Philanthropist and former owner of Seltzer & Rydholm dies
LEWISTON – Cynthia Crocker’s name isn’t on a lot of plaques around the Lewiston area and that’s exactly what she wanted.
Crocker passed away on August 3 at the age of 94, and although she is remembered by many as one of the most generous philanthropists in Lewiston history, there are many more who have never heard of her.
“No one will ever know the full extent of it,” said Ron Frizzel, a longtime friend of Crocker. “She gave generous gifts and many of them were anonymous. The people who received the money knew this, but it was never made public.
The results of Crocker’s generosity, however, are seen and felt through Auburn and Lewiston.
In 2004, the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society was in dire need of f
unds to build a new shelter to replace their 30-year-old facility, which was then located an inconvenient seven miles from downtown Lewiston,
It was a desperate time and the shelter was in need of a miracle. They got one in the form of Crocker, whose family belongs to bottler Pepsi Seltzer & Rydholm, and who stepped in with a donation large enough to put the shelter project on track.
“I always thought of her as the angel of the shelter,” said Steve Dostie, who was director of the shelter at the time. “Her donation really helped us exceed our goal when we built the shelter. It helped us get everything we needed for the animals. She was like the cornerstone of the organization.
Crocker, at the time, made the donation on behalf of his brother, George Cotton, a fellow philanthropist who had died a few months earlier in a car accident. A beneficiary of Cotton’s life insurance policy, Crocker donated the entire amount to the shelter.
She avoided the limelight, but later in 2004, Crocker received the Androscoggin County Chamber of Commerce President’s Award, awarded for a lifetime of charitable work.
Former House Speaker Chip Morrison well remembers Crocker’s propensity for kindness.
“She was a major philanthropist in this community,” Morrison said Friday. “If the community needed help, I had no problem calling Cynthia to ask for that help. She was always available and she was very accessible.
Crocker was at one time the vice president and treasurer of bottler Pepsi Seltzer & Rydholm, a company founded by his parents 80 years earlier.
The business was sold in 2004 and Crocker’s generosity only increased.
“There were generous giveaways after the sale,” said Frizzel.
In the mid-1990s, Crocker and his brother also donated to Central Maine Medical Center for the establishment of a new cancer treatment center. It was a significant donation and there is a plaque commemorating that one, but it is in the name of Cynthia Rydholm, Crocker’s mother, who died in 1993 – again, she had chosen to do her good deeds of in a low-key way that honored someone else.
“He was just a wonderful human being,” says Frizzel, “but very calm; a very private one.
If Crocker was known for anything beyond her generosity, it was her love of animals, and dogs in particular.
“His compassion and love for animals really shone,” says Dostie. “Cynthia never wanted to be recognized for the things she did for the shelter. She did it because she believed in the cause of the Humane Society. She really loved animals and understood their good care.
After the new shelter was built, Crocker continued to make annual donations to the Humane Society. She did it, people who knew her best say, because she really wanted to help animals and people in need.
“She was such a supporter of ours and animal welfare in general,” said Katie Lisnik, current executive director of the Androscoggin shelter. “Especially the dogs.”
Lisnik said Crocker frequently came to the shelter to watch the dogs, taking his own to strut around the dog park outside the shelter.
“Each year she has made a very generous donation,” Lisnik said. “And she loved the dog park too, so we were always able to use some of the donation to help keep this park a very active and open place for the dogs in our community.”
Yet it wasn’t always the big, visible causes that drew Crocker’s kindness. Frizzel remembers a time in the 1970s when a local dry cleaner’s building burned down along with the uniforms of almost every athletic and cheering team at Edward Little High School. The business was not insured.
This was at a time when Seltzer & Rydholm was still a trading powerhouse in the community. When someone associated with the school turned to the business for help, they immediately got it.
“With just one desperate visit to Seltzer & Rydholm, the problem was solved within hours,” Frizzel wrote in a memorial to Crocker. “Tours like this built walls for hospitals, cancer centers, bought emergency supplies, bought food for the needy, built little league parks, and then contributed more advertising dollars to teams. by filling these parks with Pepsi signs. ”
Crocker lived in Falmouth. She is expected to be buried early next week, although details have yet to be announced.
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