Thomas E. Gaines, an East Hampton native who rose from dairy manager at Bohack’s supermarket in East Hampton to president of the Sag Harbor Savings Bank, and who had served on several local boards, including the East Hampton Village Zoning Board of Appeals, died on Saturday at the age of 85. His wife and three children were at his side.
Mr. Gaines served in the Navy during World War II aboard the destroyer U.S.S. Alden and the cruiser U.S.S. Oregon City. He attended Oklahoma A&M, now Oklahoma State University, after the war, earning a degree in business and commerce.
In June 1947, he and his wife, the former Frances Carl, were married in Fort Smith, Ark. They were for 64 years. The couple lived in Stillwater, Okla., until Mr. Gaines graduated from college, when they moved back to East Hampton and the family home. They lived there until all three of their children had married and moved away and then moved to Dayton Lane.
Mr. Gaines’s professional career began at Bohack’s. One day, he was approached by Frank B. Smith, a well-known East Hampton contractor who was on the board of the Sag Harbor Savings Bank. He took a job there, building shelves and shoveling snow, and eventually becoming bank president and chairman of its board. In the 1970s, Mr. Gaines negotiated the bank’s becoming a public stock corporation, and he directed its sale to Apple Bank. Upon his retirement from the bank, Mr. Gaines had said that without his wife’s support and encouragement, he would still have been stacking shelves somewhere.
The son of Thomas Gaines and the former Evelyn Ernest, he was born at home on Middle Highway in East Hampton on Aug. 26, 1926. As a student at East Hampton High School in the 1940s, Mr. Gaines ran a record 100-yard dash and pitched a no-hitter for the school baseball team. He also worked as a caddy at the Maidstone Club, and had carried the bags for Sam Snead, one of the world’s top golfers, and for Gary Cooper. He was known at school for playing the clarinet, which earned him the nickname Benny, and for a singing voice, which earned his appearances at Guild Hall and the then-Edwards Theater, now the East Hampton Cinema.
Mr. Gaines was on the East Hampton Village Zoning Board of Appeals, and was its chairman from 1997 through 1999. He was a member of the South Fork Country Club and had served as its board president. He was a member of the East Hampton Fire Department, the Star of the East Masonic Lodge, having served as master, and the Independent Order of Oddfellows. Often attending men’s business lunches at the old Paradise Restaurant in Sag Harbor brought him in touch with John Steinbeck, whose friendship Mr. Gaines treasured.
A member of the East Hampton Methodist Church, Mr. Gaines had taught Sunday school, and eventually became a trustee and president of the board. He sometimes delivered lay sermons.
He “will be remembered for his honesty, integrity . . . and his mischievous sense of humor,” his family said.
Mr. Gaines is survived by his wife and children, who are Tom Gaines of Port St. Lucie, Fla., and Ronald Gaines and Sandra Cohen, both of East Hampton. Seven grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren survive, as do two siblings, Dorothy Sayre and Jane Kovar. Two other sisters, Betty and Adele, died before him.
A service to honor Mr. Gaines will be held today at the Methodist Church at 1 p.m., followed by burial at Cedar Lawn Cemetery. The family has suggested that any donations in Mr. Gaines’s name be made to the church, the East Hampton Ambulance Association, or East End Hospice.