Thomas Robert Bancroft (79) died peacefully at home in Saco, Maine after a prolonged illness. He was born in Lewiston, Maine on October 7th 1940, the son of Decosta (Bud) Bancroft and Helen Smith Bancroft. Tom had an adventurous youth, including hitchhiking to California and hustling pool, although early struggles with drugs and alcohol made his future uncertain. Luckily, Tom met the love of his life – Nancy Parent Bancroft – in 1973 and began to turn his life around. He graduated with honors from Roosevelt University in Chicago. He was awarded a fellowship at Loyola University where he obtained a master’s degree in counseling psychology.
After graduate school, Tom worked in-patient psychiatry, was the director of Milestone Foundation in Old Orchard, and served as a caseworker for York County Counseling. He then began twenty-two years of dedicated service in what was then the Maine State Department of Human Services. Hired as an adult protective caseworker, he soon became supervisor and regional manager, as well as the first director of the public guardianship program. For months, Tom comprised the entire department, acting as guardian for all incapacitated Maine adults with no one else to act in their behalf. In time he developed the program to include five regions with over sixty caseworkers for over 400 wards. He helped create policy for “do not resuscitate” orders and promoted statewide education on end of life issues.
Tom was appointed as the first statewide manager of the Ryan White HIV grant and spearheaded development of a five-region program to educate the public and care for people with HIV/aids through private non-profit agencies. He then transferred to the Bureau of Child and Family services where he managed foster care licensing. One of the accomplishments that he is most proud of is that he established rules that allowed, for the first time, same sex couples to foster and adopt children.
He retired for one year before returning to his first love –direct service of people with severe life challenges. Working for Counseling Services Inc. in Biddeford-Saco, he cared directly for people living on the margins, usually suffering with mental health and addiction. He worked as a hospice volunteer for several years and most recently assisted at Seeds of Hope Community Center. Tom spent the last 40 years of his life sober, and helped many others with overcoming addiction. He was most grateful for the twelve-step program and the people in it who helped him live fully, one day at a time.
Tom was an avid reader and a long-time member of the Maine Antiquarian Booksellers Association. Many enjoyed his book reviews in the Town Line. Tom won numerous blue ribbons for his baked bread in county fairs, despite his persistent complaint that the events were called the “Ladies’ Exhibit.” He was also known as “Tom the Jazz Jockey” on the Colby College radio station. He taught several jazz appreciation courses at York County Senior College and also served on its board. He was a master gardener and a member of the Saco Bay Gardening Club, and he was most joyful in July when his seventy-five plus varieties of day lilies were showing off.
One of the great joys of Tom’s life was becoming a member of Union Church in Biddeford Pool, where he was spiritually nurtured like never before and made many deep, loving relationships. Those who would like to make a donation in his name can contribute to Union Church, which supports numerous local and worldwide organizations and services.
Tom is survived by his wife of 46 years, Nancy, son Christopher, daughter-in-law Rachel, and three grandsons, of North Attleboro, MA, son Andrew and his fiancé Ashley, of Brooklyn, NY, two brothers in law, Donald Bridgham of Belgrade Lake and David Parent of Saco and several nieces and nephews. A celebration of life has been postponed until further notice.
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