South Portland - Donald R. Peters, 81, of Main Street, South Portland, died Friday, January 31, 2020, surrounded by his family. Born in Millinocket, he is a son of James B. and Dorothy Hamm Peters.
Donald, a friend of the world and a loving human being, was one of Maine’s great citizens, productive, inventive, generous, a man who never lost the humility and common sense of a Maine country boy. As a 16-year-old, Donnie left his high school class of seven in Matawamkeag, as he said, “in an old pickup truck with a broken window” to join a class of 250 in Portland High School. While rapidly, and successfully, adapted to the “big city”, he never lost either his love for Aroostook nor his lack of pretension. When people would later comment on his success he would say, “I’m no different, I still have that pickup truck and can go back to the County any time I need to!’
In fact, in later life as a prominent collector of classic cars, he restored and permanently maintained that pickup truck in its original condition.
After graduating from high school in 1956, he learned the home building trade from his father and uncle and then “more or less naturally went into construction himself”, creating a company known as DONALCO which eventually employed hundreds of workers in the various construction trades. He built the first Section 8 housing in Maine and in his later extensive building throughout NH, MA, and Maine emphasized his personal beliefs by providing for lower income people. He gave his workers the credit for his remarkable successes, claiming that he always hired people smarter than himself.
From construction, he turned to development, another career in which he became very successful. Often in partnership with Joe Wishcamper, some examples of their projects include the nine story Key Bank in Augusta, the garage towers at the Eastland Hotel complex and in partnership with Ex-Governor Ken Curtis and Bob Dunphy, Sr., renovation of the classic Portland House into the city’s premier condominium residences. A personal project in the mid-80s which he enjoyed was the financing and building of the beautiful church of the Nazarene near the high school in South Portland.
His beliefs in the values of the church and Christianity were always first in his mind and life; he gave Christ credit for his own considerable successes. He was a lifelong generous contributor to various local church activities in Maine and in Florida, especially supportive of the youth activities. An active Christian in the best sense of the word, throughout his life he was a beacon of help and kindness, a lightship for others as he shared his success with the less fortunate.
His interest in automobiles led him to becoming a collector, having at one time the largest collection of Corvette sport cars in Maine and his long-time hobby of motorcycling led him to a similar collection of Harley Davidson motorcycles. For years he maintained a pristine collection of both machines in his South Portland showroom.
His civic contributions included support of the Osteopathic (now Brighton Medical Center) Hospital beginning in 1974 where he served on the Financial, Professional and Building Committees and was deeply involved in the planning and building of the modern hospital on Brighton Avenue. His contribution to youth included long term service on the Board of the Boys and Girls Club of South Portland. He was active with Deering High School sports (where he received the Brian Gordon Award) and he sponsored Little League Baseball and basketball teams for years. He had a great love for Drag Racing and Local Short Track Racing and supported many of the local teams and tracks in Maine.
An entertaining and gregarious man he had friendships in all walks. With a knack for direct and straight talk, he was cherished for his perception and frank insight; he was often sought out for counsel on political as well as business affairs. Witty, direct, honest, he maintained a close friendship with political leaders as well as business leaders. His good humor, enthusiasm and genuine interest in others created cherished personal friendships from political leaders such as George Mitchell and Rodney Quinn as well as business leaders and a wide net of admirers among workmen.
He married Carol Cushman Peters in 1961 and together they had two children.
Donnie was predeceased by his parents and his former wife Carol Ann Peters. He is survived by his daughter Michelle J. Butler of Portland, a son James R. (Pete) of South Portland and Eric S. Nevers of Gorham, whom they raised and considered a second son, Jimmy C. Kilbride, of Virginia, a third son, his sister Delores Peters Meeks of OK, a brother Clayton E. Peters of South Portland. He is also survived by his two treasured grandsons, Jesse A. Butler of Portland and James Tyler Butler of Portland and their father Jesse L. Butler of Portland.
His family remains an active part of the larger Maine Community.
Throughout his career, he kept a quotation on his office wall from Mark 8-36: “What shall it profit a man if he gains the world but loses his soul?” And he lived by it.
A celebration of life will be held at 2 pm on Sunday, February 9, 2020, at the South Portland Church of the Nazarene, 525 Highland Ave, South Portland. If you would like to visit with the family and enjoy a time of Fellowship, join us in the church gymnasium for refreshments between 3:00 to 4:30 pm.
To send flowers to Donald's family, please visit our floral section.