Bangor architect Francis Zelz dies at 85

Posted April 26, 2010, at 9:26 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — A well-known architect who left his mark on the landscape of Greater Bangor died Thursday at the age of 85.

Francis J. Zelz, who served aboard two U.S. Navy ships during World War II, also was a troop greeter at Bangor International Airport and shared his wartime experiences with Maine youngsters through the Cole Land Transportation Museum’s Ambassadors for Freedom.

On Monday, Zelz was remembered as a talented architect, a family man and a community leader, who served on Bangor’s planning board and was chairman of the board of St. John’s School.

“He was a sweetheart and a gentleman,” Gov. John Baldacci said Monday, adding that his parents, Robert and Rosemary Baldacci, Zelz and his wife, Rachel, who predeceased him, and the couples’ children lived a few streets away from one another and spent a great deal of time together.

“He and his wife, Rachel, were some of Mom and Dad’s closest friends,” he said. “They were two of the sweetest people.”

The governor said that he always enjoyed seeing Zelz at civic events in Bangor, “when we were able to reconnect and talk about the old days.”

Baldacci also noted that Zelz was a well-known architect with a long list of government, commercial and residential clients. Among the notable public buildings he designed were the domestic terminal and international arrivals building at BIA and the town of Hampden’s municipal building.

Gary Smith of Brookings Smith Funeral Home was among Zelz’s clients.

“I can’t say enough good things about him,” Smith said Monday. “He was very well-respected and very concerned about his clients but he was also very interested in making sure the buildings he designed complemented the rest of the neighborhood.”

Born in Stafford Springs, Conn., Zelz first came to Maine in 1948, joining the firm founded by Eaton Tarbell, an architect who designed several contemporary buildings in the region, including the Bangor Auditorium.

After spending several years in Southern California and Alaska, Zelz returned to Maine, met the woman he would marry, started a family and, in 1960, established the architectural firm he would operate until he retired in January 2001, according to the obituary provided by his family.

Zelz is survived by his three sons and their wives, Peter and Merlita of Redwood City, Calif., Eric and Abigail of Bangor, and David and Michaela of Glenburn as well as three grandchildren. A funeral service is scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday at St. John’s Catholic Church at 207 York St. in Bangor.

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