CAMDEN — On Jan. 3, in the calm wake of a New Year, husband, father, grandfather, friend and avid outdoorsman Joseph Cloutier passed from this life.

Diagnosed with a rare cancer (CNS Lymphoma) in July, Joe spent the last six months grappling with a disease that was a lot like him in life — willful, resolute, driven, relentless, effective and finally unstoppable. While this illness took his life far too soon, Joe told loved ones recently that he didn’t fear death and was fulfilled with the life he lived.

Joe was born in Bangor, one of six children of Joseph and Natalie Cloutier. He was legally adopted by his fraternal grandparents Joe and Cora Cloutier and lived with them for many years in their simple home on Oyster River Road in Warren. To say the early years were hard would be an understatement, but they shaped Joe’s character in a way that would prove very important later in life.

Driven by necessity, Joe took up the trade of clam digging at age 10, harvesting clams by hand from the tidal flats of the St. George River, often with his younger brother Billy at his side. The difficult physical work, done in concert with the twice-daily tides and the capricious Maine weather, established an early work ethic that would guide him through his studies, successful law career and numerous entrepreneurial endeavors.

Joe attended grade school and then high school in Warren where he met his sweetheart and lifelong love, Linda Cloutier. They began dating at ages 15 and 17, going out for fried clams and skating in the winters on nearby ponds. They married in January of 1969 and enjoyed a long and eventful 53-year marriage that was strengthened by Joe’s boundless energy and Linda’s patience. Together they had two children, Nicole and Michael.

Encouraged by Warren High School Principal Edgar Lemke, Joe applied to the University of Maine Orono and in 1969 he graduated with honors and was admitted into the Phi Beta Kappa Academic Society. After receiving a presidential scholarship, he and Linda moved down to Massachusetts so he could attend Boston College Law School from 1970 to 1972. It was here that he formed some of his most lasting and treasured friendships with his law school buddies and their families, most of which continue to this day.

Following law school, Joe started working as a junior counsel at Strout & Payson in Rockland where he quickly rose to partner. During these years, Joe practiced as a civil attorney on the plaintiff side. Having grown up disadvantaged, he was always on the side of the underdog, and driven to fight for what was right. He was a formidable courtroom force, intimidating his opponents and persuading jurors who delighted in his antics and signature polka-dotted bow ties. He enjoyed the competition and the pressure of trying legal cases, but at the core he was driven by his sense of fairness and the belief that those who had suffered deserved justice.

While maintaining his law practice Joseph M. Cloutier and Associates, Joe started Realty Resources Management in 1976 with his wife and partners, working with the local and national housing authorities to provide affordable housing to low-income families. He and his loyal employees grew the company into one of the largest property management firms in New England, employing hundreds of people while developing over 60 affordable housing projects and housing thousands. This was his professional legacy, an endeavor born out of the personal experience of growing up poor and experiencing housing insecurity with his parents.

In 1981, after a decade of work endeavors between law and real estate, Joe and Linda started a family. In February of that year Linda gave birth to their daughter Nicole, and four years later in the summer of 1985, their son Michael. The next two decades Joe and Linda would weave together the two themes of career and childrearing, beginning many family traditions. Among them were winters skiing at Sunday River, hiking in Baxter state Park, boating on Penobscot bay, annual camping trips “up north” and of course their annual Lobster Festival parties. Later, the family enjoyed many catamaran trips throughout the British Virgin Islands with dear friends, and Joe and Linda traveled extensively through Europe and Central and South America.

Joe loved his warm winters down in Florida, and his temperate summers at home in Camden. He loved boating and fishing in waters all over the world and sharing this experience with family and friends. He loved to exercise and spent most mornings in Camden walking the Chestnut-Bayview Street loop with Linda. He was a loving, generous father and a thoughtful grandfather to his four grandchildren, building them a tree house and taking them on boat rides or ATV adventures around the pond on his property in Camden. He was an avid reader of both non-fiction and fiction, and especially enjoyed learning about Civil War history, clean energy and climate change. He cherished good food and collected many recipes to make and share at family events.

He is survived by his wife Linda of Warren; his daughter Nicole (Guido) of Tuscany, Italy; his son Michael (Erica) of Andover, Mass.; his grandchildren Romy, Willa, Achille and Marea; and his many nieces and nephews whom he loved and mentored. He also leaves behind legions of beloved friends across Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts and Florida with whom he celebrated life and shared his many hobbies.

Joe’s family wishes to mourn his death privately. There will be a memorial service and celebration of his life in Camden this spring. In lieu of flowers, mourners are encouraged to make a donation to one of the educational scholarships through the Maine Community Foundation.