Eighteen years ago, Arthur Comstock started to think about retirement. Today, at the age of 73, he’s still only thinking about it.
“When I was 55, I wondered if I would retire. At 62, I was still really enjoying my job. And now, here I am,” Comstock said during a recent interview in his office at Camden National Bank in Bangor.
Comstock was honored with a Prime Time Award on Thursday for being Maine’s most outstanding older worker. He and his wife, Betty, traveled to Washington, D.C., this past week to accept the award.
The award and the trip were gifts from Experience Works, a nationwide nonprofit organization that encourages older people in the work force. Experience Works recognized an individual from each state.
Comstock was nominated for the award by his colleague Jeff Smith. He hired Comstock to work at UnitedKingfield Bank, now Camden National Bank, three years ago.
“He has as much energy as the day he started working,” Smith said of Comstock, who is 30 years older than his boss. Smith said it is easy to forget that Comstock is an “older” worker, recalling how Comstock recently came over to his house to help with yard work and taught him how to use a chain saw.
Comstock is indeed a man about town. As a senior vice president and market manager at UnitedKingfield Bank, Comstock was the face of the recent advertising campaign the bank launched when it changed its name to Camden National Bank on Oct. 2.
Although the name change happened recently, United Bank of Bangor and Kingfield Savings have both been owned by Camden National since the 1990s.
With 47 years in the banking industry, Comstock was a natural choice to represent the company, said Rick Fournier, a senior market manager at Camden National Bank.
“He’s just so well-known in the community. People think of the bank and say, ‘Oh, that’s Arthur’s bank!'” Fournier said.
Outside the office, Comstock volunteers on the boards of 13 organizations, attending monthly and weekly meetings and fundraisers for each. Comstock is a trustee of Eastern Maine Medical Center and serves as its representative to the Maine Hospital Association. He is also head of the Bangor Chamber of Commerce’s Government Affairs Committee, a member of Eastern Maine Community College’s Advisory Council and director of the Katahdin Boy Scouts of America Corp.’s finance committee.
“I do it because of the people I get to work with,” Comstock said with a laugh. “I am truly a very social animal.”
Comstock said his wife, Betty, encouraged him to come out of his shell when he was president of Northeast Bank in Millinocket. One of his early volunteer efforts was with the Millinocket Chamber of Commerce, which lasted until 1983 when he was transferred to Bangor.
“I wasn’t always very social,” Comstock said. With his wife’s backing, he discovered the benefits of a more public life.
Aside from the friendships he has made, Comstock said he finds great reward in helping organizations achieve financial stability.
Comstock says boards now must be more alert than ever, as the businesses they advise face increased state and federal regulations.
Each board carries slightly different responsibilities, he said, but each board guides its organization’s financial decisions, personnel affairs and building repairs.
In his 23 years of involvement with the Bangor business community, Comstock said inflation and environmental protection have been significant concerns.
“There’s always an increase every year in waste management and wage costs just to stay level with inflation,” Comstock said. “For-profits and not-for-profits have the same challenges. They still have to make a return to stay viable.”
But Comstock says his biggest challenge is balancing his time between his work and volunteer obligations and his family.
“Probably during the earlier years when I was growing in the corporate ladder, I didn’t spend as much time with the kids as I wish I had,” Comstock said. “As you get older you begin to realize the values of family, and so I began to manage my time better.”
Comstock has two grown children, Cherie and Thomas, and two grandchildren.
Betty and Arthur Comstock married after growing up four houses apart in Milford. They now live on Main Street in Orono where until 2000 they ran a bed and breakfast in their home for 17 years, hosting a total of 18,000 people, Comstock said.
When asked how she feels about her husband’s willingness to volunteer so much of his time, Betty laughs.
“That’s Arthur, that’s just the way he is,” she says.
Comstock’s friends and colleagues describe him with almost the same list of words: youthful, energetic, wise, a gentleman.
Smith says Comstock is surprisingly humble, pointing out that only one of the 24 awards he has won over the years is hanging on his office wall. It is the 2 Those Who Care Award, which WLBZ-2 and the United Way gave Comstock in 2005 for his volunteer work. Beside the award hang framed prints of Mount Katahdin.
Comstock rejects the need for a secretary or electronic organizer. A Palm Pilot lies buried in a desk drawer, and he keeps track of his appointments in his neatly lined planner.
U.S. Sen. Susan Collins calls Comstock a dear friend, generous with his advice and his time.
“Arthur provided me with guidance when I first ran for political office, advised me during my time at Husson College, and continues to provide wise counsel to me as I serve in the Senate,” Collins wrote in an e-mail.
Many of Comstock’s colleagues and fellow board members also call him a mentor. Joyce Hedlund, president of Eastern Maine Community College, has known Comstock for 13 years since he has served on the college advisory council. Hedlund says she often thinks of Comstock’s advice to her since she has become president.
“He said, ‘Your job is to be visible in the public eye. You need to dress the part, play the role. That’s the way to bring this college into the view of the public,'” Hedlund said.
Raymond Cota, vice president of Webber Oil and fellow member of the Action Committee of 50, agrees that Comstock lives with intention.
“Arthur is the type of person who, if you ask to do a task, is going to do it correctly and ethically. Any task, whether it be mowing his lawn or involvement as a treasurer,” Cota said.
Sister Mary Norberta, president and CEO of St. Joseph Healthcare, said Comstock has unofficially provided financial advice to the hospital for years.
“Wisdom isn’t something you acquire. I think it’s a gift,” Norberta said. “It’s a gift Arthur has.”
Indeed, many people refer to Comstock’s wisdom when they say they hope he will never retire. Although he has cut back to a four-day week, Comstock has no intention of leaving.
“He just continues to work and life follows,” said Suzanne Braybill, public relations officer at Camden National Bank. “We are so fortunate that he’s continued to share his time and his talents with us.”