James D.P. Farrell was as comfortable in a hockey rink as in the halls of justice. He captained the Princeton University hockey team in college and had recently led a division of the state attorney general's office.
"Jim Farrell didn't just represent the best in public service, he represented the best in all of us," Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly said yesterday. "He was a can-do person who got things done."
Mr. Farrell, 46, died Monday in his home in Wayland. The cause of death had yet to be determined.
As an assistant attorney general, Mr. Farrell oversaw compliance with the state Brownfields Act, passed by the Legislature in 1988, which established grants and other incentives for the cleanup and development of contaminated property.
The state has Brownfields sites of all shapes and sizes, particularly in old mill towns, where "there's a legacy of contamination," as Mr. Farrell said in a story published in the Worcester Telegram and Gazette in 2002.
"He was a person who worked hard every day to make the state a better place, and he did it site by site by site," Reilly said.
Raised in Weston, Mr. Farrell graduated from Princeton, where he played hockey with TV writer David E. Kelley. His slippery moves on the ice earned him the nickname "The Eel." Kelley commemorated their friendship by naming a character on his "L.A. Law" television show Errol "The Eel" Farrell.
"I think it was a wedding present for Jimmy," his brother David J. Farrell Jr. of Chatham said yesterday.
After college, Mr. Farrell played professional hockey in the Italian Alps for a couple of years.
Mr. Farrell graduated in 1986 from Boston College Law School, where he met his wife, Martha Pyle.
He worked in environmental enforcement at the US Department of Justice and was an aide to US Senator Warren Rudman, a New Hampshire Republican, before joining the Massachusetts attorney general's office about five years ago.
Mr. Farrell's job often involved delicate negotiations among developers, municipalities, and the former owners of contaminated sites.
"He was more comfortable working things out than arguing in court," his brother said.
"He treated every person like a peer," his friend and hockey teammate George Favaloro, of Lincoln, said yesterday. "He once told me, 'I don't want to look up to you and I don't want to be looked up to. I just want to see people eye to eye.' "
Favaloro said Mr. Farrell was the captain of every team he ever played on.
"He was a tough competitor, a wonderful sportsman, and always a gentleman," he said.
Mr. Farrell coached youth hockey, baseball, and soccer in Wayland.
"He was devoted to his family, " said Assistant Attorney General Betsy Harper. "He built a skating rink so his kids could skate in the backyard."
His office was decorated with many pictures of his wife, son, and daughter. "He was a man who never needed to be reminded what is important in life," Reilly said.
In addition to his wife and brother, Mr. Farrell leaves his son, Joseph, and his daughter, Isabelle, both of Wayland; his parents, Dr. David J. and Dorothy Farrell of Weston and Chatham; a sister, Dorothy Shelton of Wayland; and another brother, John B. of Mansfield.
A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday in the Belmont Hill School Chapel.