'He just gave': Veteran South Portland police officer mourned by friends, colleagues

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SOUTH PORTLAND — A memorial service will be held 11 a.m. Sunday at Westbrook Performing Arts Center for Officer Peter MacVane, a 34-year veteran of the city Police Department.

MacVane, who was 61, died Wednesday at Gosnell Memorial Hospice House in Scarborough after a long battle with cancer. He joined the Police Department in 1978, but his community impact went well beyond his badge and uniform, City Manager Jim Gailey and Officer Jim Fahey said.

“There’s nothing bad to say about him, I don’t know anyone who could say anything bad about him,” Fahey said. “He just gave.”

Gailey said MacVane donated his time, energy, and cheer to a variety of community efforts, including serving as “Officer Friendly” to elementary school students and a host of off-beat events to raise money for Special Olympics Maine.

“Peter gave us everything he had and he will be sorely missed by his city of South Portland family,” Gailey said.

MacVane was a co-founder of the annual New Year’s Day Lobster Dip in Old Orchard Beach, an event organized initially with members of the Portland Rugby Club.

“He was crazy, he loved it,” Fahey said about plunging into the Atlantic Ocean to raise money for Special Olympics. Fahey said MacVane was also one of the first “double-dippers,” who did not consider the event complete until they went in the water at least twice.

When his health finally prevented him from getting into the ocean, Fahey said more than a dozen friends and colleagues formed a human chain in the water so the last person could touch MacVane on shore.

Lisa Bird, who directs public relations for Special Olympics Maine, said MacVane’s help went far beyond a frigid annual splash in the ocean.

“Peter was the kind of person who would do the jobs you typically could not get other people to do,” Bird said, recalling how he spent a night on the roof of Big Moose Harley Davidson in Portland, or locked himself in a doughnut shop overnight to help raise money.

Whatever the event, Bird said MacVane threw himself into the theme, wearing hats and costumes and flashing his “trademark thumbs-up” to photographers.

Bird and Fahey said MacVane’s physical strength may only have been matched by his strong sense of humor. Both qualities endured as he fought cancer.

“Just a few weeks ago he was waiting tables at Red Robin,” Bird said. “His entire life, literally, was devoted to serving others.”

On the beat, Fahey said MacVane was “professional, fun-loving and humorous. He treated everyone with respect.”

About a week before his death, MacVane was awarded the annual Team Award for city employees, honored with Officer Robert Scarpelli. At the breakfast honoring municipal employees, Police Chief Ed Googins noted MacVane was training Scarpelli as the department court officer even as his health was getting worse.

“Peter remains steadfast in his job. He continues to come to work and do the job assigned to him,” Googins said.

Bird said it may take more than one person to do all the work MacVane contributed to Special Olympics Maine. Before his death, she said, he was attempting to show a fellow officer what needed to be done – and the officer came away convinced it would take a committee of at least six people.

MacVane is survived by his wife of 34 years, Kathy L. (Hathaway) MacVane; his daughter, Kelly MacVane, and his son Ian MacVane, both of Portland; a brother and sister-in-law, Arthur and Marcia MacVane of Gray; a special cousin, Charlene Courtemanche of Dover, N.H., and many nieces, nephews and cousins.

A memorial visitation will be held 2-5 p.m. Saturday at A.T. Hutchins Funeral & Cremation Services, 660 Brighton Ave., Portland. The Westbrook Performing Arts Center is at 471 Stroudwater St.

In lieu of flowers, his family requested donations be made in MacVane’s memory to the Peter MacVane Memorial Fund to benefit Maine Special Olympics, and the American Lung Association’s Trek Across Maine, in care of Evergreen Credit Union, 799 Broadway, South Portland, ME 04016.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Sidebar Elements

South Portland Police Officer Peter MacVane, who died Wednesday, served 34 years in the department. He also volunteered throughout the community, including as a co-founder of the annual Lobster Dip to Benefit Special Olympics Maine. “He just gave, he was truly a giver,” his colleague, Officer Jim Fahey, said.

South Portland Police Officer Peter MacVane and Rocco Frenzilli of the Portland Rugby Club founded the annual New Year’s Day Lobster Dip benefiting Special Olympics Maine in Old Orchard Beach 25 years ago. MacVane, who died Wedesday, raised money for Special Olympics in a variety of ways, including waiting tables for tips at local restaurants. “His entire life, literally, was devoted to serving others,” said Lisa Bird of Special Olympics Maine.

Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.