TOPSHAM – She earned praise as an advocate for the mentally ill, broke ground after being named one of the state’s first female bank directors, and boosted the arts and music in Maine through her passionate support.

Ruth Tabenken died Monday at a hospital in Brunswick. She was 82 and had lived for the past four years at The Highlands retirement community in Topsham.

“My mother was a kind, giving person who put everyone else’s needs ahead of her own,” said her son Matthew Tabenken of New Harbor.

Mrs. Tabenken was born in Framingham, Mass., and attended schools there.

On Oct. 31, 1953, she went out on a blind date with Gerald Tabenken.

“It happened to be my dad’s birthday. They ended up getting married a year later,” their son said.

The couple moved in 1954 to Bangor, where Mr. Tabenken owned a wholesale malt beverage and wine distribution business called the Tabenken Corp.

The family business wasn’t where Mrs. Tabenken chose to focus her energy.

She raised two sons while donating her time to causes across the state.

The boys were treated to symphony performances in Bangor, Blue Hill and the Pierre Monteaux School in Hancock.

“Wherever there was a symphony, she had to go. And she would always take me and my brother,” her son said.

In the 1970s, Gov. Kenneth Curtis appointed Mrs. Tabenken to the Maine Commission for the Arts and Humanities. She and her husband knew Curtis from the Susan L. Curtis Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides summer camp experiences for underprivileged children.

“My father and my mother went to their camp every summer,” Tabenken said.

During her time in Bangor, Mrs. Tabenken became president of the Bangor Symphony Women. She led fundraising and outreach efforts for the symphony.

She also served on the board of directors for the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland and supported the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture.

Mrs. Tabenken’s son said his mother was named to the Board of Visitors for the Bangor Mental Health Institute by Gov. Joseph Brennan and won praise for her advocacy for mentally ill patients.

“Any time my mother could help somebody, that was her interest. She wanted to make their lives and those around her better,” her son said.

In 1980, she was named as a director of Brewer Savings Bank — now Maine Savings Bank. Her appointment brought her the distinction of being one of the state’s first female bank directors.

Mrs. Tabenken also earned a reputation for throwing a good party.

When George Mitchell ran for the U.S. Senate, the family held a fundraiser, with a huge tent attached to the rear of their home on Linden Street in Bangor.

Tabenken said about 150 people attended.

“It was a beautiful house. My mother had great taste for interior decorating,” he said.

Mrs. Tabenken’s other son, Lee, lives in Falmouth. The brothers said Mrs. Tabenken had a gift that allowed her to reach across generations.

“Whoever was at the party, she knew how to speak their language and to talk about their interests,” Matthew Tabenken said. “People, regardless of their age, liked to talk to her.”

Her parties were not confined to her home.

When Jimmy Carter was running for president in 1976, The Tabenkens arranged to hold a fundraiser for him at the Penobscot Country Club in Orono.

The Carters attended and became friends with the Tabenkens. Mr. Tabenken died in 2006.

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

[email protected]