BANGOR, Maine — Bill Zoidis, whose family-owned eatery on outer Hammond Street was frequented by everyone from politicians and celebrities to people traveling for business or just in search of a special occasion splurge, died Saturday at the age of 85.

Zoidis was residing in Portland at the time, according to his obituary.

On Sunday, Zoidis was remembered as the man who made every customer feel like family at his Pilots Grill, which he managed for more than 50 years until it closed at the end of 2002.

“Bill Zoidis’ legendary restaurant, Pilots Grill, was a landmark because Bill welcomed each and every customer as if we were members of his family,” Sen. Susan Collins said Sunday.

“Bill always greeted everyone with such warmth and graciousness. I loved his famous pub cheese and his fresh haddock,” she said.

“But even more than his delicious food, it was Bill’s gregarious, warm personality that brought everyone back again and again for as long as his restaurant was open,” she said. “He will be sorely missed by all of us who knew him; he embodied the best of our community.”

Jimmy Vardamis, a fellow Bangor restaurateur and close friend, entertained Zoidis at his home a few weeks ago.

“He never was a competitor,” Vardamis said. “He always was a friend. He was an asset to anyone in the restaurant business. He was always free to give advice if you wanted it.

“He was always free to loan you food if you happened to run out of a certain thing. You could call him, and if he had it, he’d let you come over and pick it up, and you could pay him back whenever you got back over there,” he said.

Also famous for its huge steaks, the restaurant made its debut in 1940 near the then-Bangor Airfield and figured into life’s special moments for many from the area or those just passing through.

That was the case for former Gov. John Baldacci and his brother, Bangor City Councilor Joe Baldacci, who come from another prominent Bangor restaurant family.

“We’d always be out to Pilots Grill for the holidays with our family,” the former governor said. “It was such a special time, and Bill was just such a gracious host. He and [his wife], Sally, were very good friends of Mom and Dad’s.

“He was always greeting people. He was always very nice with people. He had a great rapport. He truly was the classic restaurateur,” he said. “He was what embodies all the good qualities of being a restaurateur. Being there for the customers, giving them top quality service — this wonderful food and surroundings — Bill had it all together.

“He was part of our glue. He raised his family here and contributed to the community and the state without any medals or pats on the back,” he said. ”He was a terrific individual. He set a high standard.”

Councilor Baldacci agreed.

“He worked a long time, and he built a great institution. Bill Zoidis was part of our family because other than our own restaurant, we would go out there on holidays and on special occasions, to Pilots Grill,” he said. “It was a second home, and he was always a big supporter of us. It was a very close friendship.”

Over his career, Zoidis served on the Bangor Chamber of Commerce and Bangor Convention and Visitors Bureau. He also was heavily involved in the Maine Restaurant Association, which as an indication of its esteem for Zoidis presented him its Lifetime Achievement Award for 2000 and two years later named its highest honor after him.

He also served as national director of the National Restaurant Association, on the executive board of the Eastern States Exposition and as a member of the Maine Air National Guard.

A gathering for friends and family will be held from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Brookings-Smith’s Family Reception Center at 163 Center St. in Bangor.