Thomas Walsh, 88, has developed an international hotel empire from Bangor and Bar Harbor

Thomas Walsh, the Bangor native who founded one of the largest private hotel companies in the United States, has passed away.

Walsh died of natural causes at Portsmouth Regional Hospital in New Hampshire on Saturday, according to a spokeswoman for Brookings-Smith Funeral Home in Bangor. He was 88 years old.

Walsh was a well-regarded and at times controversial figure whose business grew from a single hotel in Brewer to becoming Oceanic properties, Ltd. The company has in its portfolio more than 125 hotels and resorts in North America, including several hotels in Augusta, Bangor, Bar Harbor and Portland.

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It employs more than 50,000 people, according to the company’s website. Former Governor John Baldacci and his brother, former city councilor Joe Baldacci, said Walsh has always been true to his roots.

“He was selling hotel and restaurant supplies in the back of a truck. He turned that into a million dollar business, ”said John Baldacci,“ and he never forgot Bangor. “

“He didn’t make a big deal of himself,” Joe Baldacci said. “He was a very confident guy, but he wasn’t getting in the air, which is always nice with someone who has become an international business success.”

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Perhaps it is a measure of Walsh’s impact on Maine that the funeral home announced Monday that the family is changing the location of Wednesday’s funeral services from a small church to St. John’s Catholic Church in Bangor with 500 seats.

Walsh was a very practical entrepreneur who became legendary for his rivalry with another well-known hotelier in Bar Harbor – David J. Witham of the Witham Family Partnership, who owned or held a controlling interest in 11 accommodation properties in Hancock County. .

Both aggressive businessmen, the feud may have started when Witham unsuccessfully appealed for permit approval of Walsh’s plans for the Harborside Hotel in 2000. It continued with a series of lawsuits and claims. ” competitive hotel purchases for at least 12 years. Witham died before nearly a year old Walsh, dying at the age of 77 in November 2017.

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Ocean Properties’ holdings in Maine include the Bar Harbor Regency; Harborside Hotel in Bar Harbor; Residence Inns in Auburn, Bangor and the Brunswick area; Bangor Fairfield Inn; and the Portland Marriott.

Walsh’s five-story Residence Inn by Marriott, located next to the Cross Insurance Center, became one of the anchor points for the Bangor waterfront revitalization when it opened in 2015, Baldacci said.

“We caught up with him to talk about his interest in a hotel on the Bangor seafronts. He loved Bangor, but he was all about business, ”Baldacci said. “You could tell he was a great businessman because his mind was [totally] focused on how many steps it would take.

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Walsh’s Vigil for Family and Friends will take place from 4 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Brookings-Smith on Tuesday. The family is asking that in lieu of flowers, donations in her memory be made to the Florida Keys SPCA Inc. Animal Shelter, 5230 College Road, Key West, FL 33040 or The Mitchell Institute in Maine, 75 Washington Ave., Suite 2E, Portland, ME 04101.

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