Bangor lost its “sweetheart” this week with the death of Catharine “Kay” Lebowitz. Tall, impeccably dressed and frequently smiling, Mrs. Lebowitz was a tireless supporter of her adopted hometown. She personified an era when community involvement was expected and easily given.
“Kay always put her community first and she touched many lives,” said Gov. John Baldacci, who served with her in the state Legislature. “She was an icon in the city of Bangor, serving in so many capacities and taking great pride in its people. She remained a tireless friend to all, and showed great spirit throughout all her life.”
Her family moved to Searsport from Massachusetts in the summer of 1920. After graduating from high school in Belfast, she worked for the Works Progress Administration in several Maine locations. At the start of World War II, she went to work for the Navy Supply Pier as executive secretary and personnel officer. After the war, she moved to Boston, but returned to Maine because of her mother’s illness.
She worked for the U.S. Federal District Court as officer in charge of the northern division, until she retired in 1979. After retirement she worked part time for G.M. Pollock and as an abstractor for a Portland firm until 1982.
Mrs. Lebowitz said she got “itchy” after her retirement and kept looking for volunteer activities to stay busy. She not only stayed busy, she left a positive mark on Bangor.
She was elected to the Legislature in 1982 and served five terms, her self-imposed limit. She also served on the Bangor City Council.
Beyond this official service, Mrs. Lebowitz served on many local boards and volunteered for dozens of organizations, giving generously of her time and expertise. Among the many groups she worked with are the United Way of Eastern Maine, Eastern Maine Community College, St. Joseph Hospital, Penobscot County Juvenile Justice Committee, Community Health and Counseling, and the Maine Development Foundation.
More recently, she was a member of the Bangor Troop Greeters. Tom Kohl, chairman of the group, called her “everybody’s grandmother.” City officials called her Bangor’s “sweetheart.”
Mrs. Lebowitz, who was 94, was also involved in Fusion:Bangor, a group devoted to making the city more inviting and exciting to those under 40. Cary Weston, one of the group’s founders and a member of the Bangor City Council, organized a special tribute to Mrs. Lebowitz. He had the lights on the city’s standpipe darkened for 94 seconds on Friday.
It was a fitting tribute to one of the city’s leading lights.