Eric Gilliam, who worked for decades to improve the lives of people with developmental disabilities, mental health issues and troubled youths, died Sunday after a brief fight with cancer. He was 61.

A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 2 p.m. Friday at St. Mary’s Church in Bath.

Mr. Gilliam served as chief operating officer at the Pineland Center for about 25 years and oversaw its closure in 1996. He was former director of the Bath Children’s Home and served for five years as director of support services at the Augusta Mental Health Institute. He also served at Long Creek Youth Development Center, retiring as deputy superintendent. Most recently, he served as chief operating officer at the Riverview Psychiatric Center.

“He was a man of integrity,” said Rod Bouffard, a close friend who worked with Mr. Gilliam for 40 years. “He was always willing to make the right decision regardless of whether it would have a negative impact on him.”

Mr. Gilliam was the last administrator at the Pineland Center. He helped secure placement for residents in new homes throughout Maine.

Bouffard reflected Thursday on the decision to close Pineland. He said they knew it was the right thing to do, even though it would put them and many others out of work.

“I really believe this is the right thing,” Mr. Gilliam said in a 1995 Portland Press Herald column. “It’s sad to see a place like this close, but I’m happy for the people who lived here. They’re getting an opportunity to live in a less restrictive, more normal environment.”

Mr. Gilliam went on to serve as director of the Bath Children’s Home, and director of support services at AMHI.

Mr. Gilliam also worked for a decade at Long Creek Youth Development Center. Bouffard, the former superintendent at Long Creek, said Mr. Gilliam trained the security staff to better handle troubled kids.

“We introduced collaborative problem solving,” Bouffard said. “We saw the seclusions and restraints drop well below the national average. We saw recidivism rates drop from 90 percent to 20 percent. Eric was incredibly skilled. He really had an ability to understand people and figure out what would motivate them.”

Mr. Gilliam lived in Freeport with his wife of 12 years, Michele. He was the father of four children, three from his first marriage and one from the second.

Michele Gilliam described her husband Thursday as a loving and compassionate man who had a strong sense of family. She talked about the years he coached his kids’ teams.

“He was beyond dedicated,” his wife said. “He was a really wonderful, loving father.”

Mr. Gilliam had a passion for art and antiques. In recent years, he would go to flea markets and art shows and buy items to sell on eBay. His wife said art was a release.

Mr. Gilliam came out of retirement in May 2016 to work at the Riverview Psychiatric Center.

His wife said they loved to travel and took several trips to Europe. They also liked to visit New Jersey to see his daughter and grandchildren. They went running together and were often seen walking around their neighborhood together.

“We had a great marriage,” she said. “We truly appreciated each other. His goal was to spoil people he loved and to make people happy.”

About a month ago, Mr. Gilliam was diagnosed with an aggressive form of liver cancer. He died at home with his wife by his side.

Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at:

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