Parker Laite Sr.: ‘You've got to be a friend, to have a friend’

Family, friends mourning MBNA co-founder, philanthropist Charles Cawley

Wed, 11/18/2015 - 1:15pm

    CAMDEN — Family and friends of Charles Cawley, co-founder of MBNA, philanthropist and Camden resident, are mourning his death Wednesday morning.

    Cawley, 75, died Nov. 18 at his home in Camden. His good friend, Parker Laite Sr., said, "As the sun was rising this morning the Angels took Charlie Cawley into the heavens."

    Cawley was a founding member, with Alfred "Al" Lerner, of MBNA, created in 1982 and headquartered in Wilmington, Del. In 1993, MBNA began business in the Knox Mill, opening a small telemarketing operation. As the business grew, it expanded into Belfast in 1996 and Rockland in 2000.

    Laite said that Cawley and MBNA did "more for the Midcoast area than any other single benefactor in the last century."

    "It's amazing, his vision transformed Camden, Rockland, Rockport, Lincolnville and Belfast into what they are today, as opposed to what they were in the mid-1980s," said Laite. "Almost every major project that has happened in our Midcoast area, Charlie or MBNA has been involved."

    "This morning as the sun was rising over Penobscot Bay, Charlie Cawley passed away peacefully. The Midcoast area has lost a real friend. His vision is evident across the State of Maine and especially in the Camden, Rockport, Lincolnville, Belfast areas - He was a true benefactor!" — Parker Laite Sr.

    In addition to donating money to pay for or help fund things like the sidewalks in Camden, establishing the food pantry, renovations at the Camden Public Library and building the new Camden Hills Regional High School, Cawley, his wife Julie and MBNA reinvigorated the South End of Rockland and the old Fisher Engineering Plant and were major benefactors of the Farnsworth Museum.

    "Today, Bank of America, MBNA's successor, and athenahealth, are both the successors of MBNA's buildings in Belfast, which have both kept the employment levels in Waldo County and the Midcoast very high," said Laite.

    And then, he said, there was the Cawley's interest in education and helping young people.

    "The MBNA Educational Foundation provided a number of scholarships for students in the Midcoast area, along with the Cawley family and Julie Cawley providing many personal scholarships," said Laite. "What he's done with St. Benedict's Prep School in Newark, N.J., has been remarkable worldwide. And you think of all the things he's done along the waterfront in Belfast, for the University of Maine, The UMaine Hutchinson Center because of his good friend Fred Hutchinson and he's put in soccer and turf fields for Boy Scout camps too."

    Cawley's reach was far. But Laite knew him not just as someone who he worked with on various local development, beautification and philanthropy endeavors, they were friends. Comrades. Buddies.

    Laite was often tapped to drive one of Cawley's dozens of antique cars ushering veterans and other dignitaries in parades through downtown Camden. They met in the mid-1980s, when Cawley first arrived to town, Laite said.

    In addition to helping with parade duties, they would take numerous cars up for a drive "in the country," traveling the back roads of Waldo County. They would go to the car races, and Red Sox and Cleveland Browns games together too.

    "Back in the MBNA days, Al Lerner was the owner of the Cleveland Browns, and even though they were a losing team, we went and cheered for them," said Laite.

    Cawley had a great sense of humor, but Laite said he was a little shy at times, actually an introvert. He liked groups, and loved nothing more than to talk to a crowd, but when he was one-on-one with someone he would be tongue-tied.

    "He was a great guy, a great family man, and a great friend and he will be sadly missed," said Laite. "You've got to be a friend, to have a friend."

    In an email late Wednesday afternoon, Senate President Michael Thibodeau (R-Waldo) said, "Charles Cawley's impact on Waldo County and the entire region is immeasurable. His vision for MBNA led to a historic economic revival for the area that we are still benefiting from. His generous philanthropic efforts include scholarships, athletic fields, the Waldo County YMCA and so much more. Charles Cawley will be sorely missed, but his legacy will live on for generations to come."

    Cawley is survived by his wife, Julie; their two children, Michael and Maureen; and four grandchildren. A service will be held Saturday, Nov. 21 at 11 a.m. at Our Lady of Good Hope Catholic Church, 7 Union St. in Camden.

    Reach Editorial Director Holly S. Edwards at and 207-706-6655.