NAPLES, FLA. – Coral Mariette Clifford (Berkeley), beloved mom, grandmother, and great-grandmother, peacefully passed away at age 90, surrounded by family and friends at her Naples, Fla. home, Friday, March 22, 2013. Coral, originally from Bridgeport, Conn., was born July 28, 1922, to Arthur and Cora (Brown) Berkeley.
Coral married Bert Clifford, July 13, 1943, and together they moved to Unity, where they raised three children. Coral and Bert wintered in Marco Island, Fla., for many years where Coral was a regular on the tennis court and golf course. As a newlywed, Coral worked as a post master, bus driver and helped on the family farm. She was an avid seamstress who loved designing her children’s and later, her grandchildren’s, clothes. Coral also loved cats, cars, clothes and costume jewelry; her grandchildren and great-grandchildren always marveled at her dynamic color-coordinated outfits. Coral was deeply devoted to Bert and encouraged him to pursue his dreams in the telephone industry which included buying Unity Telephone Company in the 1960’s, founding a cellular telephone company, Unicel Corporation, in the 1980’s, and establishing philanthropic foundations in the 1990’s. Pioneering telecommunications progress and promoting rural revitalization in Maine were central themes in Coral and Bert’s lives. In 1963, Coral became a director of Unity of Telephone Company, a post she held for more than four decades. She also served as secretary and treasurer on the Board of Directors. Coral was named a director of Unicel Corporation when that cellular company was founded in 1988. Coral is best known for her belief in community service and her contributions as a philanthropist. She was a member of the Josiah B. Drummond No. 91 Order of the Eastern Star for more than 60 years and served terms as both matron and secretary. She was an active member of Unity Union Church, where she participated in United Methodist Women. In 1995, Coral and Bert spearheaded the ‘Field of Dreams’ outdoor athletic complex which provided free public access to baseball, softball and soccer fields, basketball and tennis courts, a playground, outdoor exercise equipment, walking paths and a concession booth situated overlooking picturesque Unity Pond. Coral was instrumental in creating the Unity Centre for the Performing Arts, a 200-seat theatre and art gallery which quickly became a cultural landmark for the entire region. Coral and Bert quietly and generously supported communities, families, scholars and organizations throughout Maine for their entire lives. This culminated in forming the Clifford Charitable Foundation, whose purpose was to maintain the ‘Field of Dreams’ and develop new cultural and educational opportunities, and the Unity Foundation, which awards funding to nonprofit organizations. As a final generous gesture, Coral gifted the ‘Field of Dreams’ and the Unity Centre for the Performing Arts to Unity College, a local higher education institution that her husband helped establish.
Coral will be dearly missed by her loving family including her daughter and son-in-law, Coral-Jeanne and Rick O’Connor of Naples, Fla.; sister-in-law, Arlene Clifford of Falmouth; nephews, Arthur Berkeley of Stratford, Conn., and Gary and Scott Aaron; and niece, Meryl Aaron; grandchildren, Bert Clifford of Panama City, Fla., Cullen Oxton and his wife, Bonnie, of Cummings, Ga., Allison (Clifford) and her husband, Gregory Morrill, of Upton, Mass., Leslie (Clifford) and her husband, Matthew Plunkett, of Ayer, Mass., George O’Connor and his wife, Michelle, of North Reading, Mass., and Patricia (O’Connor) and her husband, Shawn Carlson, of Dilworth, Minn.; great-grandchildren, Alexis and Nicholas Clifford, Laura Domigan and Logan and Colby Oxton, Maxwell, Charles and Bennet Morrill, Casey, Brady and Madelyn O’Connor, Jonathan and Ellison Plunkett, and Coralynn Carlson. She is predeceased by husband, Bert Clifford; son, Gregory; and daughter, Shirley (Clifford) Adams; sisters, Emma (Berkeley) Drew, Shirley (Berkeley) Aaron and Wellington Wilkins Berkeley.
A memorial service will be held 3-5 p.m. Saturday, April 6, at The Classics Country Club at Lely Resort, 7989 Grand Lely Drive, Naples, Fla. In lieu of flowers, Coral’s family asks that donations be sent to the United Methodist Women of Unity Union Church, P.O. Box 146, Unity, ME 04988. Coral’s family will hold an internment ceremony in August at Unity Union Church.