04/02/2017 18:22 EDT | Updated 04/03/2018 01:12 EDT

Joe Feeney, former mayor of Mahone Bay, dies in the Bahamas

The former mayor of Mahone Bay, Joe Feeney, has died. The 71-year-old was vacationing in the Bahamas with his wife at the time of his passing.

Feeney was mayor of Mahone Bay for 27 years, retiring in 2016. His friend and Mahone Bay's current mayor, Dave Devenne, revealed on Facebook he learned of Feeney's death on Friday.

"There is a pall hanging over our town today," Devenne wrote Sunday evening on Facebook. "We are saddened once again by the unexpected loss of one of our most well known citizens."

'Devoted family man'

​Devenne described Feeney as an educator, a politician, a sailor, a "die hard Red Sox fan" and "above all a devoted family man."

Feeney is survived by his wife Barbara, sons Timothy and Joseph, as well as a number of siblings, Devenne wrote.

"I know the thoughts and prayers of all who knew Joe are with them at this difficult time," he wrote.

'It takes your breath away'

Devenne told CBC News that Feeney collapsed after going snorkeling last week. He said the deputy mayor informed him of the death.

"It takes your breath away when you hear news like that," Devenne said. "We had had breakfast with Joe and Barb, the local legion has a breakfast at the end of every month and we were in the habit of going, Joe, Barb and I and my partner Julie."

Devenne said Feeney served on Mahone Bay town council for 31 years, 27 of those as mayor.

A visible role

"Mahone Bay is a small town, it has a relatively small population. But nevertheless, Joe managed to make the mayor's role in Mahone Bay one that was visible and had an impact on people's lives."

Among those accomplishments, Devenne noted Feeney's leadership in establishing a sewage treatment plant for the town.

"Before it was popular to take on environmental issues, Joe realized the problem and he made it happen. A couple of years later, it was a water treatment system," Devenne said. 

"We now have some of the best water in the province because of his foresight to realize we would need this kind of facility."

Council's mentor

Devenne said Feeney served as a mentor for Mahone Bay's current council.

"We had access to his advice and experience of 27 years. That's gone and I personally do feel a great loss for him not being there as a mentor," Devenne said.

Funeral arrangements have yet to be made. Devenne said Feeney's remains are in Nassau and an autopsy is planned for Monday or Tuesday.

"Barbara and their older son, Tim, who is with her now in the Bahamas will be making arrangements for the trip home," he said.