BANGOR, Maine — Catherine “Kay” Lebowitz, a former Bangor city councilor and state legislator who remained active as a volunteer for dozens of local organizations long after her retirement, died Monday afternoon at the age of 94.
Known to friends and city officials as “Bangor’s sweetheart,” Lebowitz had a home in Bangor but was staying at a local nursing care facility at the time of her death, the Rev. Bob Carlson said Monday night.
“She just loved this community,” Carlson said. “She loved everything about it. She loved being a troop greeter. Right to the end she was very alert, always gracious, always thankful. The woman was just incredible.”
Lebowitz was a regular face serving on local committees, boards and groups, including the Bangor Museum, Eastern Maine Community College, Maine Center for Aging, St. Joseph Hospital and the Eastern Maine United Way.
A member of the recently formed board of the Bangor Troop Greeters, Lebowitz was able to leave the care facility in which she stayed in order to attend a March 31 ceremony recognizing the millionth troop to fly through Bangor International Airport.
Tom Kohl, chairman of the Maine Troop Greeters, said Lebowitz was “everybody’s grandmother.”
“Kay had a very personable way of approaching the troops, very soft, very comfortable,” Kohl said. “I don’t know if there was ever a troop that wasn’t infatuated with her visit. She was just a very warm person, and it came out. The troops really responded to her. She will be sorely missed by the entire community, and she was a major part of our community here [at Bangor International Airport].”
In 2008 the Bangor Region Chamber of Commerce renamed its Public Sector Service Award the Catherine Lebowitz Award for Public Service.
“Kay was a remarkable woman, a wonderful friend and a great patriot,” U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, who received the first of the renamed awards from the Chamber of Commerce, said Monday in a statement. “She truly will be missed by all of us who loved her dearly.”
In 2005, then-Bangor Mayor Frank Farrington declared her birthday, June 30, as “Kay’s Day.” She got similar treatment in 2006 when Gov. John Baldacci named a “Kay Lebowitz Day” throughout the state to recognize her service as a troop greeter.
Lebowitz was born in Massachusetts and moved as a youngster to Searsport with her family. She moved back to Boston at one point, according to a 2005 Bangor Daily News story, but returned to Maine in 1955, at which point she became active in the community. She started as a volunteer prompter for local theater groups.
She served on many committees over the decades, and rose to high levels in many associations.
“The reason I got to be president is I missed a meeting,” Lebowitz joked in 2005 of her ascendancy to the position on the board of the Bangor Museum. “You’ve got to be careful of those things.”
She also volunteered at the Maine Motor Vehicle Department.
“If you know her, she’s wonderful,” Beth Bohnet, who served alongside Lebowitz on the Bangor Museum board, said at the time. “She does everything.”
Lebowitz retired as the chief clerk of the federal District Court, Carlson said.
During a 2006 Women’s History Month event, Lebowitz said she got “itchy” after her retirement and kept looking for jobs and volunteer activities to stay busy, according to a BDN story.
On April 10, she served in a different capacity — as Carlson’s date to the 11th annual Northeastern Maine Heart Ball held at the University of Maine in Orono. As the honoree that night, Lebowitz was recognized for her own struggles in dealing with heart disease.
“I sprung her from the nursing home for the evening, and it was wonderful,” Carlson said. “She had a wonderful time. She just charmed that crowd.”
Lebowitz was married to Murray Lebowitz, who predeceased her. She had no children and is survived by a niece, Carlson said. Funeral arrangements were not available Monday night.