CAPE ELIZABETH — Shepard (Shep) Lee, 83, prominent businessman, philanthropist, community leader, died of cancer on June 23, at home with his family by his side.

He was born in Lewiston, Nov. 13, 1926, the youngest child of Ethel and Joseph Lifshitz.

Shep graduated from Lewiston High School, and then entered Bowdoin College. Interrupting his education to serve in the Navy during World War II, Shep graduated from Bowdoin College magna cum laude in 1947. He then joined his father’s car dealership, Advance Auto Sales in Auburn, Maine. During more than sixty years in the car business, Lee Auto Malls grew to become one of the most successful dealerships in New England. Shep’s son Adam, president of Lee Auto Malls, is the third generation to work in the family business.

In addition to Shep’s business accomplishments, he was passionately engaged in public affairs. Shep was a committed Democrat who believed that through political involvement, he could help make his community, state, and country a more just and equal society.

Shep was a close friend, fundraiser, and advisor to Senator George Mitchell, the late Edmund Muskie, the late Justice Frank M. Coffin,. He was a member of the national board of the American Civil Liberties Union and a recipient of the ACLU’s highest award, the Roger Baldwin Award. For many years, Shep was an active member of the NAACP in Maine.

While not a religious Jew, Shep’s social commitments were informed by liberal Jewish values and he taught his children to be proud of their religious heritage. For Shep, being a Jew meant being concerned not only about one’s own family but about those less fortunate or who were denied equal opportunity.

While a generous donor to Bowdoin and Bates Colleges, Shep was especially devoted to public education. He served on the boards of the University of Southern Maine’s business and law schools, the Muskie School of Public Service, and the Maine Community College board. He felt an obligation to support public education because most Mainers could not afford private college. For the same reason he was a generous donor to the George Mitchell Scholarship Fund.

Shep was always on the go and had an insatiable intellectual curiosity. He loved to travel, to discuss issues, and to meet new people. He had no patience for social pretensions or hypocrisy and always called a spade a spade. Till the end, his sense of humor was as much a part of him as his bright eyes and handsome face. He loved to read, enjoyed all kinds of music, from Opera to Benny Goodman, Mahalia Jackson, Janis Joplin, Melba Moore, and Richard Dyer-Bennett. He was a great story-teller and mimic and his tales of the early days in Lewiston are now joyfully told by his children and grandchildren. More than anything, Shep adored his family.

Shep is survived by his sisters, Dorothy of Auburn and Sylvia of New York City; his wife, Candice Thornton Lee; his former wife, Nancy Margolis of New York City; his children, Beth of New York City, Adam of Cumberland, Catherine of North Yarmouth and Jonathan of New York City; five grandchildren, Jason Moyer-Lee, Sophie and Eliza Beckerman-Lee, Anna and Aaron Lee; sons-in-law, Adam Beckerman and Robert Moyer; daughter-in-law, Diana Lee; stepchildren, Meg Zumba and Mathew Thornton; and his children, Matt, William, and Madison.

He was predeceased by his parents; and his brother, Harold.

Please visit for more information and to sign Shep’s guestbook.

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