John James Kinley was 86.
The native of Lunenburg, N.S., served as Nova Scotia's 29th lieutenant-governor, holding the prestigious position from 1994 to 2000.
Kinley held a number of careers, working as an engineer, a businessman and a member of the Royal Canadian Navy.
In 2002, he was appointed to the Order of Nova Scotia and awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal, which recognizes outstanding contributions to communities and Canada.
Nova Scotia's political leaders issued statements, expressing their sympathies on the loss of man they said proudly served his province and country.
Premier Darrell Dexter said Kinley would "be remembered as a respected community member, accomplished businessman and loving family man."
The married father of four served as president of his family's foundry and engineering company in Lunenburg for more than 50 years.
Progressive Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie said Kinley was devoted to excellence in all that he did.
"We've lost an extraordinary citizen and a truly great Nova Scotian," he said.
Stephen McNeil, leader of the Opposition Liberals, said the province has lost a dedicated Nova Scotian.
"He was someone who wanted to make a difference in the lives of the people he served, and without question he achieved that," McNeil said.