came to family, he worked so hard to be a good husband. He worked so hard to be a good father, not only to his kids, but my kids as well and he was so in love with his granddaughters. He just wanted to be ‘Poppy.’ ”

The Packetts were married in May 2011, but had known each other when their children were young. His oldest son and her son went to school together and were good friends. His first wife died in 2008 after a long battle with breast cancer.

“I kind of feel like she gave him to me … that she entrusted him to me,” his wife said. “She set the stage in many ways. She wanted to know that he would continue to love and she gave him permission to do that.”

The Packetts made the most of their short time together. They loved to travel.

“Everywhere we went, he made it fun,” his wife said. “He had the best laugh in the whole world. When he got sick, all I wanted was to hear him laugh again.”

In May, Mr. Packett experienced some neurological changes that affected his ability to walk. Doctors discovered a Stage IV spinal tumor and operated on June 6. His wife said he underwent chemotherapy and radiation, and suffered one complication after another.

He went home on Oct. 7 for a brief time before landing in the hospital again. His wife said he had an aggressive form of cancer that attacked his liver.

In the last few days of his life, Mr. Packett rallied. His wife got her wish to hear her husband laugh again.

“He gave me the most perfect love and I’m just so grateful,” his wife said. “As hard as it was to see him go, I wouldn’t trade those years for anything.”