BANGOR, Maine — A Bangor banker considered a mentor by many who knew him was remembered Monday for his calm leadership style as well as his considerable contributions to the community.
Edwin Clift, 73, died Sunday evening at his home on Branch Lake in Ellsworth after a battle with cancer that spanned several months, according to friends and associates.
A native of Fredericksburg, Va., Clift moved to Maine in 1964 to begin his banking career at Merrill Trust Co. after serving in the U.S. Air Force. He also worked as a senior vice president at KeyBank and an executive vice president at Machias Savings Bank. He retired in early 2009 as chairman and chief executive officer of Merrill Merchants Bank. He played a major role in recruiting investors and senior management for Merrill Merchants when it became the largest startup bank in Maine history in 1992.
On Monday, friends and former colleagues remembered Clift as a southern gentleman who gave selflessly of his time and talents — not only within banking circles but also on the region’s economic, medical, civic, military and charitable fronts.
“In terms of all of his community involvement, it was huge and varied,” said longtime colleague William Lucy, senior vice president and division president for People’s United Bank, which acquired Merrill Merchant. “His impact was wide. He cut a wide swath,” Lucy added, citing a long list of organizations and institutions Clift served, mostly in leadership capacities.
The list included St. Joseph Hospital, where he chaired the St. Joseph Healthcare Foundation board of trustees and helped steer the hospital’s merger with Covenant Health Systems. He also held a state leadership post with the Maine Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve. In addition, he served on about a dozen other boards and committees in recent years and chaired the board of Seven Islands Land Co., which manages 1 million acres of certified forest in Maine.
“He had tremendous integrity,” Lucy said. “He was a wonderful listener. He was the kind of person who had a calming effect on a situation. He cared deeply about people and he was a very generous person, not only with time but financially, but always in a quiet way. He was an extremely humble person.
“He was the kind of leader who got the most out of people but never micromanaged a situation. He was willing to let people fly but he was always willing to help guide them back into the nest if needed,” he said.
William Bullock, another longtime banking associate and a fishing buddy of Clift, said he was at Clift’s former workplace at 201 Main St. on Monday.
“There wasn’t a dry eye in the bank today,” said Bullock, who is retired but still works as a banking consultant. “Just from a personal aspect, he was loved and respected.”
Bullock said bank customers still liked Clift even after he needed to turn down their loan requests.
“I think one thing that was a gift that he gave to all of us was the extraordinary way he inspired other people to get involved in the community,” added Jane Madigan, who also worked at the bank with Clift. “I think that’s his legacy.”
Sister Mary Norberta, former president and CEO of St. Joseph Healthcare, called Clift “a wonderful businessman, a good adviser. He’s been a mainstay for the hospital and for me. I learned a lot from him.”
“Ed will be sorely missed,” she said. “He really was a wise man — well known and well loved in the community. He’s certainly in our prayers.”
Mary Prybylo, who now heads the hospital, said Clift was her mentor when she took St. Joseph’s helm.
“He was always there for me,” she said. “He was just so solid. For a man who was so well-known in the community, he was just so unpretentious. … I feel a great loss. He was really a mentor to me.”
U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, also was saddened by Clift’s loss.
“I have known Ed for many years and have lost a friend,” Collins said. “While he certainly was a successful banker, I will always remember him as a genuinely generous and warm person who contributed so much to the Greater Bangor community.”
Clift is survived by his wife Mary, daughters Denise Smith and Shelby Young, and granddaughters Brooke and Sara, as well as many members of his extended family and an extensive circle of friends.
Information about funeral arrangements was not available Monday.