In the days after the death of Maine business icon David Flanagan, tributes highlighted the profound impact the former Central Maine Power leader made while tackling diverse problems in energy delivery, higher education, government policy and nonprofit organizations.

“My daughter said to me, ‘Mom, that’s great. But that’s not the guy who came to Thanksgiving,” his sister, Paula Dobrow, said during his memorial service Saturday at the University of Southern Maine.

That David T. Flanagan – whose smile was always quick and interest always genuine – was remembered as a devoted husband, brother and uncle, a steadfast friend, and a trusted mentor and public servant who, until the end, wished that he had longer to do more.

Hundreds of family members, friends and colleagues gathered in Hannaford Hall at USM for a service full of laughter and music. Flanagan spent his last days planning nearly every detail, from the speakers to the food to the fuchsia colored flowers that adorned the stage and surrounded his urn. Outside, a Maine flag was suspended between two CMP bucket trucks.

Kathleen Kaye Flanagan, right, widow of Maine business icon David Flanagan, along with his siblings (left to right) Lisa E. Flanagan, Nora D. Flanagan, Paula J. Debrow and Terrence W. Flanagan, applaud after a musical performance at a memorial service in his honor at USM’s Hannaford Hall in Portland on Saturday. Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

Flanagan, whose love of Maine never wavered even as he traveled the world with his wife, Kaye, died Oct. 13 of complications related to pancreatic cancer. He was 74.

He was most widely known for his 1990s leadership at Central Maine Power, where he used his finely honed business instincts, Down East demeanor and dry humor to build trust in the utility company. His success made him a go-to turnaround specialist at other organizations facing challenges, including USM.

Gov. Janet Mills, whose friendship with Flanagan spanned a half-century, described him as an expert in housing, conservation, higher education energy, trees and public lands, children’s programs, cybersecurity and model ships.

“David Flanagan’s talents and intellect are sorely missed already. His work ethic and dogged patience unmatchable. His ability to solve problems and call the shots as he saw them with great integrity and raw honesty, without regard for political or personal fallout, invaluable and unprecedented,” she said.

Flanagan was born in Bangor in June 1947, the oldest of Thomas and Constance Flanagan’s eight children. He grew up in Bangor and Hampden before moving to Portland, where he attended Deering High School.

David Flanagan spent his last days planning nearly every detail of Saturday’s service, from the speakers to the food to the fuchsia colored flowers. Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

Flanagan graduated in 1969 from Harvard University, where he studied history and government. He went on to earn a master’s degree at the University of London, Kings College, then attended Boston College Law School on a scholarship, graduating in 1973. He married his wife, Kaye, in 1974 at Two Lights State Park.

Flanagan’s passion for learning and travel were evident from a young age. Fascinated by geography and history, he loved to challenge his family with obscure facts. He and his brother Terry would travel around Maine on business trips with their father, learning about why rivers were chocked with logs and trees in Bar Harbor were black. His ability to focus, analyze and strategize was his super power, Terry Flanagan said.

Flanagan was the consummate big brother, always attentive and interested in the lives of his siblings and, later, of his nieces and nephews. He championed their aspirations and loved family gatherings full of banter and puns. After leaving Maine for college, Flanagan would write long letters to his family describing his travels through Europe. He never failed to send postcards while he was away, his sister, Lisa Flanagan, said.

“David was terribly sweet, nostalgic and sentimental. His kindness is genuine,” she said.

Flanagan’s cousin, Anna McManus Hayes, at Saturday’s service. Flanagan died Oct. 13 of complications related to pancreatic cancer. He was 74. Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

Friends shared stories of decades-long friendships with Flanagan, who became a mentor to many. Mills described meeting Flanagan for the first time in a train station in Spain on Christmas morning 1969 when she overheard him speaking with a distinct Maine accent. Their common bond was always “our ages, our experiences, politics and our love of Maine,” she said.

“I’m comforted by the thought now that if ever the good Lord needed an investigation, an audit, perhaps a little help with the budget, David Flanagan is now at the Lord’s side, in a place that looks strangely like Maine, ready to open the books, think about every angle … and solve the deepest problems of the world to make things a bit better for all humankind. For that’s what he did on Earth,” she said.

Kaye Flanagan told a story of a canoe trip in rural Maine in the early years of their relationship. A local man helped save them when they ran into trouble on the river, and Flanagan later helped protect the man’s home that was at risk of being removed, exemplifying Flanagan’s unflagging dedication to helping the people around him.

Greg Powell, chair of the Alfond Foundation, where Flanagan served on the board, spoke of his 40-year friendship with Flanagan and their conversations about Flanagan’s cancer diagnosis. When he first told Powell of his prognosis, Flanagan promised to fight and said he wanted to keep working without sympathy or distraction, Powell said.

During their last visit together at Flanagan’s home in Manchester, they sat on the screened porch where David and Kaye Flanagan would sit in the spring to watch for eagles soaring over the tall pines and Cobbosseecontee Lake.

“In quiet tones, his voice still strong, we talked of life and what it all meant. Life, we agreed, has many gifts,” Powell recounted. “But the greatest of its gifts are time and what we do with it. More time is needed. There was more good to do. ‘I know I can still help,’ he said.”

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