SCARBOROUGH – Joseph Lewis Bornstein, 74, passed away peacefully on Oct. 1, 2020, after a brief illness, surrounded by his loving family.

Joe was predeceased by his parents whom he adored, Beatrice and Russell Bornstein; and his brother – who he spoke to on the phone every day – Bruce Bornstein.

He is survived by his wife, Deborah Bornstein; his three children, Ilana, Benjamin and his wife Lauren – and their daughters Sadie and Lila; Gabriel and his wife Lydia; his sister, Deb Bergeron and her husband Norman; and beloved extended family of nieces, nephews, cousins, and dear friends.

Joe was a larger-than-life personality who lived his life to the fullest. The oldest of three children in a working class family, Joe learned the values that would guide his life: the love of family, giving back to the community, kindness and compassion, and the necessity of hard work.

As a young man, Joe took on jobs that helped shape his work ethic, including working as an electrician’s gopher, jobs at the pier in his cherished Old Orchard Beach, teaching swim lessons as a water safety instructor at the old East End Pool in Portland, and spinning records as a disc jockey with his childhood friend. His dedication to work fulfilled his soul and provided him with a lifetime of happiness.

Joe attended Portland Public Schools and studied electrical engineering at Northeastern University. While working on the frontier of developing computer software and equipment, Joe studied law at night at Suffolk Law School. After 10 years in Boston, Joe passed the Maine and Massachusetts Bars and returned home to start his law practice in 1974. Living in his one room office with his cat, Weedoden, Joe hung out his shingle in what would become Portland’s Old Port. Forty-seven years later, the Law Offices of Joe Bornstein has grown to be a statewide law practice with seven offices including its flagship in the same Portland location on Moulton Street.

Having watched his father work tirelessly as an electrician to support his family, Joe prided himself on representing working class Mainers. He began his career advocating for men and women in work-related injuries with their Workers’ Compensation claims and later transitioned into the field of personal injury law. Joe repeatedly said that his law firm’s representation of over 25,000 injured and disabled Mainers was the highest honor and privilege in his life. Providing Mainers with access to justice was his top priority, and his family of attorneys will honor his legacy by continuing the business he built from scratch.

Through his Jewish faith, Joe exemplified tzedakah – or charitable giving – to heart. His family and law firm support numerous charities and organizations throughout Maine. Joe’s passion for educating Mainers about their legal rights has helped thousands statewide, including teenagers through his Arrive Alive Creative Contest. For the past 10 years, the iconic image of CALL JOE has flashed high over Portland from the historic Time and Temperature sign, while being donated to over 300 local organizations and charities.

Joe Bornstein was born to be a lawyer and worked on behalf of his clients seven days a week until his final days. He followed in the footsteps of his great-grandmother, Esther Bornstein, who went to law school and passed the Massachusetts Bar in 1937 when she was 67 years old. Esther’s accomplishment served as an inspiration to Joe and his loyal and dedicated staff who loved him dearly.

His world travels as a young man helped shape the vision he brought to his home state of Maine and his quick puns entertained everyone he met. Few people are fortunate to do what they truly love in their lifetime, and Joe Bornstein was one of them with his favorite motto: “The best is yet to come.” Zichrono l’vracha – may Joe’s memory be for a blessing.

A private burial took place on Friday, Oct. 2.

The Bornstein family would like to thank the staff at the Maine Medical Center for their loving care and support.

For those wishing to honor Joe’s memory, please consider making a charitable donation to:

The Cromwell Center for Disabilities Awareness

97A Exchange St #205

Portland, ME 04101


The Jewish Community Alliance

1342 Congress Street

Portland, ME 04102

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