March 11, 2013

Augusta philanthropist Elsie Viles dies at 98

By Betty Adams
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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This July 2008 file photo shows Elsie Viles riding down Water Street on when she was the 2008 Independence Day parade grand marshal in Augusta.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

Viles’ recent contributions include a $500,000 donation for the proposed renovation and expansion of Lithgow Public Library, $10,000 from the William and Elsie Viles Foundation to build a proposed memorial to patients who died at the former Augusta Mental Health Institute, $1 million to create the William and Elsie Viles Healing Garden at MaineGeneral’s Alfond Center for Cancer Care, and $500,000 to Team Cony to help build Cony High School. She donated much of the money for the  restoration of the stained-glass windows at South Parish Congregational Church, which she attended most of her life.

She grew up at 11 Flagg St. in Augusta, almost next to the church, and later bought that house and donated it to the church as a parsonage.

She graduated from Cony in 1931 and went to work as a secretary in the job-printing department at the Kennebec Journal for 24 years before marrying Bill Viles. He died in December 1986.

She was also a founder of the Viles Arboretum in Augusta and Camp KV for Kids in Readfield, donated and raised money for the Kennebec Valley Humane Society, served on the FORUMA arts board and the University of Maine at Augusta Foundation, was a master gardener who was active with the local garden club, spearheaded fundraising for the Kennebec Historical Society, served on the Capital Planning Commission, and helped redecorate the Blaine House.

In 1994 she telephoned Daniel Wathen, then chief justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, and offered to buy and donate the 9-acre property next door — which belonged to her stepdaughter, former city councilor and legislator Sylvia Lund, who died in 2007 — so it could become a judicial office and conference center.

Wathen accepted eagerly. Later, Viles also supplied a large Maine granite conference table for the main room, complete with the Maine State Seal and the names of each of the 16 counties.

“You name it, and she was a part of it. There aren’t too many things she hasn’t helped out in this area,” friend Roger Pomerleau said of Viles’ service and contributions to community groups and projects.

“But with all that, she was a very humble person, very down-to-earth. Sometimes money changes people, but not her.”

“With her kindhearted spirit and extraordinary generosity, Elsie dedicated herself to improving the lives of those around her,” Republican U.S. Sen. Susan Collins said in a prepared statement mourning Viles’ death.

Knowlton Hewins Roberts Funeral Homes is handling the arrangements, which will be private, Winslow said.

Staff Writer Keith Edwards contributed to this report.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

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